Tag Archives: horse

Towing paths and trackways

…  it shall be lawful for any grand jury in Ireland to present at any assizes such sums of money as may be necessary to repair or widen, to any width not exceeding fifteen feet, any towing path and trackway on the bank of any navigable river on which boats have been accustomed to be towed by horses, such sums to be levied off all the baronies and half baronies in the county or riding of the county in which such towing path and trackway are situate; and such sums so to be levied may be originally presented for at the presentment sessions held in and for the barony in which such towing path and trackway are locally situate.

The Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1873

78. A trackway on the bank of any navigable river within the meaning of the Grand Juries Act, 1873, shall, without prejudice to the reasonable use thereof for any purpose connected with navigation, be a public highway, and shall continue to be maintainable as provided by that Act.

Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898

 

Float Bridge

This post was originally entitled “The avarice of the ferryman” but, as more information has been added, it seemed best to name the post for the remarkable Float Bridge itself, which links road, rail and waterway transport.

The avarice of the ferryman

Castlepollard, Sept 11. Last Week the following Accident happened at the Ferry, or Float, plying for Passengers over the River Inny, in the County of Westmeath: — A Post-Chaise and Four, with a Lady and Gentleman, were imprudently put upon this dangerous Conveyance, without separating the Cattle from the Carriage; unfortunately a Car and Horse had been put in before them, which, with the Post-Chaise and Horses, occupied the full Length of the Float.

On the Passage, the Car Horse grew very uneasy, and going back, the Car annoyed the Post-Chaise Horses, which occasioned them to back in like Manner, until the Post-Chaise fell into the River, and dragged the Horses after it; three of the Horses were drowned, being entangled with the Harness; the other broke through his Harness, and swam over to a boggy Place, but could not get upon Land; one of the men followed him in a small Boat, to lead him to a proper landing Place, but not being able alone to guide the Horse and row the Boat, the Horse got too near it, and striking it with one of his Feet, overset and sank it, by which the Man was drowned; the Horse then swam, and was saved.

It was very lucky for the Lady and Gentleman that they alighted from the Chaise at going into the Float. The Carriage, which belonged to the Gentleman, was got out with much difficulty; the Horses were Hacks. The Avarice of the Ferryman occasioned this melancholy Accident.

Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty
18 September 1775

 

 

That report came just about a year after this next one.

Good shot wanted

FERRY-BRIDGE, over the River Inny, between the County of Westmeath and Longford, 3 miles from Castlepollard, 12 miles from Mullingar and Longford, Sept 1st, 1774. Complaint having been made, that the Smallness of the Float rendered it inconvenient, and occasioned timorous People to drive or ride many Miles round to avoid the Ferry, the Proprietor therefore has undertaken to build a Bridge at his own Expence, which will be finished with all convenient Speed; in the mean Time, a Part of the intended Bridge, above 30 Feet long, Battlements fixed on each Side, properly gravelled over &c, will be made Use of to ferry over Carriages, &c. A Coach and four may now pass with the utmost Safety, without taking off the Horses, or 20 Head of Cattle, &c in less than 2 Minutes; and, to accommodate Graziers and others, as soon as said Bridge is compleated, Droves of large Cattle, above 30 in Number, will be passed over at the Rate of a British Shilling per Score, private Soldiers with Furlows from their Commanding Officers, in Time, gratis, all other Passengers, Cattle, &c at the usual Rates taken above these 20 Years.

This Road is now in good Repair, and well known to be many Miles nearer from Dublin to the County of Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo, &c than any other Road; a commodious Inn, near Ferry-bridge, on the Westmeath Side, is building, and a Carriers Inn on the Longford Side, will be both soon finished, and proper People to keep them.

Wanted, to take Care of said Bridge when finished, and to collect the Toll, &c a sober, honest, careful, active, middle-aged, single Man; he must be a Protestant, write a good Hand, and if a good Shot, and understands fishing in Lakes and Rivers, and delights in those Amusements, it will be more agreeable &c. Comfortable Lodging and Board, and not less than £12 per Ann will be made good to the Person approved of, and shall be treated (as far as can be reasonably expected) agreeable to his former Manner of Life. None need apply but such as have an undeniable good Character, as to Honesty and Sobriety, from his former Employers or Neighbours. Inquire of the Printer hereof.

Saunders’s News-Letter
2, 7, 9, 12, 14 September 1774

Sir Thomas Chapman

The Dublin Evening Post of 9 August 1810 advertised part of the Meath and Westmeath estates of Sir Thomas Chapman Bart to be let. They included

The Tolls of the Float near Castlepollard
And an excellent house and fifty acres of land

Applications were to be sent to Sir Thomas at St Lucy’s, Athboy, or to Mr High Dickison at the same address.

St Lucy’s was also known as Killua Castle, set of the Chapman baronets, of whom Sir Thomas was the second. Do be sure to read about the seventh baronet.

Sir Benjamin Chapman

Sir Benjamin James Chapman was the fourth baronet. Ewan Duffy writes:

Float bridge was a privately owned toll bridge. Its owner, Sir Benjamin Chapman, offered the bridge to the Midland Great Western Railway if they would build a station at Float, for which he would also give the necessary land. He subsequently suggested a variation on the agreement that if the company were to cease using the station, the land and bridge should be re-conveyed to him!* As the bridge remained in CIE ownership up to 1971, when it was transferred to Westmeath County Council under the Transport (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1971, he clearly did not get such a deal!

The original bridge is no longer there — I paid a site visit there last year, given its railway connection, but it has been replaced sometime in the 20th Century.

* W E Shepherd “The MGWR’s Cavan Branch – 1” JIRRS Vol 16 No 104, pp 282–3

 

Grand Canal Passage Boat Horses

Proposals in writing will be received by the Court of Directors, at No 105, Grafton street, for drawing six Passage-boats, for three, four, or five years, between the city of Dublin and Monasterevan. The Contractors to be paid monthly.

Proposals to be delivered in two ways, either for the present five stages, from Dublin to Hazle-hatch, Sallins, Robertstown, Rathangan, and Monasterevan; or for four stages, viz Hazle-hatch, Digby-bridge, Elanaree, and Monasterevan. Persons proposing may send proposals either for the whole line, or any one or more of the before-mentioned stages.

Any alteration that shall hereafter be made, by increasing or decreasing the number of Passage Boats, to be mutually allowed for in proportion to the contract.

The boys to be kept in proper apparel, and the contractors to find track lines.

Stables will be found by the Company on the new stages — if they should be adopted.

Proposals will be received until the 1st day of August next, and the contracts to commence on the 1st of October ensuing.

Security in the sum of £500 must be given for the due performance of the contracts.

Signed by order,
W Browne Sec

Dublin Evening Post 17 June 1790

Limerick gammon

Thanks to AOD for alerting me to an article by Morgan McCloskey “O’Maras of Limerick and their overseas business” [PDF] from the Old Limerick Journal summer 2001. O’Maras were bacon and ham curers: according to Frank Prendergast “The Decline of Traditional Limerick Industries” in David Lee & Debbie Jacobs, eds Made in Limerick: History of industries, trade and commerce Volume 1 [Limerick Civic Trust, Limerick 2003]

James O’Mara of Toomevara in County Tipperary had established the business in a small house on Mungret Street in 1839. He started bacon curing in the basement but it became so successful that he had to move shortly afterwards to the premises in Roches Street, which they occupied until its closure in 1987.

The waterways interest arises from McCloskey’s having drawn on Patricia Lavelle James O’Mara: a staunch Sinn Féiner Dublin 1961, republished in 2011 under a slightly different title. Lavelle’s O’Mara, her father, was also covered here and was the grandson of the original James who set up the business in 1839. We are concerned with neither of the Jameses: Stephen, son of the first and father of the second, is the man of the moment. McCloskey says that Lavelle says that Stephen preferred to go to Dublin by boat rather than by rail and that she gives this description of one such trip:

Then the boat went through the heart of Ireland; and the country, with its hills and green fields, was spread before him in all its changing beauty for the best part of a couple of days. The steamer left Limerick and made its way up the Shannon, avoiding the rapids by various canals and locks.

After Killaloe it reached the wide waters of Lough Derg. The passengers had the run of the boat and could get a snack meal if they wished. Once, when grandfather was travelling this way, terrible squalls sprang up and the lake was very rough, but usually they could stop for a moment at Holy Island and see the ancient ruins there, and pass on by the wooded heights of the Tipperary shore, past Dromineer to Portumna, crossing and re-crossing the lake until they found anchorage in Shannon Harbour, as far north as Offaly.

There was a big hotel there owned by the Grand Canal Company, where they all stayed for the night and got to know one another; and feasted on chicken and bacon and cabbage followed by apple pie, and then sat round huge turf fires swopping stories or playing cards.

Next morning the canal boat awaited them, gay with its overhead canopy to protect passengers from the heat of the sun or from inclement weather. The passengers sat in two long rows, back to back, and gazed out across the fields as the paddle lazily churned up the turbid waters and the boat made leisurely progress along the canal. The monotony was broken once in a while by the excitement of passing through a lock.

The problem with this romantic account is that, as presented, it’s rubbish.

Stephen O’Mara was born in 1844 and began work in the family business in 1860. The passenger boat service between Limerick and Killaloe ceased in 1848, when the railway reached Limerick (though there were occasional special excursions after that).

The service was by horse-drawn boat, not by steamer; though there had been some attempts at running steamers, the Limerick boats did not go beyond Killaloe, whence larger steamers ran to Portumna or, later, to Shannon Harbour and places further north.

Scheduled passenger services did not “stop for a moment” at Holy Island, which was off the main route to Portumna.

The canal hotel at Shannon Harbour effectively ceased operating as such in 1847, according to Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1973.

The canal passage boats did not have canopies, the passengers sat facing each other rather than back to back and the boats were horse-drawn rather than paddle-driven. Furthermore, the service ceased in 1852.

I cannot explain the extent of the inaccuracies, but perhaps Lavelle’s account should have been attributed to the elder James rather than to his son Stephen. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can cast light on this; please leave a Comment below.

 

 

 

The Daly news

In 1849 the Grand Canal Company decided to begin operating a cargo-carrying service on its own canal, initially from Dublin to Naas and from Dublin to Kilbeggan, both destinations on branch lines. According to Ruth Delany, Naas was included because

[…] Daly of Sallins, the only trader to Naas, had announced his intention of withdrawing the service which he was operating at a considerable loss.[1]

It may be the same Daly of Sallins who had leased the Grand Canal Company’s hotel in Sallins after the lease to the Great Southern & Western Railway ended in 1847. Delany says that the Daly family

[…] looked after the maintenance of sections of the banks and trackways for the company under contract and later became the horse contractors for the company’s trade boats.[2]

By 1870, however, the Grand Canal Company had ended that arrangement:

The haulage of the boats by their own horses had been a great success. It had been done at a much less rate, and more efficiently, than was done before by contract.[3]

It is possible that the company used contractors for some of its work some of the time, perhaps to supplement its own resources in busy seasons. A report to the company’s half-yearly meeting in August 1888 included these items>

[…] £103 for a new roof to their stables at Shannon Harbour. […] their horsing account for 52 horses at £669. They had during the last half year replaced several horses worn out in the service by new purchases. Their stud was never in a better condition than at present. […] They had succeeded in obtaining savings in new haulage contracts […].[4]

In February 1890, a new company chairman, Mr William F De V Kane JP, reported that Mr T J Daly, of Sallins, had been appointed inspector and clerk of works to the company engineer, Mr Mulvany, at a salary of £150 a year and travelling expenses;

[…] and the directors were confident that by this appointment an improvement in the management of horses in the country as well as economy would be secured.[5]

Perhaps that Daly was related to the other Dalys. I would welcome further information about the Daly family of Sallins.

Sources

[1] Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1973

[2] ibid

[3] Report to Grand Canal Company half-yearly meeting 26 February 1870 in Dublin Evening Mail 26 February 1870

[4] Freeman’s Journal 20 August 1888

[5] ibid

Trade boats

Relatively little has been published about the horse-drawn cargo-carrying trade boats used by the Grand Canal Company in the latter half of the nineteenth century, before it adopted semi-diesel engines. Here is some information and some speculation about the subject, but there is much that is not clear.

Horses on board

An ad from the Freeman’s Journal of 11 September 1876 provides a snippet of information about horse haulage on the Royal Canal, with a point that I cannot recall seeing anywhere else about Irish waterways. Here’s a French example and here’s an American from this excellent page.

The 120′ Irish steam-powered narrow boat

Read about it here.

Grand Canal: propulsion

This is a point that I do not recall seeing before. It arises in a short report from the Freeman’s Journal of 17 July 1876.

SAVED FROM DROWNING. — On Saturday evening a man named Patrick Fitzsimons, while employed with others in getting a canal boat through the lock of the Portobello-bridge, fell into the basin and sank. He rose to the surface in about a minute, and was apparently exhausted, for, after a vain attempt to hold on by the projecting ledge of the boat, he went down again. There now seemed to be great danger of the man’s life being lost, but some of his companions held out one of their long “sweep” oars towards the place where he sank, and when he came up the third time he succeeded in grasping the oar and holding on till he was taken out of the water. He was then in a very weak state, and it appeared very plainly that when he fell into the basin he was not in the best condition to protect himself from accident.

I suspect that the last phrase means that he was drunk. But what is more interesting, at least to me, is that a canal boat was equipped with oars. I do not recall having read that anywhere. But we know little about the design, equipment and operation of nineteenth century canal boats. Oars would certainly be useful for moving around basins and on rivers like the Liffey, but how were the oars pivoted and how many men did it take to row a loaded canal boat?

Speeding on canals …

… and the perils thereof:

Having reached the highest level of the great table-land, we traversed a space of fifteen miles without a lock; and here a curious phenomenon, illustrating the incompressibility of water, arrested our attention. About every twenty or thirty minutes, the horses are obliged to stop for five or six minutes, to take breath, the cause of which was this: — The velocity of the boat impelled the water in the canal with such force that it gradually rose so as to approach the summits of the banks, when it began to recoil, so as actually to form a back-water or stream, when the horses were unable to make head, and therefore stopped till the equilibrium of the canal was restored.

James Johnson MD A Tour in Ireland with Meditations and Reflections S Highley, London 1844