Tag Archives: steam

Killaloe in the age of steam

That’s November’s talk at the Killaloe-Ballina historical society; details here and an account of Sandra Lefroy’s talk about the Phoenix here.

Feather beds purified by steam

Heal and Son have just completed the erection of machinery for the purifying of feathers on a new principle, by which the offensive properties of the quill are evaporated and carried off in steam; thereby, not only are the impurities of the feather itself entirely removed, but they are rendered quite free from the unpleasant smell of the stove, which all new feathers are subject to that are dressed in the ordinary way.

Old beds re-dressed by this process are perfectly freed from all impurities, and by expanding the feathers the bulk is greatly increased, and consequently the bed rendered much softer.

The following are the present prices of new feathers:

Mixed, 1s per lb
Grey Goose, 1s 4d per lb
Foreign Grey Goose, 1s 8d per lb
Best foreign Grey Goose, 2s per lb
Best Irish White Goose, 2s 6d per lb
Best Dantzic White Goose, 3s per lb

Heal and Son’s List of Bedding, containing full particulars of weights, sizes, and prices, sent free by post, on application to their establishment, 196, opposite the Chapel, Tottenham-court-road.

Daily News, London 24 October 1846

Manby, Napier, Oldham, Williams, Grantham

Here is a piece about the Aaron Manby, the first iron steamer to make a sea voyage, and its links to Irish inland waterways transport.

The piece was first published in the rally magazine of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Lough Derg Branch in July 2017.

Who stole the technology?

I was thinking of buying a (secondhand) copy of Juliana Adelman and Éadaoin Agnew eds Science and technology in nineteenth-century Ireland Four Courts Press, Dublin 2011. But, even though the secondhand copy was much, much cheaper even than the publishers’ reduced price, I thought I should check what I’d be getting for my money. I therefore had a look at the contents list, which I reproduce here having nicked it from the publishers’ web page:

The list of contents

 

Is it just me, or is there a big gap there? How can you discuss nineteenth-century technology without an extended discussion of steam power, whether in ships, on railways, for drainage or in mills and other manufactories?

 

New locomotive power

Mr Mullins, MP for Kerry, has made a very important discovery in the scientific world, that of applying galvanism, instead of steam, for propelling vessels and carriages. He is now building a carriage upon this principle, and several of the first engineers, who have seen it, say there is every prospect of success, and that it will supersede steam. — Limerick Star. The Dublin Evening Post claims the merit of this invention for the Rev J W M’Gawley, one of the clergymen of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in that city, who, that Journal says, explained it at the meeting of the British Association of Science there last August. “The discovery,” proceeds our Dublin contemporary, “has excited considerable interest amongst the savans of Germany by Mr M’Gawley’s interesting and important invention, which is to form one of the most attractive features of the proceedings of the British Association at its approaching meeting in Bristol.”

Berkshire Chronicle 13 August 1836

How nice to know that a current MP TD for Kerry, noted for his scientific knowledge, is continuing a great tradition.

 

Limerick gammon

Thanks to AOD for alerting me to an article by Morgan McCloskey “O’Maras of Limerick and their overseas business” [PDF] from the Old Limerick Journal summer 2001. O’Maras were bacon and ham curers: according to Frank Prendergast “The Decline of Traditional Limerick Industries” in David Lee & Debbie Jacobs, eds Made in Limerick: History of industries, trade and commerce Volume 1 [Limerick Civic Trust, Limerick 2003]

James O’Mara of Toomevara in County Tipperary had established the business in a small house on Mungret Street in 1839. He started bacon curing in the basement but it became so successful that he had to move shortly afterwards to the premises in Roches Street, which they occupied until its closure in 1987.

The waterways interest arises from McCloskey’s having drawn on Patricia Lavelle James O’Mara: a staunch Sinn Féiner Dublin 1961, republished in 2011 under a slightly different title. Lavelle’s O’Mara, her father, was also covered here and was the grandson of the original James who set up the business in 1839. We are concerned with neither of the Jameses: Stephen, son of the first and father of the second, is the man of the moment. McCloskey says that Lavelle says that Stephen preferred to go to Dublin by boat rather than by rail and that she gives this description of one such trip:

Then the boat went through the heart of Ireland; and the country, with its hills and green fields, was spread before him in all its changing beauty for the best part of a couple of days. The steamer left Limerick and made its way up the Shannon, avoiding the rapids by various canals and locks.

After Killaloe it reached the wide waters of Lough Derg. The passengers had the run of the boat and could get a snack meal if they wished. Once, when grandfather was travelling this way, terrible squalls sprang up and the lake was very rough, but usually they could stop for a moment at Holy Island and see the ancient ruins there, and pass on by the wooded heights of the Tipperary shore, past Dromineer to Portumna, crossing and re-crossing the lake until they found anchorage in Shannon Harbour, as far north as Offaly.

There was a big hotel there owned by the Grand Canal Company, where they all stayed for the night and got to know one another; and feasted on chicken and bacon and cabbage followed by apple pie, and then sat round huge turf fires swopping stories or playing cards.

Next morning the canal boat awaited them, gay with its overhead canopy to protect passengers from the heat of the sun or from inclement weather. The passengers sat in two long rows, back to back, and gazed out across the fields as the paddle lazily churned up the turbid waters and the boat made leisurely progress along the canal. The monotony was broken once in a while by the excitement of passing through a lock.

The problem with this romantic account is that, as presented, it’s rubbish.

Stephen O’Mara was born in 1844 and began work in the family business in 1860. The passenger boat service between Limerick and Killaloe ceased in 1848, when the railway reached Limerick (though there were occasional special excursions after that).

The service was by horse-drawn boat, not by steamer; though there had been some attempts at running steamers, the Limerick boats did not go beyond Killaloe, whence larger steamers ran to Portumna or, later, to Shannon Harbour and places further north.

Scheduled passenger services did not “stop for a moment” at Holy Island, which was off the main route to Portumna.

The canal hotel at Shannon Harbour effectively ceased operating as such in 1847, according to Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1973.

The canal passage boats did not have canopies, the passengers sat facing each other rather than back to back and the boats were horse-drawn rather than paddle-driven. Furthermore, the service ceased in 1852.

I cannot explain the extent of the inaccuracies, but perhaps Lavelle’s account should have been attributed to the elder James rather than to his son Stephen. I would be glad to hear from anyone who can cast light on this; please leave a Comment below.

 

 

 

Cardboard and paper

Some folk have been sailing on the Thames in a boat made of cardboard.

Over two hundred years ago, Isaac Weld navigated the lakes of Killarney in a boat made of brown paper:

Whilst engaged in illustrating the scenery of that beautiful locality, Mr Weld derived additional pleasure from the occupation, in introducing a young and amiable wife to scenes so familiar to himself. To facilitate their rambles, and profiting by his Canadian adventures and his skill as a “voyageur“, he constructed with his own hands the model of an Indian canoe. In the absence, however, of birch bark, he had recourse to successive layers of stout brown paper, creating a sort of papier-maché boat, sufficiently roomy for two. In this paper skiff he actually had the hardihood to intrust himself and fair companion in sundry adventurous voyages on the Lakes.

That is from “Mr Foot’s Memoir of the late Isaac Weld, Esq” in The Journal of the Royal Dublin Society Volume I 1856–57 Hodges, Smith & Co, Dublin 1858. Wikipedia offers a shorter account of the life of the remarkable Mr Weld. His Statistical Survey of the County of Roscommon, Royal Dublin Society 1832, is an invaluable source of information about the Shannon and the Royal Canal, but Mr Weld is also notable for his voyage, along with his equally adventurous wife, on the steamer Thames [originally Argyle] from Dublin to London in 1815. There are brief accounts of the journey here and here; the captain, George Dodd, wrote a book An Historical and Explanatory Dissertation on Steam-Engines and Steam-Packets; with the evidence in full given by the most eminent engineers, mechanists, and manufacturers, to the Select Committees of the House of Commons; togerther with the Committees’ reports, distinguishing and defining safe and unsafe steam-engines, and their proper management: comprising particulars of the fatal explosions of boilers at Norwich, Northumberland, Wells-street, and in America: concluding with a narrative, by Isaac Weld Esq, of the interesting voyage of the Thames steam-yacht, from Glasgow, in Scotland, to Dublin and London [published for the author, London 1818] available here, and Isaac Weld’s account is available here. Mrs Weld may have been the first woman to take an extended sea voyage in a steam vessel.

 

Remarkable experiments in steam navigation

The duck’s paddle

A series of experiments has recently been tried in France by the Marquis de Jouffroy, with the view of getting rid of the inconveniences of the ordinary steam paddle. The apparatus of M de Jouffroy consists of two palms, or articulated duck’s feet, placed either at the sides or stern of a vessel, having an alternate motion, so as to open in order to give the impulsion, and close again precisely the same way as the foot of a duck.

M de Jouffroy’s first experiment was made in the canoe of the jardin de la Folia St James, near the Bois de Boulogne, with the model of a frigate made on a scale of 1 foot to 37 feet, and so constructed that the common paddle or his improvement might be used at will. With the common paddle the vessel performed a distance of 130 feet in seven minutes. The paddles having performed 130 revolutions, at this time the propelling power was completely exhausted.

The common paddles were then taken off, and the duck’s-foot paddles substituted. With one hundred and thirty oscillations of these paddles, the vessel performed in the same space of time a distance of 153 feet; but what was most remarkable, was the fact, that instead of stopping short when the clockwork, which in both cases put the machinery in motion, had run down, the impulsion communicated to the vessel by the steady and undisturbed motion of the duck’s-foot paddles was sufficient to keep the vessel moving 150 feet more.

The report on these experiments by the committee of the Institute is highly favourable.

The Vindicator, Belfast 16 December 1840. From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

Perhaps this marquis was the son of that marquis.

Eccentricity by steam

Folk interested in eccentric early steam inventions, such as that described on my page about chain haulage, might also be interested in the invention of Captain George Beadon RN, as described on the invaluable Grace’s Guide site.

Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, had the foresight to acquire a photograph of Captain Beadon’s vessel and to make it available on tinterweb.

Captain Beadon’s route to London took him through Keynsham: that’s K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M.

A Steam-ship Canal from Kilkenny to Inistiogue

A gentleman has mooted the propriety of forming a steam-ship canal from Kilkenny to the tidal water of Innistiogue,  and he has lodged £400 in the Provincial Bank as a beginning, and as an earnest of his good faith. His name is not given, why we cannot say; but of the fact that the money is actually lodged, we have been assured by the respectable manager of the bank, Andrew M’Kean Esq.

This half anonymous character is to be regretted; and we trust the promoter will not hesitate to announce his name at once, and set the project fairly before the public. Men do business now-a-days with their eyes well open. It is computed that £320000 would be sufficient for the completion of the undertaking. The distance is only thirteen miles. The promoter calls upon eight hundred men in the counties of Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford to come forward with £400 each, or else raise the money in £5 shares.

Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent 27 August 1850 quoting the Kilkenny Journal. From the British Newspaper Archive run by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, in partnership with the British Library.

[NB I have not been able to find any later notice of the development of this proposal. Further information will be welcomed]