Tag Archives: lock

Staffing the Shannon

According to the eleventh and final report of the Shannon Commissioners, published in 1850 but covering the year 1849, each of the quays built by the commissioners on the Shannon Estuary had an officer stationed at it to collect tolls and other charges. Five of the six — Querrin, Saleen, Kilteery, Kildysart [aka Cahircon] and Clare [now Clarecastle] — had Second Class Collectors; Kilrush, being busier, had a First Class Collector.

Cappa [Kilrush] pier

Moving upriver, Limerick was one of only two places on the Shannon to have an Inspector; it also had a First Class Collector and a Lock-keeper. Park, the next lock up on the Limerick Navigation, also had a keeper, as did five of the six locks on the Plassey–Errina Canal — Plassey [aka Annaghbeg], Gillogue, Newtown, Cloonlara [so spelt] and Errina. Presumably the Cloonlara keeper also locked after the nearby Monaskeha Lock. Preusmably, too, the keepers collected any tolls or charges due at the locks: there were no separate collectors, yet from other evidence we know that tolls and wharfage were collected at Plassey [Annaghbeg] and Errina.

O’Briensbridge modern [ie 1830s] navigation arch

Back on the river, O’Briensbridge had a Second Class Collector. On the Killaloe Canal, each of the three locks — Cussane, Moyse [sic] and Killaloe — had a keeper; the Cussane keeper must have collected tolls and wharfage. Killaloe had a First Class Collector.

On Lough Derg, Scarriff and Portumna each had a Second Class Collector. Portumna, like several places upstream, had an opening bridge, but the Shannon Commissioners did not employ a bridge-keeper: the bridge was not built, owned or operated by the Shannon Commissioners.

Back on the river, on what used to be called the Middle Shannon, the commissioners employed both a Second Class Collector and a lock-keeper at Victoria Lock (Meelick). There was another Second Class Collector, and a bridge-keeper, at Banagher. At Wooden Bridge, the crossing of the Shannon from the Grand Canal’s main line to its Ballinasloe line, the commissioners employed two ferry boatmen: by that stage the bridge no longer existed and the commissioners had installed a ferry to carry horses and tow boats between the canals.

Shannon Bridge had a Second Class Collector and a bridge-keeper; Athlone had a bridge-keeper but earned itself a First Class Collector. On Lough Ree, Lecarrow and Lanesborough each had a Second Class Collector but Tarmonbarry had nobody: a First Class Collector was assigned to Cloondragh [so spelt] but presumably had to look after Clondra and Tarmonbarry locks, the weir, Tarmonbarry bridge and the collection of tolls. Mighty men they had back then.

The second Inspector was based at Rooskey, along with a lock-keeper who presumably also operated the bridge and did anything that needed doing on the weir. Albert Lock on the Jamestown Canal had a lock-keeper but Kilbride, the quay at the upper end of the canal, had a wharfinger, the only one on the Shannon.

Fermate at Kilbride Quay

The collection of tolls (presumably by the wharfinger) did not begin at Kilbride until March 1849 but in that year it took in £6 in tolls and £1 in wharfage, compared with £1 + £2 at Drumsna and £0 + £0 at Jamestown. Perhaps the road beside the quay made it a suitable place for cargoes from Roscommon to transfer from road to water transport.

Carrick-on-Shannon, not an important station on the Shannon, had just a Second Class Collector; there was a lock-keeper at Knockvicar for the Boyle Water and another at Battle Bridge who presumably looked after all the locks on the Lough Allen Canal.

Cranes were provided at several places but there is no mention of designated crane-operators.

Source: Eleventh and Final Report of the Commissioners under the Act 2 & 3 Vict c61 for the improvement of the Navigation of the River Shannon, Ireland; with an appendix Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 3 June 1850 [407]

 

Yorkshire wins [again]

Our Yorkshire correspondent reports that the garden we mentioned here has won a gold medal at the Chelsea flower show. The garden shows a lock, 20E, on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which has so many locks that those on the east side of the Pennines have an E suffix and those on the west a W. Real lock gates were used.

They killed Kenny!

Annabeg, Annaghbeg, Plassy or Plassey Lock on the Limerick Navigation (OSI 6″ ~1840)

 

Last Sunday a young man of the name of Kenny, bathing in one of the locks of the Canal, near Annabeg, was unfortunately drowned; the sluices of the gates happened to be open, through which the poor lad was drawn from the great suction, and his head very much shattered.

Saunders’s News-Letter 30 July 1803

The Bishop of Killaloe and the bridge at Moys

That would be the Bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland, as established by the fifth article of the Acts of Union of 1800, of course.

Cussane lock (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Cussane (or Coosaun, as above) Lock was the furthest downstream of the three locks on the Killaloe Canal. It was submerged by the “Flooded Area” created by Parteen Villa Weir as part of the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric scheme.

The middle lock on the Killaloe Canal is at Moys and its remains are visible, just above the water, in normal non-flood conditions. It is (or was until recently) still possible to go through it by (small) boat, though of course without needing to use the lock mechanisms.

Approaching Moys Lock from upstream

However, although the lock itself survives, the bridge that crossed it is no longer there. It was shown on the 6″ (~1840) and 25″ (~1900) Ordnance Survey maps; I would guess that it was removed as part of the Ardnacrusha works, but I don’t know and would welcome information.

The lock and bridge at Moys (OSI 6″ ~1840)

The other thing I don’t know about the bridge is why it was built in the first place. Hely Dutton [Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, with observations on the means of improvement; drawn up for the consideration, and by direction of the Dublin Society The Dublin Society, Dublin 1808] wrote that

It seems to be the general opinion in Killaloe, that the canal has been cut in the most improper direction; they think it should have been brought in a valley between Killaloe and Dr. Parker’s, and to the north of the Bishop’s house, and not parallel to the Shannon as at present. Bishop Bernard offered several thousand pounds, if this line had been pursued; for, instead of cutting his demesne off from the Shannon, as at present it does, it would have gone at the back of his house; if this was the only objection, I think the engineer acted very impartially, as all public officers should, but very seldom do.

That suggests that the bishop was not best pleased to have a canal in front of his house; if he was willing to pay “several thousand pounds” to have the canal put somewhere else, the Limerick Navigation’s promoters must have been able to deploy considerable firepower (political and financial) to overcome his opposition. I wonder whether promotion to Limerick might have helped: according to a later estimate [Dublin Weekly Register 21 September 1822], promotion from Killaloe to Limerick would have increased a bishop’s income from £7000 to £8000 a year.

Charlotte Murphy [“The Limerick Navigation Company 1697–1836” in North Munster Archaeological Society Journal Vol 22 1980], describing John Brownrigg’s report on the navigation in 1801, said

This latter [Moys] lock had a bridge over the tail to accommodate the Bishop of Killaloe, whose demesne was served by the canal.

But what accommodation did the bishop need? A small strip of land downstream of the lock was insulated by the canal; perhaps the bridge provided access for cattle.

Another possibility is that the bridge provided access to the episcopal eel weirs. According to Mr Blackburne QC, addressing the Shannon Commissioners in 1837 on behalf of the Bishop of Killaloe and Sir Gilbert King Bart of Jamestown [Saunders’s News-Letter 29 December 1837],

The bishop, his tenants, and his predecessors had from time immemorial been in the habit of using twenty-five eel weirs, extending from the tail of Lough Dearg down the whole line of the rapids of Killaloe, which place, from natural impediments, could never be made navigable.

I think I have read somewhere that the eel weirs were worth £75 a year to the bishop, but I can’t remember where I saw that so I haven’t been able to check it.

The bishop’s house, the lock and the bridge (OSI 6″ ~1840)

 

 

There is one other aspect. The bridge was used by the horses towing boats on the canal and, of course, by the men leading them. We know that because the towing-path changed sides at Moys Lock. It was on the west side of the canal from Cussaun to Moys but on the east from Moys to Killaloe: it is marked on the 6″ OSI map and named on the 25″.

That forced horses and men to walk on a narrow embankment rather than on the shore. But it kept them out of the bishop’s garden and a little further from his house. Might that have been the intention?

I would be glad to hear from anyone who knows more about Moys.

 

 

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)

 

 

 

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.