Tag Archives: Mullingar

Death on the Royal

Sudden death

A distressing scene took place lately in a canal boat near Mullingar. A versatile humorous fellow who was on board, having seen a pair of Irish brogues, asked who was the owner, and got a general answer in the negative, when he flung the brogues into the canal.

A serjeant’s wife, who was going to America, a fine young woman, 26 years of age, burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, and instantly died. Medical aid was soon procured, but to no effect.

Sussex Advertiser 8 August 1831

Leisure industries in Mullingar

From the Waterford Chronicle 21 October 1843 quoting the Athlone Sentinel:

An unfortunate female was thrown over the bridge at Mullingar into the canal, on Friday night, by some of her unfortunate companions, and was drowned. An inquest was held on the body, when a verdict of wilful murder was returned against six females, three of whom have been taken.

From the BNA

Grand Canal passage-boat

Here is an account, published in 1862, of what it was like to travel from Portobello, in Dublin, to Ballinasloe by the Grand Canal Company’s passage-boats — and of why rail travel was much to be preferred.

The industrial heritage of Mullingar …

in song.

Royal Canal water supply

On 26 November 2012 I noted that

The Royal Canal water supply applications have been approved by An Bord Pleanala. There were two separate applications […] but they were in effect treated as one.

There were conditions attached, but I concluded that

If I remember correctly, the amount of water available from Lough Ennell will not always provide enough (eg in a dry season) to keep the canal full. Still, this is a significant advance for Waterways Ireland and for Royal Canal enthusiasts.

So here we are, almost two years later, and the work of providing a supply from Lough Ennell to the Royal Canal, reckoned to be about a five-month job, has doubtless been long completed, no?

No.

The work has not yet started and Waterways Ireland will be lucky if it gets done within the next year.

As I understand it — and if, Gentle Reader, you have more information, do please leave a Comment below (your name can be kept out of public view if you like) — there are three sources of delay:

  • first, I understand that there is a technical issue about one of the conditions attached to the approval; it is felt that the condition is unworkable, but that getting it changed might take some time. I presume it’s one of the conditions 2(a) to 2(d) that I quoted two years ago and, looking at the proposed orders published in the press [PDF], I suspect it might be the requirement to maintain the lake level at or above 79.325 mOD Malin Datum. However, I don’t really know
  • second, Waterways Ireland took over Clonsingle Weir, at the outlet from Lough Ennell, by Compulsory Purchase. Owners of mills, who generate electricity from the Brosna, have submitted claims for compensation. I understand that an arbitration hearing, lasting four days, is scheduled to be help in May 2015
  • third, responsibility for the scheme has moved from Westmeath County Council to Irish Water. Which may have other things on its mind.

Irish Water has published its proposed Capital Investment Programme [PDF] but Appendix 1, the Investment Plan Project Summary, is in a separate file [PDF]. Category B is headed Review Scope and Commence Construction and it includes

Mullingar Regional Water Supply Scheme (G) … Lough Ennell Abstraction.

I can’t work out what “(G)” means. A few items are so marked; a few others are marked “(H)”; most items have neither.

The Capital Investment Programme [CIP] document says:

 The CIP is dominated by contractual commitments entered into previously by Local Authorities, and which have now transitioned to Irish Water. In the 2014-2016 period, Irish Water will fund these contracts to completion and bring forward programmes and prioritised projects to commence. At the same time, it will progress a large portfolio of projects that are at the planning and design stage, reviewing their scope, budgets and, where appropriate, timing to favour maximising the performance of the existing assets through intensified capital maintenance that might allow deferral of major capital investment.

Emphasis mine. So that raises the possibility that Irish Water will decide not to fund the abstraction scheme but will rather opt to pay for continued pumping.

It is, of course, quite possible that I have misunderstood these difficult matters, so I will be glad to hear from anyone with better information.

Incidentally, reviewing Irish Water’s documents suggests to me that there are people there who know what they are doing and who have the expertise to manage large and complex operations. That differentiates them from the politicians in government and opposition, few of whom (as far as I can see) have any experience of running anything more complex than a parish social.

 

 

A little information on Lacy’s Canal

Here is a new page about Lacy’s Canal.

Brosna

The River Brosna has the distinction of supplying water to two Irish waterways: the Shannon, which it joins at Shannon Harbour, and, further up, the Royal, which is to get a supply of water pumped from Lough Ennell, outside Mullingar.

The Old River Shannon Research Group promises to give special attention to the Brosna this year, so we may expect to learn more about this interesting river — without having to get our own feet wet.

Canal carrying 1846: the Royal Canal

Isaac Slater’s Directory[i] of 1846 lists those carrying goods on inland waterways. There is a long list for Dublin; entries for other towns list those providing local services [there are some conflicts between the lists: see below]. However, the Dublin list shows only two carriers on the Royal Canal:

  • the Royal Canal Company [RCC] itself (Samuel Draper, Secretary) at the Broadstone in Dublin
  • John M’Cann & Sons, Liffey lock, North Wall, where the Royal Canal joins the River Liffey.

I noted here that two published histories of the Royal Canal, and a history of the Midland Great Western Railway [MGWR], suggested that the RCC/MGWR did not commence carrying goods themselves, on their own canal, until the 1870s. However, I had come across an MGWR ad, from 1853, beginning

The Directors will receive Proposals for the Haulage of their Trade Boats to and from Dublin and Longford and the River Shannon […].

The material in Slater’s Directory strengthens the notion that the RCC/MGWR did engage in carrying well before the 1870s, although the nature of the contractual relationships is not clear. Note also that Peter Clarke’s Appendix C[ii] lists “Boat Owners operating on the Royal Canal 1826 to 1847” including four RCC boats as well as four MGWR boats.

Destinations

M’Cann and RCC both provide long lists of the destinations they serve:

  • RCC: Athlone, Ballinafad, Ballymahon, Balnacarig, Balnalack, Boyle, Boyne aqueduct, Carrick on Shannon, Castlerea, Colooney, Coolnahay, Downs Bridge, Dromod, Drumsna, Ferns, Glasson, Hill of Down, Junction [which may be the junction between the main line and the Longford Branch], Kenagh, Kilcock, Lanesborough, Leixlip, Longford, Maynooth, Moyvalley, Mullingar, Newcastle, Newtownforbes, Rathowen, Roscommon, Ruskey, Rye aqueduct, Sligo, Terlicken, Thomastown, Toome Bridge
  • M’Cann: Arvagh, Athlone, Ballaghaderin, Ballina, Ballinamore, Ballyfarnon, Ballymahon, Ballymore, Ballymote, Boyle, Carrick on Shannon, Castlerea, Dromod, Drumkerrin [Drumkeeran?], Drumlish, Drumshambo, Drumsna, Dunmore, Edgeworthstown, Elphin, Fenagh, Granard, Lanesborough, Longford, Mohill, Roscommon, Ruskey, Strokestown, Tenelick Mills, Tulsk.

I thought it might be interesting to show these destinations on a map. Note that the map is from the 25″ Ordnance Survey map of around 1900 rather than the 6″ of around 1840: I used it because it was clearer, but it shows features (eg railway lines) that were not present in 1846.

Click on the map to get a slightly larger version.

Royal Canal carriers M'Cann and RCC 1846 (OSI)

Royal Canal carriers M’Cann and RCC 1846 (OSI)

I can’t stand over every location marked on the map (as it were). Spellings of place-names were sometimes not those in use today; some place-names (Ballinamore, Ballymore, Newcastle) are used of two or more places that might have been those intended; I could not identify two places, Dunmore and Junction, although I suspect the latter may be the junction between the main line and the Longford Branch of the canal.

What is interesting, though, is the different emphases in the two firms’ marketing. The Royal Canal Company lists almost every location along its canal; M’Cann offers a wide range of destinations beyond the canal, presumably linked by cars on the roads, into Counties Longford, Cavan, Roscommon, Westmeath, Mayo and Sligo. The RCC serves some such destinations, but a smaller number of them.

Some of the locations listed are small places; my presumption — which I have not yet checked, but for which I have found some supporting examples — is that such places have mills, quarries or other industries that provide cargoes for the canal.

The Shannon and the roads

Both operators offer to serve destinations on the River Shannon, to which the Royal Canal is joined at Clondra/Richmond Harbour:

  • RCC: Athlone, Carrick on Shannon, Dromod, Drumsna, Glasson, Lanesborough, Ruskey
  • M’Cann: Athlone, Carrick on Shannon, Dromod, Drumshambo, Drumsna, Lanesborough, Ruskey.

It is possible that goods to those places were carried by water, although (if steam tugs were not available) that would have been slow and uncertain; given that there were good roads leading from the west to the Shannon and throughout the region, it is, I think, likely that these destinations were served by road. I have no evidence on the matter save that the directory entries for Carrick-on-Shannon, Drumsna and Jamestown do not mention the availability of water transport.

Some of those destinations were served by direct road services from Dublin:

  • Athlone, Ballina, Castlerea, Dunmore, Longford, Roscommon, Sligo, Thomastown.

Competition presumably kept charges down.

Other carriers

Slater’s Directory lists six corn merchants in Longford, all with addresses at Market Square. One, John Delany, also had an address in Sligo and presumably exported via that port, carrying by road; the other five all had Dublin as well as Longford addresses.

One was John McCann, whose operations are shown in red on the map; he was the only one listed as a Dublin-based carrier, but three of the other four firms also carried goods regularly towards Dublin: Francis & John Pilsworth’s boats left Longford on Mondays and Thursdays, as did Thomas & Edward Duffy’s boats; Farrelly & Killard’s boats left once a week. Only Nicholas Butler did not offer transport. The Duffy and Pilsworth boats also carried goods in both directions from Mullingar. My guess is that carrying goods from others helped these merchants to cover the costs of their own fleets.

Peter Clarke’s Appendix C suggests that M’Cann’s fleet was the smallest of those based in Longford. The list is of “Boat Owners operating on the Royal Canal 1826 to 1847” but I am not entirely clear what the list shows. It seems unlikely, for instance, that the Midland Great Western Railway owned four boats throughout the period, as the company did not exist for most of it. Is the number of boats the largest that an owner had, or used, in a peak year, or an average over several years?

I don’t, therefore, know how to interpret the list but, assuming that the same methods were applied to all owners, it seems that the fleet sizes were these:

  • Duffy Bros 12
  • Pilsworths 9
  • M’Cann 5
  • Royal Canal Company 4.

Neither Farrelly nor Killard is listed, but there are many others: Dunne 8, Kelly 6, Murtagh 6, Murphy 5, MGWR 4, Williamson 4, and many others with 1, 2 or 3 boats each. Again, it is not clear in which years those owners had those numbers of boats.

More

As far as I know, little has been written about the carrying companies, especially those of the nineteenth century. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can correct, supplement or comment on this information.


[i] I Slater’s National Commercial Directory of Ireland: including, in addition to the trades’ lists, alphabetical directories of Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Limerick. To which are added, classified directories of the important English towns of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Bristol; and, in Scotland, those of Glasgow and Paisley. Embellished with a large new map of Ireland, faithfully depicting the lines of railways in operation or in progress, engraved on steel. I Slater, Manchester, 1846

[ii] Peter Clarke The Royal Canal: the complete story ELO Publications, Dublin 1992

My OSI logo and permit number for website

An early narrowboat on the Royal Canal?

This photo, which is used in Ruth Delany’s Ireland’s Royal Canal, shows the Royal Canal harbour in Mullingar, from the bridge. Note the very large amount of timber lying around (could some of it belong to Russells of Portarlington?). The wooden barge in the foreground has had its tiller unshipped, but what’s all that kit on deck and in the hold?

Then look at the vessel in front of it, which seems to be more the sort of beam we’d expect on an English narrowboat. It’s very hard to see any details, but could it be a steam tug?

A use for the Royal

In an article on making use of the Royal Canal, I wrote:

[…] I am neither active in user groups nor a confidant of Waterways Ireland, so it is quite possible that folk have developed, or are developing, some plans to increase use of the Royal and Grand Canals (and the Barrow): plans that involve boats rather than, say, cyclists or walkers, who don’t actually need a functioning canal, just wayleaves and interesting artefacts to look at. I’d like to see such plans published on the Waterways Ireland website, but I haven’t found anything there.

But it seems that the cyclists may get in first. According to a report in today’s Irish Times [which may eventually disappear behind a paywall]:

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has instructed the National Roads Authority to examine possible routes for a cross-country cycle path from Dublin to Galway, similar to the award-winning Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo.

Mr Varadkar, who is also responsible for tourism and sport, said he wanted to secure funding for the project he predicted had the potential to bring in at least €15 million per annum. While a proposed route remained to be decided, the Royal Canal was an “obvious candidate” for the stretch outside Dublin from Mullingar to Maynooth, he said.

[…] Mr Varadkar said the proposed Galway-Dublin facility should be open to walkers as well as cyclists, like the Great Western Greenway.

Nothing wrong with any of that, of course. And perhaps walking and cycling routes could be developed in other ares, eg from Belturbet to Clones ….

Notice, by the way, that the news story mentions the National Roads Authority and the National Transport Authority. But which body is not mentioned?