Tag Archives: Ireland

Canal oats

The Freeman’s Journal of 25 July 1832 included a report on the Dublin markets of the previous day. The report from the Dublin Corn Exchange said

We had a moderate supply in market, and prices may be quoted same as last.

The grains traded included wheat (prime red and prime white), grinding barley, malting barley, bere, new oats, new bere, oatmeal, M’Cann’s and First Flour, as well as

Prime Feeding Oats, 14 st [stone] to the brl [barrel], 11s 6d to 12s 0d

Canal ditto, 9s 6d to 9s 9d


The term “canal oats” is used in a report from New York in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1843 and another in  The Economist in 1847; the Central New-York Farmer has it in 1844 and Walt Whitman used the term in 1846. More from that side of the Atlantic anon.

The earliest occurrence I have found in the British Newspaper Archive is in the Dublin Evening Post of 11 March 1819:

Dublin Corn Exchange, March 10. — Our Market was but poorly supplied this day, particularly with Farmers’ Grains, owing to their being so much occupied at field work. — Canal Oats were more abundant than the demand warranted, and they were heavy sale from 16s to 17s 6d; prime, and for feeding, could not be got under 20s to 21s, and seed from 22s to 30s. — Wheat and Barley steady. — Malt, Flour and Oatmeal without variation, and in but indifferent demand.

There are other Irish instances in 1824, 1825 and 1826; in all cases the price of canal oats is below that of feeding oats.

The only British examples from this period, in Gore’s Liverpool General Advertiser on 23 February 1826 and in the Glasgow Herald on 21 April 1826, are from reports on the Dublin market.

I have not checked every occurrence, but my impression is that, to the end of 1840 (I looked no further), the term “canal oats” was used frequently in Irish newspapers from all parts of the island. However, the term was used only about the Dublin and Belfast corn markets; canals served both conurbations. British newspapers used the term only in reports from the Irish markets.


I have found no definition of the term. Here, though, are some comments on possible connotations.

First, I presume that “canal oats” were oats that travelled [part of the way] to market by canal. It is likely that most oats came by road, probably on Scotch carts; that would have required packaging, no doubt in barrels of one kind or another. Some oats did arrive by non-canal boats: on 17 December 1838 the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current said

Limerick, Dec 15. — […] Oats since Wednesday in good supply by land carriage, prices declined ¼d to ½d per stone, to-day 11¾d is the highest down to 11d; by boat, 10d to 11d; barley, 12d to 15d. The depression of the London market on Wednesday accounts for the fall here.

Second, “canal oats” seems to have referred to oats of an inferior quality, or at least to oats that commanded lower prices. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 23 March 1839 referred to canal oats as “generally arriving out of condition”, proving difficult to sell and “going to warehouse for want of buyers”. The Pilot of 11 December 1839 referred to canal oats as “soft”; it is not clear whether that applies to their market or to their physical condition. On 16 February 1839 the Belfast Commercial Chronicle referred to canal oats as “unkilndried”: did that apply only to that batch or to all canal oats?

Third, the Limerick market report, above, suggests that lower prices may have applied to all oats arriving by water rather than by land. It is possible that the prices reflected something about the nature of the transport method rather than the inherent quality of the oats; alternatively, it is possible that water transport (which, where it was available, was probably cheaper than land transport) was chosen for the oats that would sell for less.

The first possibility has, I think, two sub-possibilities: that oats travelling by water might have been more at risk of damage or that their packaging might have been inferior: specifically, that they might have been a bulk cargo, poured loose into the hold, rather than packed in barrels. The Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 16 February 1839 might be taken to suggest that: “cargoes”, not barrels, were being sold, and by the ton rather than any lesser quantity:

Oats maintain their value, and cargoes have been sold from £8 5s [presumably per ton] to £8 7s 6d for unkilndried Canal Oats.

However, that is the only such example that my quick survey found.

Fourth, it is possible that canal oats were not used for human or equine consumption. The Dublin Morning Register of 3 November 1838 reported that

The supply of oats from the neighbouring farmers was short, and brought at the opening 13s to 13s 6d per barrel. Canal oats, of which rather a good quantity appeared, was taken off at 12s 6d to 13s per 196lbs. The distillers, anxious to get into stock, gave these prices freely. The advance is fully 1s 6d a barrel since Friday.

Again, that is an isolated example; it may be that the distillers did not always use oats.

Fifth, a case heard in the New York Court of Appeals in 1851, and reported in Henry R Selden Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York; with notes, references, and an index Vol I Little & Company, Albany 1853, concerned a contract for the sale of canal oats. The appeal was against the verdict in a case in which Messrs Vail and Adams sued Mr Rice

[…] in the court of common pleas of the city of New York for the breach of a contract dated New York April 28th 1847 for the sale of “a lot of canal oats, say about four thousand bushels, more or less, at forty seven cents per bushel, deliverable in all the month of May next, from boats at or near the foot of Broad street in this city, cash on delivery”.

The ultimate decision turned on other issues, but the relevant part is that Vail and Adams had called a witness who was in the grain trade and who said

[…] that oats sent by the canal vary about five per cent when they arrive from what they were when shipped. They generally overrun or fall short about five per cent. This is always expressed by the words ‘more or less’. We always make our contracts in that way and we mean by ‘more or less’ to provide for an excess or a diminution not over or under five per cent. We use the word ‘about’ to express the same thing. It is generally customary among us that the purchaser takes whatever it is, and gets the benefit or suffers the loss, not exceeding five per cent. On his cross examination the witness stated ‘The custom is a general custom. I have never known any particular instance. All the grain dealers do. SS & Co have such a custom. I can’t mention a particular instance. I can’t give any other instance. I have sold grain to M & D this way.’

If Irish usage was the same as American, this might strengthen the suggestion that canal oats were a bulk cargo, not measured before shipment, and thus with some uncertainty about the exact amount being shipped, bought or sold. That uncertainty might account for a lower price.


None of that amounts to conclusive evidence, and I would be glad to hear from anyone [please leave a Comment below] who knows more than I do about canal oats.


What is Fine Gael smoking?

Here’s another Fine Gael TD spouting nonsense. Seán Kyne is a TD for Galway West and Mayo South, and he wants the taxpayer to build him a train set.

He favours what is called the Western Rail Corridor, a mad scheme to reopen yet more uneconomic railway track to places that have neither passengers nor cargo to justify the expense. The nutters have already had a service provided from Limerick to Galway, running pretty well alongside the new motorway. Kyne says

With over 380,000 annual passenger journeys the service has far exceeded initial estimates on which the original business case was based.

A business case is, as far as I can see, a way of whiting a sepulchre: coming up with some excuse for spending public money of a boondoggle that would be exposed as such were a proper cost-benefit analysis conducted instead. What Kyne doesn’t tell us is whether the service makes or loses money (and if you can find that information in any of the publications on the websites of CIE or Iarnród Éireann, I’d be glad if you’d let me know) or why the state should provide both buses and railways on the same route.

But Limerick to Galway isn’t mad enough: he wants the ghastly thing extended to Tuam and Sligo, because that would provide “greater transport connectivity in the West”, whatever that means. Is there anything that rail could do that roads could not? Kyne doesn’t say; nor does he identify any traffic that requires rail. He says

I also believe that the way to enhance infrastructure in the West of Ireland is not by developing one [road] at the expense of another [rail].

What Kyne wants instead is that both be developed, and run, at the expense of the taxpayer, when only one of them is needed. Ireland needs to start closing down more railway lines, not opening them up.


How to civilise Co Galway

An article from the Dublin Penny Journal of 13 September 1834 [Vol III No 115], conducted by P Dixon Hardy MRIA, solves that and other longstanding problems.

Public works in Ireland

The tunnel or archway through Lord Cloncurry’s grounds

Having in our last described the line of railway from the entrance station in Westland-row to the Pier at Kingstown, we now take the opportunity, while presenting our readers with two other views of the road, of inserting an article which, since our last publication went to press, has appeared in The Sun newspaper, relative to the carrying on of public works in Ireland. Our readers will perceive that its general bearing is in perfect accordance with the opinions we have more than once before expressed, when speaking on the subject of railways. We have already stated our reasons for giving a preference to railways over other modes of conveyance; but we fully agree in opinion with the writer of the article to which we refer, that no greater benefit could be conferred upon Ireland than the introduction of a cheap and expeditious means of conveying her agricultural produce from the heart of the country to the extremities — whether this be by canals or railways is a matter to be decided by the locality of those districts through which the lines of road may pass.

“We do not often derive so much pleasure from the perusal of a public document as we have from a careful inspection of the plans, and consideration of the suggestions, contained in the Second Report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, just printed by order of the House of Commons. Notwithstanding the low ebb at which the tide of Ireland’s prosperity stands at present, we predict, from the great improvements that are now being carried on, in clearing harbours, opening canals, and making roads along the eastern, southern, and northern coast, that the day is not very long distant when Ireland will, from being a bye-word among the nations of Europe, become equal to some of its proudest states in industry, wealth, intelligence, and love of order.

The worst crimes of Ireland are the results of the poverty and despair, rather than the evil disposition of her population. Public works, besides giving employment to thousands of her labouring poor, whom want has rendered almost desperate, will be the means of inducing capitalists to establish factories where facilities are afforded for carrying on an extensive trade; and will enable agriculturists to raise produce wherever a line of good road, a cheap water carriage, or convenient shipping, supplies them with a sure market for the fruits of their industry.

During the last eighteen months the sum of one hundred and twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and thirty-three pounds were expended in the improvement of Kingstown and Dunmore harbours, the making of roads on the Antrim coast, and the building of bridges, and other improvements in different parts of Ireland. The consequences of these works are already beginning to be manifested in the improved condition of the inhabitants in their vicinity, and the altered aspect of the immediately adjoining face of the country.

The commissioners themselves say that ‘Wherever a new road is constructed, flourishing farms at once spring up, and the carts of the countrymen press on the heels of the road-makers as the work advances’. And in a preceding paragraph the following most important information is given: — ‘In traversing a country covered with farms, and in a high state of cultivation, showing every sign of a good soil and of amply remunerating produce, it becomes difficult to credit the fact that, ten or twelve years since, the whole was a barren waste, the asylum of a miserable and lawless peasantry, who were calculated to be a burden rather than a benefit to the nation; and that this improvement may entirely be attributed to the expenditure of a few thousands of pounds, in carrying a good road of communication through the district’.

What Ireland stands most in need of at the present moment is, a cheap and expeditious means of having her agricultural produce conveyed from the heart of the country to the extremities. Now, in our judgment, the best way of effecting this would be by canals, of which she stands in the greatest need.

The first of these should be a canal from Dublin to Galway, which would cut the whole island across, from east to west, uniting St George’s channel with the Atlantic ocean. This line of communication between the capital of Ireland and a great commercial town on the extreme coast, would be of immense importance to the inhabitants of both, but of still more so to the whole population of Connaught, among whom it would be the direct means of introducing manufacturing industry, and a taste for the arts, enjoyments, and elegancies of civilized life. The distance between Dublin and Galway is about one hundred and four miles, through which a direct line of canal has already been carried for forty-two miles — namely, from Dublin to Philipstown; so that in point of fact the work is already begun, and only wants the aid of government, and the assistance of the landed proprietors in King’s County, Roscommon, and Galway, the value of whose estates would be trebled by it, to effect its entire completion.

The next line of canal should be from Ballyshannon Harbour to Dundalk, by Enniskillen, by which the greatest facilities would be given to agriculture and manufacturing improvements in the counties of Donegal, Fermanagh, and Leitrim; and more especially to the trade of Ballyshannon and Dundalk, which, though capable of being made emporiums of provincial industry and wealth, are now little better than marts for the fish caught along their coasts. However, great praise is due to Colonel Conolly, the member for Donegal, who has advanced a thousand pounds, and given security for four thousand more, for repairing the harbour of Ballyshannon, which, when finished, will be of great benefit to the people of the town, and the inhabitants along the western coast, from Sligo to Killybegs.

The last line of communication which we would suggest to the government, besides the navigation of the Shannon, which is sufficiently dwelt upon in the reports of the select committee on that subject, is a canal from Waterford to Sligo, intersecting the canal from Dublin to Galway, somewhere about Philipstown.

This, with such a line of communication from Dublin to Belfast, would unite all Ireland; and in a very few years would render the country as prosperous, as rich, and as contented as any in Europe. The intercourse which those canals would give rise to between the people in every part of the provinces, would extinguish that spirit of religious animosity which now divides and destroys them. Bring men only together, and they will soon remove the prejudices of each other.

The people of Ireland are at present as much removed from each other at the distance of fifty miles apart, as if the whole Indian ocean rolled between them. Hence, the jealousies, and hatreds, and cherished recollections of feudal wrongs, so common in almost every district of Munster and Connaught. But let once manufacturing industry prevail in these districts — let the voice of the mechanic be heard in the villages — and we will pledge ourselves that the people of Ireland, with all their alleged love of mischief, will find other employment than that of parading nightly in a Captain Rock uniform, or recording vows of vengeance against Sassenachs and collectors of king’s taxes.”


Brexit and imported boats

Several people in Ireland have imported secondhand boats from Foreign Parts, often from the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. After Brexit, importation of a boat from the UK is likely to become more difficult.

Dr Richard North, an erudite Brexiteer, has highlighted the problem today. Within the European Economic Area (which includes the European Union)

Basically, a huge range of products, before they can be placed on the market, must be approved in a manner specified in the relevant legislation. Conformity then guarantees access to the markets of the EEA members (EU members plus the three Efta/EEA members). […]

In the first instance – intra-Union trade – the responsibility for ensuring that products conform with the legislation rests with the manufacturers. And, where the legislation requires it (as it does with a wide range of goods), it must be tested by an independent third party, known as a “notified body”. And, with certain exceptions, that notified body must be established in the EU and be recognised the European Commission.

Currently, of course, the UK is able to benefit from the intra-Union trade rules but, on leaving the EU, it will no longer enjoy what amounts to a simplified procedure. It is then that the UK becomes a “third country” and the legal responsibilities accruing to those placing products on the market move from the manufacturers to the “importer“, defined as “any natural or legal person established within the Community who places a product from a third country on the Community market”. (For “Community” you can now read “Union”.)

When products from third counties arrive at EU Member State ports, it is then for the importer to satisfy the customs and any other authorities that the products comply with EU law, and have the necessary approvals or certification – including type-approvals from notified bodies, where necessary.

Currently, there are over 25 categories of goods to which the CE marking system applies, for which a Notified Body certificate may be required. These include: […] recreational craft […].

For the UK on and after Brexit day, this gets quite interesting. Where the product relies on certification from a UK notified body (approved prior to Brexit), that notified body will no longer be approved. Arguably (and it is arguable), the certificates (on which the importer will rely) will no longer be valid.

The requirements of the 2013 Recreational Craft Directive are set out here [PDF]. Section 3.6, on page 21, says:

The private importer is a concept that did not exist under the previous Directive and that was added to ensure that private individuals importing a boat, a personal watercraft, an engine or any other product covered by the Directive are granted the same level of protection and obligation as commercial importers. The private importer is defined as any natural or legal person established in the European Union who imports in the course of a non-commercial activity a product from a third country into the EU with the intention of putting it into service for his own use.

A private importer, who imports a product for his own use in European waters, must also ensure the craft, engine or components are compliant with the EU Directive.

Article 12 provides the detailed list of the private importer’s obligations. As a start, we recommend that private importers favour products for which the original manufacturer has fulfilled his responsibilities for the conformity of the product with the EU Directive. Not only will it save a lot of time and hassle for the private importer, it guarantees he/she will acquire a safe and compliant product, thereby ensuring a higher resale value in Europe.

In the event that the original manufacturer located outside of the EU has not fulfilled his responsibilities nor carried out the conformity assessment procedures, the private importer must ensure, before putting the product into service, i.e. using it, that:

• The product has been designed and manufactured in a way that meets the essential requirements of the EU Directive
• The following requirements for manufacturers have been carried out: the technical documentation has been drawn out and must be kept for 10 years; the product is accompanied by instructions and safety information in the owner’s manual in a language or languages which can be easily understood by consumers and other end users, as determined by the Member State concerned (i.e. the country of residence)
• The private importer must cooperate with the competent national authority and provide all information and documentation necessary to demonstrate the product’s conformity.

In case the technical documentation is not available from the manufacturer, the private importer will have to draw it up using the appropriate expertise. Annex V of the Directive provides the details of the postconstruction assessment (PCA). This module is the procedure to assess the equivalent conformity of a product for which the manufacturer has not assumed the responsibility but also in cases where the importer or the distributor places a product on the market under his name or trademark, or modifies a product already placed on the market in such a way that compliance with the Directive’s requirements may be affected. The private importer must ensure that the name and address of the notified body which has carried out the post-construction assessment (PCA) of the product is marked on the product itself.

For more information about the PCA see the “Special Cases” section.


The Shannon: navigation -v- drainage

Then an exceedingly important step was taken, which was the foundation and immediate cause of all the measures which have since been adopted, which was the project for opening the navigation of the Shannon, and draining the adjoining lands.

The primary object of that great work was opening the navigation, but it was put forward as a secondary object to improve what are called the Callow Lands, bordering on the Shannon, that is the alluvial lands adjoining the river, which ought to be valuable meadow lands, and which, properly improved, would be extremely valuable, but which in the then unimproved and neglected state of the river were annually overflowed for several months in the year, and were rendered of little value, affording only occasional pasturage, and uncertain crops of coarse grass.

That was a secondary object of the Shannon works; and the Shannon undertaking was founded on a compromise between those two objects,
namely, between the navigation and the drainage.

The point endeavoured to be attained was, to have the greatest amount of drainage which was consistent with the improvement of the navigation. That great work was ably carried through, and, in my opinion, was perfectly successful.

I do not mean that it is a perfect drainage work, or a perfect navigation work, but that it is the best compromise between the two that could have been effected, and showed how much could be accomplished when drainage only was the object. But however that may be, it furnished the model for, and gave a stimulus to all that has been done since […].

Evidence of Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan KCB, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Drainage of Lands (Ireland), on 4 June 1852 in Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the Operation of the Acts relating to the Drainage of Lands in Ireland, as administered by the Board of Works; and to report thereon to the House: together with the Minutes of Evidence, and Appendix Session 1852 Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 22 November 1852 [10]

Speaking of archives …

… as we were yesterday, the University of Southampton has made many collections available through archive.org here, which is an approach that works quite well. IIRC, they originally digitised much of the Enhanced Parliamentary Papers Ireland (EPPI) collection, which ended up at QUB, where the wheels seem to be falling off: it is not always reliable and it seems to be impossible to get a PDF of the right document. Some at least of those papers are now available at the archive.org site.

Who stole the technology?

I was thinking of buying a (secondhand) copy of Juliana Adelman and Éadaoin Agnew eds Science and technology in nineteenth-century Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2011. But, even though the secondhand copy was much, much cheaper even than the publishers’ reduced price, I thought I should check what I’d be getting for my money. I therefore had a look at the contents list, which I reproduce here having nicked it from the publishers’ web page:

The list of contents


Is it just me, or is there a big gap there? How can you discuss nineteenth-century technology without an extended discussion of steam power, whether in ships, on railways, for drainage or in mills and other manufactories?


The Belt and Road is How

When Charles Wye Williams and others were lauding the benefits of free trade between Britain and Ireland (thanks to the abolition of customs duties, one of the many blessings of the Act of Union, now alas likely to be eliminated by the dogs’ brexit) they did not have the wonders of tinterweb available to them. Now, however, our brethren in China can make an all-singing all-dancing case for One Belt One Road, for linking to which we are indebted to Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution.

The Lanesborough Trader

Inland Navigation

The numerous individuals interested in the prosperity of the Royal Canal, as well as the Public at large, must be highly gratified to learn, that the trade on the extended line of that navigation has commenced with all the spirit and activity that could have been anticipated by the most sanguine. The first boat from the Shannon (the Lanesborough Trader, Patrick Connor, owner) arrived at the Broadstone harbour on Saturday [31 January 1818], amid the cheers of numerous spectators, with a fiddler playing merrily upon her deck.

Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818

God bless England, now we pray

Finally, as to the want of cleanliness of which you complain — although I do not pretend to say that the Irish peasantry are as fond of order as the English, yet here also we can discover how much is owing to want of education and early training. If you visit the union workhouses, the prisons, the lunatic asylums, and other public institutions in Ireland, you will perceive that, under proper instruction and discipline, Irish men and women can be cleanly, and can keep rooms and houses as orderly and neat as any other people. The fact is, that the Celtic race appear to stand in need of training and discipline, for the acquirement of those habits which seem to come naturally to the Saxon; but with such training, and the stimulus of suitable encouragement, or even of a kind word, the Irish may be made all that their English neighbours can desire.

Edward Newenham Hoare The English Settler’s Guide through Irish Difficulties; or, a hand-book for Ireland, with reference to present and future prospects Hodges and Smith, Dublin; John W Parker, London 1850