Tag Archives: North Wall

Holiday tours in Ireland VII

On Lough Derg

There are two Lough Dergs in Ireland. One is in the County of Donegal, within four and a half miles of Pettigoe, and is celebrated for its St Patrick’s Purgatory. The lake is but six miles long and four miles broad, and can hardly vie for scenery with its namesake in the south.

In order to reach this, probably one of the most exquisitely beautiful loughs in Ireland, it is necessary to make for the town of Killaloe. This can be done by leaving Euston at a quarter-past ten at night, when Killaloe is reached by 3.10 the following afternoon; or should the tourist prefer the Irish mail, he can leave at a quarter to nine in the evening and arrive at Killaloe at half-past eleven the following morning.

Few Irish towns contain so many antiquarian relics, combined with such beautiful scenery, for Killaloe stands on a hillside tufted with wood and surrounded by mountains. The old cathedral occupies the site of a church founded by St Dalua, in the sixth century. The present building dates from the twelfth century, with a central square tower whose effect is somewhat spoiled by a  modern crown. Its gem is a Hiberno-Romanesque doorway, which has, unfortunately, been blocked into the south wall of the nave. The precincts also contain a small stone-roofed church, said to date as far back as the sixth century.

The fishing is generally extremely good, though many prefer Castleconnell, some five miles to the south on the road to Limerick. In any case few portions of the United Kingdom furnish better salmon fishing than that reach of the river Shannon that lies between Killaloe and Castleconnell.

Lough Derg must, however, remain the greatest attraction of the district. It is twenty-three miles in length, and varies in breadth from two to six miles. Nothing can surpass the loveliness of the scene, especially on a fine summer’s day. On the one side the well-wooded and smiling hills of Limerick and Tipperary, where Thomthimia, with its slate quarries, slopes down to the water’s edge; while on the other the darker and more rugged mountains of Slieve Bernagh, Ballycuggeren, and the Crag form the most effective contrast.

Kincora was once the residence of Brian Boroimbh, King of Munster, and its magnificence was long the main theme of the ancient bards. But little now remains of the ancient palace beyond a long circular earthen fort, with a single vallum some twenty feet in height.

Inishcaltra or the Holy Island is, however, well worth a visit, and for this purpose it would be better to utilize the local service from either Scariff or Killaloe to Mountshannon, which faces the island. It possesses a round tower some eighty feet high, and seven churches, or cells, and oratories, the most remarkable of which is that of St Caimin, originally erected by him in the seventh, but subsequently rebuilt by Brian Borombh in the tenth century.

Scariff may this year be approached by steamer, and is a very prettily situated village, within access by road of Woodford, in County Galway, and Ennis in County Clare. The steamer then crosses the lake to Dromineer, at the mouth of the Nenagh river, where the ruins of the castle stand out with such picturesque effect. The bay is one of the most popular resorts, both of the angler and of the yachtsman; for to the latter it has earned a well-deserved reputation for its annual regatta.

The steamer then stops at Williamstown while a boat from Kilgarvan occasionally lands passengers and conveys them to the steamer. As soon as the new jetty has been constructed by the Board of Works, Woodford will be equally accessible; but there is no doubt that the approach to Portumna pier at the head of the Lough, lying as it does between the well-wooded demesnes of Portumna Castle on the one side and Belleisle and Slevoir on the other, presents one of the finest pictures that the lake discloses, for there we see the most striking contrast between the tame verdure of the river Shannon and the bold mountain scenery of Lough Derg.

It would be tedious to dwell on the varied beauties of those innumerable seats that dot the shores of the lake on all sides; suffice it to say that few parts of the United Kingdom present as many diverse attractions as this wide expanse of water. Much as one may appreciate Loch Lomond, Loch Maree, or the Caledonian Canal, this Irish lough certainly surpasses them; and much gratitude is due to the Shannon Development Company for bringing within such easy access of the average tourist a wealth of scenery that certainly equals, if it is not finer, the finest spots that either Scotland, Norway, or Switzerland can offer.

This is, however, but half the trip from Killaloe to Athlone. Portumna is chiefly remarkable for the ruins of a Dominican priory founded in the thirteenth century, as well as for the Castle, the property of Lord Clanricarde, in which he has not resided since his succession to the estate. The village of Lorrha, three miles further up, also contains the ruins of a Dominican abbey, an oblong pile 120 ft long, as well as a castle and two old ecclesiastical buildings called by the peasantry the English churches, owing to their having been built by Norman settlers.

The river now assumes a totally novel character, winding by graceful curves through low-lying but rich meadow lands. Their luxuriant appearance is largely due to the fact that they are usually submerged under the waters of the river during the winter months.

Meelick Abbey is next passed. It was founded by the Franciscans in the twelfth century, and was at one time a sumptuous structure, but is now a roofless and mouldering ruin; and a beautiful pillar which formerly supported the arches on the south side has been torn away with ruthless vandalism, in order to make headstones for the graves in the cemetery.

Banagher can boast of a fine stone bridge, opened some fifty years ago to replace the preceding structure, which displayed no less than twenty-three arches of various forms, with massive piers between, and was so narrow that only one carriage could pass at a time.

Shannon Harbour is best known from the description of its hotel in Lever’s Jack Hinton, but that building is now let in tenements. Shannon Bridge is one of the three fortified passes built to guard the Shannon, and is but four miles from Clonfert, whose cathedral, now being restored, contains one of the finest Hiberno-Romanesque doorways to be found in the three kingdoms.

Few spots, however, offer greater attractions to the antiquary than do the celebrated seven churches of Clonmacnoise. The most remarkable of these are the Diamhliag Mhor or Great Church, which dates from the fourteenth, and Fineens Church, built in the thirteenth century. The former was originally the work of Flann, King of Ireland, in 909, and contains several bits, more especially the sandstone capitals of the west doorway, that may be traced to the earlier period. Besides these churches, there is much to be seen at Clonmacnoise, which includes among its ruins the episcopal palace and castle of the O’Melaghlins, a nunnery, two round towers, Celtic crosses, and inscribed stones. The grand cross, formed of a single stone 15 ft high and elaborately carved, surpasses every other in beauty of execution and elaborate detail.

Though the tourist may gaze upon Clonmacnoise as he approaches and leaves it and enjoys a particularly fine view of its beauties as he passes by the curve of the river on whose banks it is situated, no provision has yet been made to enable him either to land or to make a closer acquaintance of its many beauties as he passes by. This is due to the refusal on the part of its proprietor to meet the proposals of the company. It is, however, to be hoped that more favourable terms may be made in the future, as the traveller must now proceed straight to Athlone and visit the ruins from there either by road or by water.

Much more might be said of Lough Derg as well as of the Shannon from Killaloe to Athlone. Fair hotel accommodation may be obtained at Killaloe, Dromineer, Portumna, and Athlone at from eight to nine shillings a day. Lodgings can also be procured at Killaloe, where the proprietors have learned to cater for the requirements of those anglers who frequent this highly-favoured spot.

Return tickets may be obtained from Euston to Killaloe by the North Wall at
£4 13s 6d first, £2 16s second, and £2 third class. Lough Derg may also be visited from Athlone by the Midland Great Western Railway from Broadstone. The fares by Kingstown and the mail are somewhat dearer.

Pall Mall Gazette 1 August 1898

From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

Drawbacks of canals

There was a proposal in the 1830s for a ship canal along the coast, outside the railway embankment, from Dublin to the asylum harbour at Kingstown. A preliminary report was provided by William Cubitt after the House of Commons Select Committee on the Dublin and Kingstown Ship Canal had reported in July 1833.

Henry E Flynn was opposed to the idea and, in his A Glance at the Question of a Ship Canal connecting the asylum harbour at Kingstown with the river Anne Liffey at Dublin &c &c &c [George Folds, Dublin 1834], dedicated to Daniel O’Connell, he wrote eloquently of the drawbacks of the proposal, which included this:

Be it remembered, that the whole coast from Ringsend to Merrion is the bathing ground for the less affluent classes of the Citizens; and hundreds get their bread by attending on and bathing the females who frequent it.

And are the patriotic Would-be’s who support a Ship Canal equally reckless of the health, the morality, and the existence of those persons? Would they have no objection to expose their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters to the immediate wanton gaze, the scoffs, the jeers, the immodest jest, the filthy exposure and indecent exhibitions which the most abandoned race of men [ie sailors] could find in their dissolute minds to perpetrate in their view, and within their hearing? And yet, all this must be the consequence of a Ship Canal in the immediate vicinity of the female baths and bathing ground along the line.

Happily, the canal was never built.

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