Tag Archives: search

EPPIc fail

One of the most useful resources for amateur historians, and especially for those without ready access to large libraries, has been the online collection of parliamentary papers on Ireland, the collection known as EPPI: Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland.

The collection covers the period from 1801 to 1922 and includes over 14000 documents. It was first made available online by the University of Southampton; I seem to recall that, at first, pages had to be saved or printed on foolscap (13 inches by 8 inches) rather than A4, but that changed at some point and the searchability improved; it was possible to read documents online or to save PDFs. And it was all free: users were not even required to register.

At some point stewardship passed from the University of Southampton to a consortium of Northern Ireland institutions and EPPI became one of three resources within DIPPAM:

DIPPAM is an online virtual archive of documents and sources relating to the history of Ireland, and its migration experience from the 18th to the late 20th centuries.

The institutions with their logos on the DIPPAM home page are Queen’s University Belfast, the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Arts and Humanities Research Council, University of Ulster and Libraries NI. According to DIPPAM

The DIPPAM project has taken over the maintenance of the EPPI materials from Southampton, enhanced their usability and filled any gaps in the document run, made them cross-searchable with the IED and VMR records, and restored free global access to users.

Well, yes, up to a point, Lord Copper.

I should say that there is still much to be gained from the EPPI archive and that, as I pay nothing for its use, it is very good value. I would be willing to pay an annual subscription — if that helped to maintain the collection properly. At present, though, it seems to me that the wheels are coming off and the archive is decaying. I have tried to communicate both with EPPI and with Queen’s University Belfast about this; I received replies from neither of them.

I should say too that I have no way of assessing how widespread these problems are. It may be that I am unlucky and that all the documents that don’t interest me are working perfectly. Or it may be that software problems are affecting a small number of users including me, but I find problems using two different browsers on two different computers, both of them relatively powerful and using Windows 10.


I entered

kilrush garryowen

… for the date range 1820 to 1922. EPPI returned no documents.

I then asked Google to find …

eppi kilrush garryowen

… and it found the Second Report of the Railway Commissioners Appendix B No 7, listing the steamer Garryowen serving Kilrush.

Why is it that Google can find things within EPPI that EPPI’s own search engine can’t find?

Reading scans

Parts I and II of the Fourth Report of the second set of Shannon Commissioners are available here and here. Or rather that’s where you’ll find the metadata for the documents. Clicking Open Document should provide the scans here and here.

In both cases, I get a blank with a small icon at top left; clicking that does nothing. Clicking Scan does nothing. The documents may be there, but they are inaccessible.

Reading transcripts

In both cases I can access the transcripts. That requires me to click Next and then to click Transcript, because the system seems to default to showing the Scan page, even though it is invisible.

From Shannon Commissioners fourth report Part II page 4 [(c) EPPI]

From Shannon Commissioners fourth report Part II page 4 [(c) EPPI]

However, I am reluctant to spend too much of my life reading such poor transcripts.

Downloading PDFs

For those and other reasons, I would prefer to download the PDFs.

When I try to download Part I of the report, I get A Bill [as amended by the Committee, and on re-commitment] for the better Regulation of Hospitals, Dispensaries, and other Medical Charities in Ireland dated 23 May 1838.

When I try to download Part II, I am told

Sorry, could not find the download file. Please contact support quoting EPPI document reference 11379.

Minor annoyances

Those are serious problems. I would like them to be fixed.

I would also like to see

  • better navigation through documents: the first page of a scan does not show forward/back or next/previous or equivalent buttons: I have to enter a page number [eg 2]
  • the Enter key accepted to go to a specified page: as it is, I have to click the Go to Page button
  • a full-screen option (as on the excellent British Newspaper Archive) to reduce the amount of scrolling required.


But those are minor matters. The main problem is that EPPI is no longer reliably making documents available as scans or as PDFs. Something has gone wrong within the archive and, as far as I can see, it’s getting worse rather than better. I accept, though, that I can’t properly assess the state of the entire archive, as my interests are limited to certain topics and periods.

I would therefore be glad to hear from others who have recent experience of using EPPI or who have information about what is happening. That includes those running EPPI or DIPPAM and the institutions whose logos appear on the site. This invaluable resource should not be allowed to decay any further.




Lough Derg search: addenda

Some additional information from the Clare Champion and the Limerick Post. The Irish Mirror has one of the few accounts that includes discussions with participants.

More to come.

Searching Lough Derg

Last Friday evening, 21 June 2013, was not a good time to be out on Lough Derg. We were heading north, with the waves behind us, and had little difficulty until entering port, but we could hear on the VHF what must have been one of the biggest search and rescue operations on the Shannon in recent years.

We had switched on at what seemed like a fairly early point in the proceedings, and kept listening until the Coast Guard were assured that everybody was accounted for. We weren’t able to attend to the whole thing, as manoeuvres during and after berthing occupied our attention for some time, but we got a pretty clear picture. The Irish Times report (which will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage) is here; I think it has some minor details wrong but the gist of it is correct; its later report is here. The Clare Herald has a very detailed account here, the Clare Champion account is here and the Limerick Post adds some information here.

The event was said by the Irish Times to be “hosted for FISA in Ireland by St Michael’s Rowing Club of Limerick” but I can’t see anything about it on either organisation’s website. I presume that the boats were something like this one.

Quad at Clonlara in 2011

It’s a quad, with each rower using two oars; it carries a cox and it’s used for touring rowing, so it’s not as slim as a standard racing shell.

By the way, just to be clear, none of the photos on this page were taken during last Friday’s operation.

RNLI Lough Derg lifeboat

From what we could hear, the operation involved volunteers from Killaloe Coast Guard, the RNLI at Dromineer, the Community Rescue Boats from Mountshannon and Limerick and at least one yacht, which (I think) took one of the rowing boats in tow; that yacht’s participation and careful provision of information to the Coast Guard was admirable.

Killaloe Coast Guard RIB

Killaloe Coast Guard RIB

We heard discussion of proposals to ask the Civil Defence to participate as well, and the Clare Herald confirms they did turn out. It seems that the University of Limerick Activity Centre boat was out too, as was Peter Hooker of RNLI in his own boat.

Limerick Marine SAR Land Rover

Limerick Marine SAR Land Rover

That’s just the volunteers, and if I’ve left anybody out I’m sorry; let me know and I’ll amend this.

Then there were the professionals: the Coast Guard staff on VHF, the Gardaí on shore, the helicopter crew. And, again, the Clare Herald makes it clear that lots of other people were involved too: fire brigade and ambulance units, paramedics and a hospital consultant.

All in all, this was a major operation and a lot of people put in a lot of effort that night, in bloody awful weather.


I formed the impression that communication amongst the members of the rowing fleet, and between them and the rescue services, was poor. It was difficult to establish what rowers were where and how many were unaccounted for. The Clare Herald story seems to support that conclusion: it says that Gardaí had to travel to the rowers’ hotel to make sure that everybody had turned up and that the search was not formally stood down until 11.30pm.

I don’t know what communications equipment and what sort of organisation and safety procedures the rowing group had, so I’m not going to comment on them. Instead, I want to go off at a tangent. It struck me that life would have been easier for everybody if each boat had had a handheld VHF and someone able to operate it. Such sets can be bought for as little as £50 in the UK or €75 in Ireland.

So the technology is now very cheap and, for short range work as on Lough Derg, a handheld VHF should be adequate. But if you want to be legally entitled to use a VHF set, matters are much more complicated. I’ll discuss that in another post.

The O’Briensbridge [non-]emergency

The Irish Times today reports that

The Irish Coast Guard has issued an appeal to sailors and people who might fly aircraft about the safe handling of modern emergency locator equipment.

This follows an incident in which a badly stored aircraft emergency beacon sparked a massive search operation involving two helicopters and ground crews amid fears that a small aircraft had crashed.

Killaloe Coast Guard had covered the search in postings on 17 and 18 October 2012 here. It reported that

Killaloe Coast Guard Unit after over eight hours searching located three active emergency beacons, ELT’s in the O’Brien’s Bridge area.