Tag Archives: Ireland

Grand Canal: early plans

This page has a map of the planned route of the Grand Canal from Dublin to the Shannon via the Brosna, with branches to the Barrow and the Boyne, as proposed in 1779.

Note that I know nothing about the site displaying the map and I do not know whether it might endanger your computer’s security in any way. Mine seems to be OK [so far] [touch wood].

The navigation of Lough Mask

TO BE SOLD, the large well grown Woods standing on the following Lands, viz Tourmacady, Cappaghduff, Drimcoggy, Gortmuncullen, Deryviny, and Cullentragh, consisting principally of well grown Oak fit for any Use, and partly of Sally, Ash, Birch, and Alder, on the Banks of the Lake called Lough Mask, which is navigable to Cong, within a mile of Lough Corrib, a navigable River to Galway; said Woods are very convenient to and near several Iron Works in the County of Mayo, and as they are distant from each other they will be Sold separately, if required. Proposals for said Woods to be received by Sir Henry Lynch, Bart, at Castlecarra, or by Robert Lynch Blosse Esq in Tuam.

Pue’s Occurrences 10 July 1756 from the
British Newspaper Archive

From the BNA

Bang

The inhabitants of this city [Dublin] were greatly alarmed yesterday evening, between the hours of four and five, by a most violent concussion of the air, which broke several panes of glass, cracked others, and shook houses to the foundation in an unusual manner, accompanied by a very loud explosion. In the country parts adjacent to the city, the fears of the people led them to imagine that there had been a shock of an earthquake — but the cause proves to have been the explosion of two boats, that were coming down the Grand Canal, freighted with gunpowder from Counsellor Caldbeck’s powder-mills at Clondalklin.

Many lives it was reported were lost; but we can assure the public, from the best authority, that no more than two men were killed, and five or six slightly wounded. The loss from the gunpowder is not estimated to be very great.

It is not as yet ascertained through what manner the fire was suffered to communicate to the powder. It was said that it was from one of the hands having dropped some blazing tobacco from a pipe which he was smoking, but for that there appears no foundation.

Dublin Evening Post 24 April 1787

Speaking of nitwits …

this might explain why so many of them get elected in Ireland.

Fish from inland waterways

On 19 August 1862 the Irish Times markets report included this:

Athlone Market, August 16th. The following are the rates: oats 14s to 14s 6d per barrel; hay per ton 26s to 33s; straw 1s 7d to 1s 9d per cwt; potatoes 4d to 5d per stone; beef 7d to 8d per lb; mutton 6d to 8d; veal 5d to 7d do; lamb 6s 0d to 8s per qr; geese each 1s 6d to 2s 0d per pair [no, I don’t understand it either]; ducks 1s 2d to 1s 6d; fowls 1s 0d to 1s 6d; butter 8d to 9d per lb; eggs 6d to 7d per dozen; bacon (Irish) 7d to 9d per lb; American 5d to 6d.

Fish rather scarce: trout 6d per lb; pike 2d per lb; bream 1s per dozen; perch 1s per doz; eels 2s to 4s per dozen.

The weather during the past week has been, on the whole, favourable to the growing crops which look very well in this neighbourhood. Potatoes, especially, are an excellent and abundant crop.

From a Correspondent

Being anxious to increase the economic benefits of inland waterways, I determined to make a fish stew, using only freshwater fish. Accordingly, I emailed Inland Fisheries Ireland [IFI] to ask where I could buy a selection of freshwater fish. Answer came there none, which made me wonder why the state paid IFI almost €28.5 million in 2014 (the latest year for which accounts are available). If fishing isn’t producing food, then the maggots are being drowned for entertainment, as foxes are hunted for sport, and I don’t see why the state should subsidise it (or, of course, other recreational activities like football, small farming or Irish Rail).

Anyway, thanks to the virtues of private enterprise and the wonders of free trade, I was able to produce a stew using trout, pike, carp, zander, smoked eel and crayfish. But what a pity that it would have been so much easier a hundred and fifty years ago.

By the way, if you’re wondering why American bacon was on sale in Athlone, and cheaper than Irish bacon, Andy Bielenberg explains in Ireland and the Industrial Revolution: the impact of the industrial revolution on Irish industry 1801–1922 Routledge, London 2009 that

While most Irish bacon was exported to Great Britain, to sustain this trade Ireland increasingly consumed cheaper American bacon in the second half of the nineteenth century.

From the BNA

 

Mr Monks’s plan for inland navigation

According to Mr Monks‘s plan for the intended northern line of navigation, great accommodation and advantages would be afforded to the inhabitants of that part of the kingdom that lies north of the city of Dublin, particularly to those of the province of Ulster, who are so numerous — for all the sea ports, all the considerable towns and villages would have a cheap and secure interchangeable communication with each other, and the metropolis, in peace or war, safe from enemies and storms, most desirable objects to that extensive manufacturing country.

The design is to run a canal from Dublin to Blackwater-town (about 68 miles); the river Blackwater is navigable from thence to Lough Neagh — and with very little expence afterwards the following great general navigable canal communication would be opened:

  • to the east coast of Ireland by the river Liffey to the bay of Dublin
  • by the Boyne Navigation (which the northern line would intersect near Navan) to the bay of Drogheda
  • from Lough Neagh, by the Newry Navigation to Carlingford bay
  • to the north east coast from Lough Neagh by the Belfast canal to Belfast lough, or Carrickfergus bay
  • to the north coast from Lough Neagh by the river Bann to Colerain
  • and by off-branching along the Ballyhays river about 10 miles, to the east end of Lough Erne, which is nearly navigable to the town of Ballyshannon, would open a communication with the bay of Donegall to the west
  • and by the Grand Canal and Barrow Navigation to the south to Waterford harbour
  • by the western branch of the Grand Canal, which will be shortly completed, to the Shannon, and the Limerick Navigation to the south west of Ireland.

And we understand (in order that the inland towns and villages should reap every advantage by this general plan) he proposes that canals of very small dimensions (which are made at very little expence) should be extended from the great lines to them for boats of only four tuns burden, where water cannot be obtained to answer canals of a larger scale; and wastage of locks, in place of which he would substitute machinery on a plain simple construction, to raise and lower them on inclined planes at the rate of 100 feet in four minutes, and which would also answer instead of aqueducts and embanking across wide valleys, one horse would be sufficient to draw, and one man to attend ten of these boats chained together, the whole carrying forty tons with great ease.

Thus not only the wealthy merchant and manufacturer, but the most inferior tradesman would have an opportunity of attending and disposing of his goods at the best market (let the quantity be ever so small) on equal terms, which would be a great means to defeat and put down forestalling — a most destructive species of dealing in a manufacturing country,

Dublin Evening Post 19 January 1797

From the BNA

 

Transport history

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution quotes an interesting extract today from a new book on the history of India:

…the most important technological change for the transportation of heavy goods in nineteenth-century India was not the arrival of the quick, expensive railway: it was the move from pack animals to carts pulled by two or four beasts in the first half of the century.  This was the process historian Amalendu Guha calls ‘the bullock cart revolution’.  Throughout the 1860s and 1870s railways found it impossible to compete not only with bullock carts, but also with human-powered river transport.  Rowing boats along the Ganges and Jamuna won a price war with the railways over the cost of transporting heavy goods.  Vessels powered by human beings were able to undercut steam vessels elsewhere.

There is a description of the book (which I have now ordered) here.

How did transport in Ireland compare? In the first half of the century, road transport using Scotch carts dominated carrying. Within about 55 miles of Dublin, eastward of Mullingar on the Royal and Tullamore on the Grand, canal carriers did little business except in the heaviest goods: the Scotch carts, each drawn by one horse and carrying about one ton, dominated the trade. But the Scotch carts relied on there being good roads, which in many cases required government intervention of one sort or another.

But rowing boats do not seem to have been serious contenders on Irish inland waterways. They might have been used on the Shannon, to tow canal boats, and the idea was mooted, but nothing seems to have come of it. The problem, I suspect, was that there was little or no trade: when it did arrive, it did so because the steamers created it. And the capital cost of a large pulling boat might have been beyond the means of a small-scale entrepreneur who might have been able to afford a cart.

On the other hand, vessels powered by sail retained certain markets, including traffic across the Irish Sea, until the middle of the twentieth century.

Much about Irish transport history remains unclear to me.

Shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic

Fianna Fáil, an Irish political party, has published what it describes as a “new Bill to help tackle River Shannon flooding“.

In fact, of course, the bill, if enacted, would do nothing of the sort, as the party itself admits. It proposes to add even more idiotic measures, including subsidies to encourage people to live in flood plains. But at the core of its thinking is that no interests, other than those of the inhabitants of flood plains, should carry any legal weight, and that that can be assured by placing a single body, the Electricity Supply Board, in charge of everything to do with the Shannon. Perhaps it was inspired by the ESB’s success in dealing with the salmon and eel fisheries — although some might prefer that the ESB concentrate on reducing electricity prices instead.

Blithering idiocy of this kind is not confined to Fianna Fáil and it is, I suggest, a reflection of the generally low level of ability and experience of Irish politicians. They are, I suggest, simply unable to think usefully about large and complex problems.

I tried to find CVs for all members of the current Dáil. I looked at Wikipedia entries, personal websites and party websites, as well as a few other sites that I hoped might have information.

I was looking for TDs whose CVs indicated significant experience in running large organisations or large projects: projects as large and complex as, for instance, managing Shannon floods, hospitals or the water supply.

I found nobody whose experience came anywhere near those levels (although it is of course possible that some TDs have such experience but choose to keep quiet about it). There were a few who had worked in medium or large organisations, but at junior levels, and some who had worked at senior levels in small organisations. Some of those with relevant experience had gained it in public or third-sector bodies: I was not looking solely for private-sector experience. But there were far too many who had worked in “professions” or as lobbyists of one kind or another, whose proudest boasts were of involvement in local bodies and of a desire to help individual constituents.

I’m sure they’re all very nice people. But I don’t believe that they have any conception of what it takes to analyse complex data, cost alternative policies or set up and run large organisations carrying out difficult tasks. Hence their focus on nit-picking and on the personal: they are simply unable to cope with anything more difficult. And  hence too their fondness for setting up new organisations, reallocating functions and passing laws: they can do all of those things (and perhaps find places on boards for their mates) without having to get to grips with the real, the complex issues. They don’t even have to cope with the chaos their meddling causes — and they then have a new set of people they can shout at.

Some of them might just about be able to organise a piss-up in a brewery; few if any of them could organise the construction and fitting out of anything as complex as a large brewery or could manage the operations of such a brewery. That might not matter if they worked on policy analysis instead, but few of them seem to have any abilities in that sphere either. The problem is one of scale: organising a successful parish bingo night, or an election campaign, is not sufficient preparation for running a large project or organisation.

I see that wiktionary defines “shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic” as

To do something pointless or insignificant that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contributes nothing to the solution of a current problem.

That about sums it up.

Lakelands

According to the Irish Times of 27 August 2016

Fáilte Ireland has tendered [sic] for a company to help it develop a new tourism strategy for the swathe of land running down the middle of Ireland that falls outside the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, the two linchpins of the State’s tourism marketing strategy.

The area, generally referred to in tourism marketing circles as “Ireland’s Lakelands” district, takes in parts of east Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim, much of north Tipperary, and runs down as far as the northern reaches of Cork. […]

The tender made no mention of the Lakelands moniker, but Ms Carroll [of Fáilte Ireland] […] said the Lakelands term, which is also used in the Programme for Government’s tourism strategy, may not end up being the final slogan that is used for the region.

I wonder what that does for Waterways Ireland’s Lakelands &  Inland Waterways marketing and product development Initiative and what it says about the success of the Lakelands Strategic Plan [PDF]. I note too that the Irish Times refers to “the State’s tourism marketing strategy” whereas WI’s initiative was a cross-border one and included the Erne as well as the Shannon.

Patriyachtism

It will be recalled that, for many years, the governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Ireland subsidised the owners of private pleasure craft by allowing them to use the cheap diesel permitted for off-road use (not that farmers should get subsidies either). The EU (or whatever it was called at the time) told them to stop; they asked for, and received, several derogations to allow them time to comply; during that time they stuck their thumbs in their collective bums and did nothing. Eventually the EU got fed up and told them to get on with it.

The Irish government’s pretence at compliance was particularly ludicrous and contemptible. It said that yacht-owners (using “yacht” as shorthand for “private pleasure craft”) could continue to buy marked gas-oil (cheap or green diesel) at the rebated (cheap) price but that, once a year, they should tell the Revenue Commissioners how much they had bought, work out the amount of the underpayment and pay that sum to the Revenue.

I can’t imagine how the Revenue Commissioners thought that was going to work, but they seem to have been happy with a scheme that facilitated — nay, encouraged — tax evasion by those sufficiently well off to own yachts. Someone in the Irish Times, perhaps after having had his or her ear bent over a few pink gins at the bar of the George, referred to this as an “honour system”; there was no evidence that she or he had actually checked the compliance rate to assess the effectiveness of the scheme and the extent of honour amongst yacht-owners.

The figures for the year 2015, as of 15 April 2016, were kindly supplied by the Revenue Commissioners some months ago; here they are, with those for previous years.

For the record:

Year Payers Litres Amount
2010 for 2009 38 n/a n/a
2011 for 2010 41 n/a n/a
2012 for 2011 22 141,503.29 €53,398.58
2013 for 2012 23 301,674 €113,841.45
2014 for 2013 20 279,842.4 €105,561.74
2015 for 2014 26 289,151 €108,934.80
2016 for 2015 18 371,666 €140,021.51

I suspect that the increase in the number of litres paid for might represent the improved business for the hire fleets in 2015, but I would welcome information on the subject.

In 2015 the Irish Sports Council gave the Irish Sailing Association €1,121,900.