Tag Archives: lock

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

Lock lox

Fishing extraordinary

Banagher: the old canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830s)

Banagher, June 13. On Friday evening last a scene of a truly interesting nature to all lovers [of] angling took place near the old bridge which crosses the Shannon at Banagher, in the King’s County. An old and experienced fishermen, well known in that part of the country by the appellation of Tugg, between the hours of seven and eight o’clock in the evening, hooked a salmon of enormous weight and strength, a little above the bridge; the fish, after making a few violent efforts to extricate himself —

Flew through the glassy waves with finny wings,
Whilst Tugg still kept behind.

From eight until past eleven the contest was carried on with doubtful success, in nearly the centre of the river, which is here about half a mile wide — during which time the salmon was played (as anglers term it) up the stream, as far as Bird’s Island, a distance of more than an English mile from the place where the fish was first hooked; still the salmon was unwearied, and struggled as hard as when first hooked, notwithstanding the utmost skill of Tugg to weaken and bring him within reach of the gaff.

Bird’s Island, Banagher Bridge and the head of the canal (OSI 6″ map ~1830)

The town clock struck twelve at night, and yet victory had not declared for the indefatigable Tugg. Three hours more rolled by, when Tugg, nearly as exhausted as his adversary (after nine hours’ display of the utmost skill and perseverance in the Piscal art), had recourse to a strategem by which he made himself master of his finny prey.

Connecting the navigable parts of the Shannon above and below the bridge at Banagher, is a canal of about half a mile in length; into this canal, Tugg, with his wonted skill, coaxed the fish, and then letting him down to the lock, at the farther extremity, the upper gate of which had been opened to receive him, he was allowed to pass in, and the gate being immediately closed, the water was let off by the lower one, and thus the finny monster became an easy prey.

The salmon weighed 43½ lbs, and was presented by honest Tugg to our worthy and highly esteemed Magistrate, Thomas George Armstrong Esq of Gavey Castle. The sporting gentry of Banagher and its vicinity intend raising a sum by subscription to reward poor Tugg, in testimony of their approbation of his unwearied assiduity, skill, and, above all, for the strategem by which he became at length master of this noble fish.

Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current 28 June 1830

Developments in lock design

A model for a Canal Lock of a very ingenious and curious construction, has lately been presented to the Company of Undertakers of the Grand Canal, by an artist in this city [Dublin], having among some other improvements on the old locks the following remarkable ones:

  1. That of raising or falling a boat from a level of sixty feet by a single lock.
  2. That of obviating, by a single contrivance, the waste of water, so that at the passage of any boat through it, more than nine-tenths of the water will be retained for the next occasion: this lock will therefore not require a sixth part of the water now expended in the smallest lock on the navigation.

The model is now in complete order at the Navigation House, and was particularly intended by the inventor to answer the great fall from the level of the Canal at James’s-street to the river Liffey; an object not yet fully determined upon by the Company, which Company has, however, as a token of its approbation of so very ingenious a contrivance, presented the inventor with twenty guineas, and should his plan be ever executed by them, there is no doubt but he will be rewarded according to his merit.

Saunders’s News-Letter
12 September 1787

Grand Canal announcements

The Grand Canal Company do hereby give Notice, that they are ready to receive Proposals for supplying Ashler Stones for repairing the Locks upon the Grand Canal; the Stretching Stones to be twelve Inches Bond, and the Heading Stones two Feet Bond. All Persons willing to furnish the same, are desired to apply to Captain Charles Tarrant, No 45, Cuffe street, who will inform them where the same are to be layed down. —

Proposals will be received for Building, by Contract, two Boats on the Canal (the Size and Dimentions to be known upon Application as above), the Contractor finding Timber and every Article requisite.

Also for furnishing Lime per Hogshead, in the Neighbourhood of Ballyfermott Bridge.

June 18, 1777. Signed by Order, R BAGGS, Sec

WHEREAS the Sluice erected upon the Canal in the Barrenrath Level, has been wantonly and feloniously broken down, a Reward of Twenty Guineas shall be paid for discovering and prosecuting to Conviction the Person or Persons who have committed the said Offence.

By Order of the Grand Canal Company, June 7, 1777, R BAGGS, Sec

Saunders’s News-Letter 23 June 1777

Quadrupling Kerry’s canals

I thought there was only one canal in Co Kerry, but there were three more at Lixnaw. They’re still to be seen and they have interesting associations.

Thanks to Ewan Duffy of Industrial Heritage Ireland for the tip-off.

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 Ohio River

His tow, like most, was 105 feet wide. The lock chamber is 110 feet wide. To park his 1,130-foot, 19,200-ton craft, he had as much space as a car does in a crowded parking lot.

From a fascinating piece on the New York Times website about two ageing locks on the Ohio and the traffic that passes through them.

h/t Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution

GCC inspection launch again

The other day I posted an account of the Grand Canal Company’s inspection launch, built at its own docks in James’s Street Harbour in 1909. I said

I had not been aware of the existence of a GCC inspection launch later than the gondola of 1795. I would be glad of information from anyone who knows more about it: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Then I remembered that, back in January, Alan Lindley had kindly permitted me to post this photograph, taken at Lowtown in 1911 or 1912.

Unidentified boat at Lowtown (courtesy Alan Lindley)

Unidentified boat at Lowtown (courtesy Alan Lindley)

 
Alan identified the man on the left of the group — with cap, waistcoat and watch-chain, and with a dog standing in front of him — as the lock keeper, Murtagh Murphy, the great-grandfather of the present incumbent, James (Jimmy) Conroy.

I said at the time that, although the boat had been described as a passenger flyboat, that seemed unlikely, and that the boat looked much more like a pleasure vessel than a working boat. I added:

If the Grand Canal Company had an inspection launch, this might be it, but I have found nothing to indicate that it did. The boat does, though, seem to have been designed for canal travel: it seems (from the twenty feet or so we can see) to have straight sides and to be well equipped with fenders. It might therefore have been designed to travel on the canals (as well as on other waters).

Well, now we know that the Grand Canal Company did have an inspection launch, built in 1909, not long before this photo was taken. Could this be it?

 

Cussane lock

Cussane or Coosaun Lock was the lowest of three on the Killaloe Canal, which was the uppermost section of the Limerick Navigation. It was a double lock or “staircase pair”.

Cussane Lock (OSI ~1900)

Cussane Lock (OSI ~1900)

 

You can see what the lockkeeper’s house looked like in 2015 in the article “A Flooded Landscape Revealed“, written by folk who surveyed the area last year for Irish Water.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

A Grand Canal mystery

Passenger boat over lock1

Boat at Lowtown

Alan Lindley has very kindly sent me, and permitted me to publish, this photograph.

It was taken at Lowtown lock, on the Grand Canal, in 1911 or 1912.

Alan says that the man on the left of the group — with cap, waistcoat and watch-chain, and with a dog standing in front of him — is the lock keeper, Murtagh Murphy, the great-grandfather of the present incumbent, James (Jimmy) Conroy. Murtagh was born in Ballycowan, near Tullamore, Co Offaly, in 1849 and, after working on a Grand Canal Company boat, married a Kildare girl and took the job at Lowtown.

The boat had been described as a passenger flyboat but, as the Grand Canal Company had ceased carrying passengers in 1852, that seems unlikely. And the boat looks much more like a pleasure vessel than a working boat.

If the Grand Canal Company had an inspection launch, this might be it, but I have found nothing to indicate that it did. The boat does, though, seem to have been designed for canal travel: it seems (from the twenty feet or so we can see) to have straight sides and to be well equipped with fenders. It might therefore have been designed to travel on the canals (as well as on other waters).

At least one director of the Grand Canal Company, Henry Samuel (aka Harry Samuel) Sankey, of Fort Frederic, Virginia, Cavan and of 64 Wellington Road, Dublin, did have a launch or pleasure craft on the canal, the Aja, which you can read about here. Incidentally Mr Sankey, who died on 5 December 1925, directed “that no Roman Catholic shall take any benefit” under his will.

Further information about the boat and the people shown in the photograph, and about Mr Sankey’s launch, would be very welcome; please leave a Comment below.