Tag Archives: Royal Canal

Willie Leech interview

This article, about the last of the Royal Canal boatmen, was based on an interview, arranged by Niall Galway, with Willie Leech of Killucan. Niall has now made the original interview available on YouTube, in two parts [Part 1, Part 2], with apologies for the sound.

Royal Canal water supply

Midland great western railway of ireland
notice to contractors
tenders for water tanks &c

The Directors of this Company will receive Tenders for providing and erecting (exclusive of masonry) two Wrought Iron Water Tanks, each to contain, when full, 6000 gallons of water, and each to be connected with two swing water cranes, with proper valves, &c. Also, for two Water Cranes, connected by pipes, 6 diameter [sic], with the water in the Royal Canal. Tenders to quote price per 100 feet, length of pipes, and to be sent in with a drawing and short specification, addressed to the Chairman at 23 College-green, Dublin, and endorsed, “Tender for Water Tanks and Cranes”, on or before Noon of 9th November, 1846. The whole to be completed on or before the 20th January, 1847, under a penalty of £2 per day. If further information is required apply to G W Hemans Esq, Engineer to the Company, at 53 Upper Sackville-street, Dublin; and the Directors do not bind themselves to take the lowest tender.

By order, Henry Beausire, Sec, Dublin, 23 College-green, 26th Oct, 1846

Saunders’s News-Letter 3 November 1846

R&CHS Longford

The current issue of the Railway & Canal Historical Society‘s Journal contains an article on the sinking of the passage boat Longford on the Royal Canal in 1845 and the fifteen deaths that resulted. The story has also been told here, starting from this page.

The origins of the Royal Canal

The Royal Canal’s origins have never been satisfactorily explained: a later legend even seeks to explain its origins in an obscure dispute between a retired shoemaker and other members of the Grand Canal Company. But in fact its origins were political. As the Grand Canal Company was taken over by the conservative La Touche clique, the opposition launched a new venture: its patron was the duke of Leinster; businessmen and opposition politicians rallied to it; and Gleadowes, rivals of the La Touches, were bankers to the company. In other words, there was to be a left-wing as well as a right-wing way to reach the Shannon. Almost symbolically on its more northerly route to the Shannon, it passed through the duke of Leinster’s land.

L M Cullen “Politics and Institutions, 1731–1835” in Economy, Trade and Irish Merchants at home and abroad, 1600–1988 Four Courts Press, Dublin 2012

Up the Inny

The navigation of the River Inny from Ballynacarrow upriver to Lough Sheelin.

The opening of the Royal Canal

On 27 May 2017 the Royal Canal Amenity Group and Waterways Ireland are to commemorate the fact that

In May 1817 the Royal Canal was officially opened from Dublin to the Shannon ….

[Unfortunately I am unable to find anything about the commemorative event on WI’s website, although they did send me some information about it.]

I wondered how the opening might have been celebrated in 1817, but I haven’t been able to find out anything about it. I am hoping that some more knowledgeable person might be able to provide information: please leave a Comment below if you can help.

Ruth Delany gives 26 May 1817 as the date on which the contractors said that the western end of the canal (to the Shannon at Richmond Harbour) would be ready to hand over to the Directors General of Inland Navigation, who were running the show after the Royal Canal Company collapsed under the weight of its debts.

However, as far as I can see, the British Newspaper Archive contains no mention of any opening ceremony at any time in 1817. The Lanesborough Trader, the first boat to travel from the Shannon to Dublin did so in January 1818 [Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818] and in May Mr Peel moved that a further £15000 be granted for completion of the navigation, where “shoals were
found to interfere” [Dublin Evening Post 23 May 1818].

Traffic increased later in 1818: in October the directors of the New Royal Canal Company went by boat

… from Dublin to Tarmonbury, and thence to the termination of the Canal, near the river Shannon, to inspect the works and give every necessary direction for the entire completion of that great and important undertaking ….
[Dublin Evening Post 20 October 1818]

The same newspaper reported that several boats of coal, found on the banks of the canal near Tarmonbury, had arrived in Dublin. It seems, therefore, that the canal was usable even if not entirely finished.

Later that month Christopher Dillon of Athlone, who had been trading on the Grand Canal and the Shannon, announced that he was moving his boats to the Royal Canal — but the western terminus for his boats was at Ballymahon, from which (although he did not say so) goods could be carried by road to Athlone: just the situation the Grand Canal Company had feared. [Dublin Evening Post 27 October 1818]

I have found no evidence of an opening ceremony in 1817; nor have I found evidence that the canal was actually open from the Shannon to the Liffey (or the Broadstone) in 1817, in that no boat seems to have travelled between the Shannon and the Liffey. At least one boat did so in 1818, but again I have no evidence of any opening ceremony.

There is one further mystery. The Royal Canal harbour at the junction with the Shannon is called Richmond Harbour. I presume that that is a compliment to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Grace Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, 4th Duke of Lennox, 4th Duke of Aubigny, KG, PC. But he had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant in 1813 and was presumably unable to dispense favours after that, so why was the harbour named after him? I don’t know when the construction of the harbour was begun or finished.

I have not visited the National Archives in Dublin to look at the papers of the Directors General of Inland Navigation, which may have something on the events of 1817 and 1818. Perhaps WI’s archive has something relevant too. I would therefore be glad to hear from anyone who has searched those archives or found other evidence about the period.

Newspapers cited here were accessed through the British Newspaper Archive.

 

The Lanesborough Trader

Inland Navigation

The numerous individuals interested in the prosperity of the Royal Canal, as well as the Public at large, must be highly gratified to learn, that the trade on the extended line of that navigation has commenced with all the spirit and activity that could have been anticipated by the most sanguine. The first boat from the Shannon (the Lanesborough Trader, Patrick Connor, owner) arrived at the Broadstone harbour on Saturday [31 January 1818], amid the cheers of numerous spectators, with a fiddler playing merrily upon her deck.

Saunders’s News-Letter 2 February 1818

Another waterways mystery

According to Ruth Delany [Ruth Delany and Ian Bath Ireland’s Royal Canal 1789–2009 The Lilliput Press, Dublin 2010], the Royal Canal’s fast passenger-carrying fly-boats had neither toilets nor cooking facilities; the slower night-boats were better equipped.

So how did the fly-boat passengers relieve themselves?

Given that the boats travelled at six Irish miles per hour (about 12 km/h), any passenger who disembarked for the purpose would have found it difficult to catch up again. Yet standing on the notoriously unstable boats might have been difficult for the gentlemen, while the problems facing the ladies are not to be contemplated.

I don’t think that the india-rubber urinal had been invented by then. So what did they do?

 

Clonsilla again

I have added a thought to my post about stonework at Clonsilla. To save readers from having to open that page, here is the text.

Peter Clarke, in The Royal Canal: the complete story Elo Publications, Dublin 1992, points out that, in 1807, there was a passenger service from Dublin to Clonsilla: the six miles cost 1/7½ in first and 1/1 in second class.

Could it be that the passenger station was under the bridge, with access controlled by gates at either end? Horses could have been changed too, with the ramp providing access for horses to the road. Passengers too could use the ramps, but horses could not use steps. And, as modern canal users will attest, it is always easier to embark and disembark passengers under bridges, where there is deep water at the edge and where the boat does not have to go off its course.

If that is so, there might be similar stonework at the other passenger stations that were located at bridges rather than at harbours. There would be traces of gate pillars at either side of a bridge. Ramps would be required only where the canal bank’s level was significantly above or below that of the road.

 

McCanns and the Royal Canal

I mentioned McCanns, important Royal Canal carriers, here. The Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current of 13 June 1845 mentioned the firm in another context. On 11 June 1845 the parliamentary committee on the Dublin and Mullingar railway examined H M Tuite, MP for Westmeath, on the subject. A Mr Callaghan appeared for Messrs McCann, “extensive carriers of the Royal Canal”, who opposed the proposed railway. He cross-examined Tuite who, in response to a Callaghan query, said

Since the canal has been under the management of Messrs McCann it has much improved in every respect; the goods are now punctually delivered at their destination.

It’s not clear what that means. Were McCanns managing the canal itself? Or were they effectively managing the general transport business thereon? Slater’s listing may imply that the Royal Canal Company carried (small) parcels pretty well everywhere but that McCanns dominated the general freight trade. At any rate, I would like to know more about McCanns.

From the BNA