Tag Archives: Mullingar

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?

Mullingar

The Met Éireann report [PDF] for spring (March to May) 2012 shows that rainfall measured at its Mullingar station was only 59% of the average for 1981–2010.

Royal water: oral hearing

Irish Times report on the oral hearing into the proposed abstraction of water from Lough Ennell. The hearing is scheduled for three days at the Mullingar Park Hotel and a decision is expected by 11 June 2012. The two cases are being heard together:

PW3005: Ladestown, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.
Case Type: Provisional Order Water Supplies Act (Board Reference: PL25 .PW3005)
Description: Taking of a Supply of Water from Lough Ennell to Supply the Royal Canal.

and

JA0030: Kilpatrick Bridge and Clonsingle, County Westmeath.
Case Type: LA Non-Road development – Application (Board Reference: PL25 .JA0030)
Description: Royal Canal Water Supply Scheme from Lough Ennell, Ladestown.

 

 

Royal water

The Mullingar Advertiser discusses the Royal Canal water supply here. Some background info on this site here, here and here.

Royal Canal: unprecedented speed

From the Freeman’s Journal of 5 December 1833:

The Broadstone, from The Tourist’s Illustrated Hand-Book for Ireland 3rd ed David Bryce, London 1854

 UNPRECEDENTED SPEED ATTAINED IN TRAVELLING UPON THE ROYAL CANAL

The Court of Directors of the Royal Canal hereby give Notice, that the present Day-Boat will cease running on Friday, the 6th, and that an Iron-Boat, capable of conveying Seventy Passengers, will leave the Broadstone harbour, at Nine o’Clock, on the Morning of Saturday, the 7th inst, for Mullingar, where it will arrive at Five o’Clock in the Evening; and Notice is further given, that at Nine o’Clock upon each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, a Boat will leave Dublin for Mullingar, and return from thence at the same hour upon Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. By the foregoing arrangement a saving of three hours and a half will be effected. The Night-Boat will, for the present, continue to leave Dublin for Longford, each day, at Two o’Clock, and a Boat will depart from thence, for Dublin, each Morning, at Eleven o’Clock.

By Order,
SAMUEL DRAPER, Secretary.
Royal Canal-house, 2d Dec., 1833.

 

The sluice house at Lough Owel …

… has had its windows broken. More on the Lough Owel Feeder here.

F E Prothero on the Royal Canal in the 1890s

His brief notes here.

Royal water

Here is a page about feeders to the Royal Canal. My confidence in the accuracy of this list is low, so comments would be welcome.