Tag Archives: Limerick

Limerick Navigation lockkeepers

The Limerick Navigation was in five sections — three canals with river sections in between — and joined Limerick to Killaloe and the rest of the inland Shannon. The canal sections had locks, each controlled by a lockkeeper who lived on site. The job passed from generation to generation: some of the lockkeepers’ cottages are still inhabited by descendants of the lockkeepers.

Cussane lock (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Cussane was the furthest downstream of the three locks on the Killaloe section of the canal. It was covered by water when the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric scheme created the “flooded area” below Killaloe. If memory serves, Cussane was known as Crowe’s Lock.

In the online searchable catalogue of the Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary’s Office in the National Archives, there is a letter dated 15 February 1830 [CSO/RP/1830/815]

[…] from James Saurin, Henry R Paine, and John Radcliffe, [Directors General of Inland Navigation], Board of Control, [Dublin], to Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke Northumberland, [Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Dublin], recommending Denis Crow to succeed Lott Corboy sheriff as lockkeeper on the Limerick Navigation.]

There is also a letter dated 2 June 1830 [CSO/RP/1830/836]

from James Saurin, J Armit, and Henry R Paine, [Directors General of Inland Navigation], Navigation Office, [Dublin], to Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke Northumberland, [Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Dublin], recommending dismissal of Simon Johnston, lockkeeper on the Limerick Navigation, for irregularities and for deception; asking to employ Michael Gully in his stead, for Stg£9-4-9 per annum.

Gully’s Lock is at Gillogue, on the central canal section known as the Plassey–Errina Canal.

Gillogue lock (OSI 25″ ~1900)

 

 

 

Waterways update: work in progress (1759)

Here is some information about the work of Messrs Ockenden and Omer on Irish waterways up to 1759. It is extracted from a book by Henry Brooke; Ockenden had, twenty years earlier, subscribed to support Brooke’s play. It is not impossible that they were acquainted, in Ireland or in England. Apart from anything else, both were supporters of Frederick, Prince of Wales: see A N Newman “The Political Patronage of Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales” in The Historical Journal Vol 1 No 1 1958 on Ockenden’s post in the prince’s household at £100 a year and here on Frederick’s “many attentions” to Brooke.

Brooke’s account contains some information about Ockenden’s work that I have not seen elsewhere. I found the reference to Brooke in Thomas McIlvenna This Wonder-Working Canal: a history of the Tyrone Navigation Coalisland Canal Branch IWAI 2005.

Who was William Ockenden?

William Ockenden has been described as a Dutch engineer who worked on three eighteenth century Irish navigations: the Mallow to Lombardstown canal, the Kilkenny/Nore navigation and the Limerick Navigation [Park Canal section], all of them notably unsuccessful.

It seems likely that he was English, not Dutch, but may have lived in Ireland before inheriting property in England. But was he an engineer or a mill-owner and MP? Were there one or two William Ockendens at the time?

Here is some information and some speculation. I would welcome more of the first.

Useless information about a railway

The Irish Times has a piece about the numbers of people travelling on some or all of a railway line from Limerick to Galway. But the article is entirely useless in enabling assessment of whether the line should be kept open. It tells us nothing about the costs of running the line, the cost of the £110 million of capital spent on it or the income generated by the passengers. Furthermore, it does not discuss the alternatives (buses) and their costs, whether to the user or to the taxpayer.

I can’t find information about individual lines either in the CIE annual report for 2017 [PDF] or in the most recent annual report for Iarnród Éireann (which runs the railways), which is for 2015.

I suspect, therefore (but am of course open to correction), that this is fake news, marketing or PR: a partial account of the line’s operations, intended to give the impression that it is a Good Thing. And because the important information is omitted, I suspect that it is not favourable to those arguing for ever-larger train sets whereon they may play with the choo-choos.

Incidentally, the number of passengers is about one quarter of that achieved by the Dublin & Kingstown Railway in its first year of operation in the 1830s.

 

The port of Limerick

Limerick was formerly an important place for exporting grain and provisions. At that time a fine fleet of schooners, principally employed in the trade to London, was owned there; and some large brigs, barques, and ships, engaged in the passenger and timber trade with North America, hailed from the port. But the maritime trade has declined greatly of late years, and the number of vessels has become proportionably reduced. At present the shipping consists of a few colliers and timber vessels, and a fleet of five screw steamers. The latter monopolize so much of the trade between the city and the English ports as the railways do not absorb. A number of foreign vessels, principally with grain from the Mediterranean, arrive at the port, and the seamen that are met with here are for the most part Italians, French, and Austrians. There is now a large floating dock at Limerick with gates 75 feet wide. A Sailors’ Home was recently erected here, but it has never been opened, as there are at present hardly any sailors to be found at the port, except a few such foreigners as have been just described.

“Visits to the Sea Coasts” in The Shipwrecked Mariner Vol VIII No XXIX January 1861

Tarmonbarry 1851

To the Editor of the [Dublin] Evening Mail

Sir

In your impression of the 3d instant, under the head of “The Famine Advances and the English Press”, I find a reference to the (so called) improvement of the Shannon; that of the sum of £313009 advanced by government, £230325 has been repaid. In this case you say (and most truly say) “the jobbing was most flagrant, and the reckless waste of the public money unparalleled”.

So far you are correct, but you are, no doubt, labouring under a very common mistake when you say the works have very recently been completed, such not being the case. Some handsome bridges, with swivel arches, and spacious locks — one in this neighbourhood too small to admit an ordinary river steamer. Nor was the level properly taken, there not being sufficient water to carry tonnage drawing more than 5 feet 6 inches, during the greater part of the summer.

Now, I should wish to know, through your well informed medium, to what cause is to be attributed the present state of the weir, or lock dam, adjoining Tarmonbarry, a span of nearly 500 feet. Owing to the improper manner in which the same has been executed, upwards of 60 feet have given way, and when examined by the engineer of the board, the entire is found in such a state as will involve the rebuilding.

In justice to this gentlemen, I am bound to say he was not the engineer under whom it was constructed, nor do I think, until very lately, he had anything to do with the Shannon Commission, every work in which he has been engaged, being acknowledged to be well executed.

I am not aware whether you are in possession of this fact, that in order to make the Shannon improvements available or remunerative, it has been considered necessary to construct a canal to “Lough Erne”, adjoining Belturbet, and thence to communicate with Belfast, by “the Ulster canal”. You will, I am sure, agree with me in the old adage, that “this would be going round the world to look for a short cut”; but the cut I allude to is not so short, as it involves, I am informed, thirty miles of new canal, and several large and expensive locks.

But, Sir, I must inform you, that the tolls of the river Shannon, from Carrick-on-Shannon to Limerick city, are barely sufficient to pay the lock-keepers’ salaries. The Shannon Commission I would henceforth style “the Shannon job”.

I remain, Sir, though a bad dancer, one who must

Pay the Piper

[Dublin] Evening Mail 17 November 1851

From the British Newspaper Archive

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

Usage

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.

Meaning

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.

Envoi

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.

 

Peril at Parker’s Point

Great storm on Lough Derg

40 tons of porter lost

All over the course of the Shannon the snowstorm was of the utmost severity. The Grand Canal Company had practically to suspend traffic, and steamers arriving at Portumna from Killaloe and Limerick report the roughest weather yet experienced on Lough Derg.

The steamer Dublin, bound from Shannon Harbour to Limerick with three barges in tow, loaded with 40 tons each of porter for Messrs A Guinness and Co’s stores, Limerick, was almost wrecked on Wednesday, but for the promptitude and presence of mind of the steamer’s crew.

She was nearing Parker’s Point, on the Clare [sic] side of the lake, when the storm was raging fiercest, and this being one of the most unsheltered spots in the course of the Shannon, heavy waves came rolling over the tug and barges and tossed them about. The strain broke the ropes which kept them in tow, and two boats with their crews broke away and went adrift, and were at the mercy of the waves.

The captain of the steamer Dublin (Patrick Moran), seeing the perilous position of the boats and crews, steered with the one boat which he had then in tow to the Tipperary side, and anchored her there in shelter, and again set out to the rescue of the two drifting barges, and after a severe struggle succeeded in getting to their rescue just as they were drifting on to the rocks at the point mentioned.

There were twenty tons each of porter stowed on the decks, and this was promptly secured by covers and lashed by ropes to rings, but notwithstanding this the barrels of porter, from the tossing about of the boats, broke through the covers and lash lines, and were lost on Lough Derg. The steamer’s master again got the barges in tow, and succeeded in bringing them on to Killaloe.

 

 

The Irish Times 31 December 1906

The Limerick steam ferry

Wanton outrage

The steam ferry barge, the property of Messrs J R Russell and Sons, which plies across the Shannon from Russell’s-quay to Lansdowne spinning mills, and which was got up for the convenience and conveyance of the factory operatives in the employ of the firm, was boarded during last night (Sunday) as she lay at the north side of the river, by some person or persons unknown, and maliciously injured to a considerable extent. She was not only scuttled, but the machinery was broken and some of the gear removed and taken away, so that the barge has become temporarily disabled. Portions of the machinery are said to have been found in the river, where they were thrown by the miscreants. This is the second attempt that has been made to damage this ferry since she was put on the river.

Cork Examiner 27 April 1869

Fishermen

On Sunday evening a conflict took place between the fishermen on the river above Thomond-bridge, Limerick, which at one time threatened very serious consequences. It appears that since the interruption to their fishing at the Island point some of the long net fishermen procured short or snap nets, and commenced fishing lower down the river. The short net men did not like this intrusion, and it would appear that no amicable feeling prevailed between the parties. After nine o’clock in the evening the short net men put out their nets, when the others attacked them; the boats fouled each other, the men commenced to fight, and some stones were thrown over the parapet of the bridge which did injury to the cots of the short net men. The presence of Constable Frawley and some of the police tended somewhat to repress their disposition to violence, but it is apprehended that further and more serious collisions may take place between the parties.

Saunders’s News-Letter 15 June 1855