Tag Archives: steamer

Evasion of postage

General Post-office, Dublin, 17 March 1838


I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant, desiring some information as to the modes of sending letters otherwise than by post.

Every species of contrivance that ingenuity can devise is resorted to for the purpose of evading the payment of postage; and though I cannot state decidedly the extent to which it is carried, but judging from the cases wherein the practice has been detected, I can have no hesitation in believing that it exceeds any idea persons in general may have formed of it.

Every coachman, carman, boatman, or other person whose business leads him to travel regularly between fixed places, is a carrier of letters; of this we have daily proof from the number of letters put into this office to be delivered by the penny-post, which have evidently been brought to Dublin by private hands, and which the officers of the sorting-office have estimated at about 400 per day.

Previous to the consolidation of the Post-office laws in August last, an Act, 53 Geo 3 c58, was in force in Ireland, which empowered the Postmaster-general to issue a warrant, upon sworn information, to search for letters illegally conveyed; and in May last a warrant of that description was issued against Patrick Gill, a carrier who travelled regularly between Granard and Dublin, and on his person were found 57 letters directed to persons in Dublin, which he had collected on the road; this Act was however repealed, and the clause which gave that power to the Postmaster-general was omitted in the Consolidation Acts: the Post-office has not now, therefore, that means of checking the illegal conveyance of letters. The fly-boats on the Royal and the Grand Canals, I am informed, carry great number of letters; the former extends to a distance of 90 miles from Dublin, and the latter to 94 miles, and through the entire distance of each of these lines letters are constantly collected for conveyance to Dublin.

The illegal transmission of letters to and from Great Britain has very much increased since the introduction of steam navigation: with the exception of Sunday, private steam-vessels pass daily between Dublin and Liverpool, and in the offices of the agents of such vessels a tin box is kept for the reception, they say, of consignees’ letters; but it is well known that vast numbers of letters of all descriptions are put into them, and the commanders not being compelled by the Custom-house to make the declaration required from masters of vessels from foreign ports, that all have been delivered at the Post-office, do not hesitate to convey them; but I have not any means of giving you a correct idea of the number of letters thus illegally conveyed.

The evasion of postage by means of newspapers, which is similarly injurious to the revenue with the illegal conveyance of letters, is also carried on to a great extent; it is the duty of the Post-office to examine newspapers to see that they are duly stamped and do not contain any writing or enclosure, and it is the practice to do so, as far as the vast number of them and the shortness of time will admit, without delaying the dispatch of the mails. I enclose an account showing the amount of postage charged in Dublin during each month from the 6th July 1836 to 5th January 1838 on newspapers containing writing or enclosures, amounting to a total of £2828 15s; and in the country offices the amount charged on newspapers in the year 1836, was £2122 9s 11d, and in 1837 it amounted to £3196 16s 11d. The practice is therefore increasing, and this I am inclined to believe scarcely amounts to one quarter of the postage on what are liable to charge, if it were possible that all newspapers could undergo a proper examination. I fear the practice is not absolutely confined to second-hand newspapers, but that the accounts of many news-agents are transmitted to subscribers in the same way; their papers are, however, so numerous, and are put into the office so short a time before the despatch of the mails, it is quite impossible to examine them.

Another mode of evading the payment of postage, or rather the writing of letters, is resorted to by factors, who publish printed circulars showing the state of the markets as respects their own particular trade; such circulars they get stamped as newspapers, which entitles them to free transmission by post, and their correspondents are distinguished therein by numbers. I have one now before me with the following communications in one of its columns: “No 17, You have a remittance this post.” “No 20, 84 sacks at 18s are sold.” “No 27, Yours not yet received.” “No 50, Nothing as yet done in yours.” These are taken from Mooney’s Corn and Flour Circular, which is published once a week, and 15s a year is the charge for it.

No instance of the illegal conveyance of letters to or from the villages in the neighbourhood of Dublin has ever come to my knowledge; many may be carried by occasional passengers, but I have not had any reason to suppose that an illegal collection of letters is made at any of the villages.

The enclosed piece of paper, which shows the pains and trouble taken to evade the payment of postage, was put into my hand this morning by the president of the sorting-office; it was found in the letter-box, and seems to be part of an old letter with a memorandum directing the person it was intended for, to inquire at two very respectable and well-known houses in Dublin, if they could send some letters to Tralee.

I have communicated to the solicitor (Mr Thompson) the postscript to your letter; he will search his books and papers and extract any useful information he possesses on the subject; he is summoned as a witness before the Kinsale Election Committee, and is to be in London on the 27th instant; perhaps, therefore, you may prefer examining him before the Committee on Postage, to any statement he may be able to make in writing.

I have &c
Aug[ustus] Godby

From Appendix 9 to First Report from the Select Committee on Postage; together with the minutes of evidence, and appendix Ordered to be Printed 10th May 1838 [149]

Thanks to Ewan Duffy for the link to this story about an early steamer on Lough Erne. The Clones Sheugh comes into it too.

Here is a piece about the later steam yacht Firefly at Crom.

Dublin to Shannon Harbour 1831

[This account of a journey by Grand Canal passage-boat appeared over three issues of the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent: 23 July,
2 August and 9 August 1831. The three sections have been merged here and some headings have been inserted. Question marks in square brackets denote words that were difficult to read]

The Grand Canal passage boat

On to the first lock

“We shall be late for the boat, I fear, Mr Coachman,” said I, as I put my foot on the step of one of those vehicles ‘yclept a jarvie — “we shall be late for the boat, unless you promise to drive tolerably fast.” “Yer honor, I’ll drive you faster than ne’er a coachman in Dublin, not even exceptin’ the Markis himself, long life to him; so get in, and you’ll see how I’ll rowl you along.”

We left the steps of the hotel, and for a little time proceeded with great celerity; but the horses soon slackened their pace, and got into a jog-trot at the rate of about five miles in four hours. “Come, coachman,” said I bawling at him out of the window, “this will never do; you promised to drive in a more expeditious manner.” — “Arrah, what way would you want a man to dhrive? — pay-dish-us indeed! You would dish us, sure enough, and want me to kill the poor bastes all out: may-be it is the devil’s own pace you’d like to be dhriving at, but no matter, all in good time,” muttered the fellow to himself, “you’ll be going that road before long.”

“Why, man, we shall certainly not reach Portobello harbour before the boat leaves, unless you get on quicker; I have been told she sails at two o’clock, and now it wants but eight minutes of the time.” “Sails! Och, thin, it’s fine sailing you’d have on boord that same packet, and grate canvass there is in thim same sails; for they are all made of horse skin, agra[?], and put on eight legs, and there you’ll see them walking on, one after the other, like two little grogeens of turf [?].” “Surely,” said I, in something like despair, “the boat will be gone.” “Gone! Never mind that, yer honor; I was never late for the boat but once, and then she went down to the bottom; so that even if I’m late itself, may-be you’d be saved the throuble of being dhrowned. But, hit or miss, I can drive you on to the first lock, and then you’ll be easy, for I can overtake thim spalpeens of horses they have under the boat at any time.”

Portobello to first lock (OSI 6″ ~1830s)

Accordingly, at the first lock, which is about a mile and a half from Portobello, did my facetious jehu deposit myself and portmanteau, safe and sound, on board the Passage Boat, wherein I was to be stowed for the night, coachy charging, of course, five shillings more for the additional drive.

The delights of west Dublin

The scenery along this part of the canal is particularly interesting. A row of very fine beech trees, now attained to their full growth, is planted on each bank, and the overhanging branches present a delightful retreat from the summer’s sun to the pedestrian rambler, while the winter’s blast loses much of its force as it spends its fury against these formidable barriers.

The country, on the left hand, is richly cultivated; the fields, beautifully green, are interspersed with groves waving with thick luxuriant foliage. Neat villas, the summer residences of our Dublin citizens, are numerously spread over the landscape; two or three spires of churches, the tops of which are seen rising above the other buildings, present a variation of character to the surrounding prospect; while that splendid and gorgeous line of mountain which separates the counties of Dublin and Wicklow, glowing now in all the loveliness and true nobility of mountain scenery — a ray of light breaking forth from beneath a cloud, and exhibiting to view a deep and rugged or some cottage before observed, now lying in thick shadow awful amidst its grandeur — gives a finish to the back-ground of the picture, but seldom seen throughout nature’s kingdom.

The [presumably first-class] passengers

Our company was variously composed. We had Lord R—s, who told us he had been “thravelling in that boat, man and boy, these forty years, and never met with an accident except one” — and this he related, for the purpose of quieting the fears of a nervous lady, a passenger in the boat for the first time, and who was accompanied by a sick child.

“I’d tell you how it was, ma’am,” said he, “the boat came into a lock, and by some mismanagement or other she turned upon one side, and down she went just like a stone to the bottom; and myself would have been drowned as sure as gob[?], for I was thravelling in the boat that same time, only I was on the bank. Oh, it was well I wasn’t in her, or there would have been mille murther.” “And were any persons drowned?” asked the lady with a terrified countenance, as the boat just then came whack against the side of a lock. “Indeed there was about six and twenty,” rejoined the Peer; “but don’t make yourself uneasy, for the same thing won’t occur again.”

I am unable to identify Lord R— (the final s is not used in later mentions and may be a mistake): I cannot find anyone called Lord R— resident in the west of Ireland at the right time. Michael Dillon, 12th Earl of Roscommon, might be possible, but I have no information about where he lived.

Besides the Lady and the Lord, we had two Roman Catholic Priests, red hot from the College; a publican, and small sugar dealer from the town of Banagher; a cloth merchant from Tuam; two young ladies, one the wrong side of forty, who set up for literati, and gave us during the evening divers dissertations upon books, picked up chiefly from reviews; three Trinity College men, one of them in all probability a pupil[?] of Tom Gannon’s, for he was redolent of puns — and, though last, not least, five Misses Blake, returning after an unsuccessful winter in Dublin, spent fruitlessly in one of the best boarding houses in the city.

Could the Misses Blake have been the daughters of Pierce Blake of Hollypark?

A run upon the banks

“Ho!” said one of our Academicians, looking out of the window, “there is a great run upon the banks.” “Run upon the banks!” exclaimed the elderly-young lady, “run upon the banks! I trust not, for I have five hundred pounds in the Galway Provincial: did you say, Sir, it was a great run?” “Never saw such a run, ma’am, in all my life; the seven-leagued boots never made such desperate haste; if the banks stand it, it’s a wonder: in my opinion they will certainly break; at all events they must receive a great shake. No such pressure has occurred to them these many years; and all caused by one or two individuals.”

“That O’Connell ought to be hanged: I was once a great advocate of his, but I have lately changed my opinion entirely; he ought to be hanged, and well hanged, for I am quite sure he is at the head and tail of the whole business. Oh dear! oh dear! I wish I was in Galway — my five hundred pounds! Do you think, Sir, I shall get there in time to draw my money? — not that I care much about so small a sum, for I have a good deal more some where else — no bad thing, I promise you, for some deserving young man, and I am particularly fond of College men — but then one would not like to lose even five hundred pounds. Oh dear! what luck I had not to keep the gold in my snug leather bag; but they persuaded me I would get two per cent in that nasty, odious Galway Bank. I wish it was in the fire before I put my money there.”

“Why, Ma’am,” said our punster, “that would be a burning shame; and though I am glad your wishes are warm towards the Provincial Bank, yet, just now, they are a little too fervent. Your zeal for O’Connell, also, is scarcely warrant-able; and though it might be a high joke to see him standing sus per coll [suspendatur per collum: let him be hanged by the neck], yet I scarcely think he would find much pleasure therein, poor fellow — particularly as, in this instance, his execution would take place somewhat undeservedly, as the run is caused not by him, but by my friend, James B—, who has been trying to overtake the boat for the last ten minutes, and made such desperate efforts, I thought the bank of the canal would surely give way. And here he comes himself, puffing and blowing like a broken-winded horse.”

“Ugh, ugh! By the goodness gracious!” said James B—, “by the goodness gracious! I thought I’d never overtake you: this infernal boat goes so fast when one does not want it. John Denis Browne, how are you? — glad to see you, by the goodness gracious! how is your friend Sandy Pry, eh? hear from him lately, eh? …”

This John Denis Browne may be the son of George Townsend Browne; if so, he was “admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts” in 1830 (Freeman’s Journal 20 July 1830) and was studying divinity in 1831, later becoming curate of Penzance, vicar of Braintree in Essex (Limerick Chronicle 2 June 1852) and author of Satan Enters the House prepared for his Reception. He died, aged 56, in 1864 (Chelmsford Chronicle 19 February 1864). His youthful doings, or alleged doings, and those of James B— [whom I cannot identify], were covered in several articles, perhaps intended to be humorous, in Irish newspapers in 1830 and 1831, at least one signed by Sandy Pry. James B— also appears in several of the articles, whose author seems to have been opposed to Daniel O’Connell and to the Roman Catholic interest.

“… Quite right, quite right; a great blackguard; I perfectly agree with you. Have you signified your intention of leaving town to the proper quarter? We men of fashion, taste, elegance, and birth, should have our several movements duly certified to the public. My Lord, How d’ye do? In your old place near the door, I see. What were bullocks to-day in the market?”

Lord R—’s skills

“Oh! what would they be but bullocks? Maybe it’s bullsheens you’d have them,” replied the Peer, “and mighty chape they were entirely. I had fifty head, and I sold them for an ould song, I may say. Every thing is down in the country, Sir — every thing is down except the Terries; and, by my sowl, they’re raising themselves high enough. Shure they had the impudence to visit my own place; but if I could ketch ’em, I’d engage to make ’em civil: I think they might let me alone, at any rate; for shure there’s not an easier man in the country than myself, and I’m among them, as I may say. But it’s all the fault of the change of currency: sorrow much luck I had since these new tinpennies came into fashion.”

“By the goodness gracious, I do not know what will become of us — the rascals will have the whole country to themselves by and by. However, I am glad to see so many troops quartered throughout the country.”

“Did I ever tell you the story of the Dragoon Officer that came into my yard one day, looking for the smith to put a shoe upon his horse?”

“I heard the thing, but I don’t know whether it was from you.”

“Well, no matter, I’ll tell it to you again. You see there was a great hunt in the neighbourhood of my place, and one of the Dragoon Officers from Loughrea lost a shoe from his horse, and he came into the yard to get the smith to put it on for him. ‘Where’s the smith?’ says he. ‘Faith I don’t know,” says I, for it was to myself he was spakin, ‘he’s not in it at all events, but what do you want iv him?’ ‘Oh, what ud I want iv him,’ says he, ‘but to put a shoe upon my horse, to be shure; but as he’s not here, there’s no use in waiting’ and with that he was turning away his horse’s head. ‘Whe-then,’ says I, ‘you’re both of you a fine pair of bastes, and by my sowl it ud be a mighty quare thing to let you go off without getting shod: and may-be I could do the job for you myself.’ ‘Whe-then,’ says he, ‘I’ll be for ever obliged to you, and I’ll give you something for your throuble besides.’ With that I got Larry Moore’s apron — that’s the smith, you know — and I shod the horse for him, nater than Larry could ever do it. ‘Now,’ says I, when the job was done, ‘I have some interest with the butler at the big house, and iv you come up, I’ll get you something to ate.’ ‘Faith,’ says he, ‘you’re the boy for my money, and you’re a Trogien every inch of you.’ ‘Well,’ says I, ‘do you go round to the hall door, and I’ll go talk to the butler.’ And I sent, sure enough, and I orthered up a fine lanshin, and there I was sittin at the head of the table by the time my gentleman came in. You never saw a man so struck all iv a heap as he was, when he found me out.”

Dinner on board

Dinner now made its appearance, “smoking on the board.” A leg of mutton ushered in the train, gracefully leading after it chickens and bacon, and an immense piece of boiled beef and cabbage.

“Where is my porta, gul?” said a fat-faced, ruddy-visaged gentleman, one of our Reverences from the College. “Where is my porta that I paid for?” “The Captain is drawing the cork, Sir,” said the smiling Hebe; you shall have the porter directly.” “I declare I’m chouking with thurst; till the Kiptin to send me in my bautle, and I’ll draw the cok myself. The best way to drive[?] a cok, gentlemen, in a hurry is to push it down.” “Sir, I’d throuble you for another shliver of mouton,” asked our small grocer from Tuam; “it ates remarkably well and thick.” “The pleasure of a glass of wine, ma’am, with you, if you plaise. Phoo, this is nothing but slow water; it’s a grate shame for Mister Blake not to give better wine in the boat;” and so

We eat, and drank, and wined, and then
We wined, and drank, and eat again.

Literary Conversation

When strangers assemble together for a short period, there is generally a feeling among them to make as fine an appearance as circumstances will permit. The tailor’s apprentice, who has just untwined his legs from off the board, and stretches them for the first time in his master’s service, to collect some outstanding debts, or respectfully solicit future orders, attempts the fine gentleman, and frequently succeeds as well as the man who is born one, as the saying is; and the grocer’s boy, emerging from the place of figs and raisins, his Sunday coat well brushed up, his hat smoothed down, and hair curled gracefully on both sides of his cheeks, sets off on his errand for custom, with the fixed determination of doing the agreeable and sweet, to the full extent of sugar-candied excellence.

The man who has learned enough to prove him an ass at the University, delights to exhibit his parts, and make the vulgar stare; and the little pert Miss, just let loose upon the world, and about half a year from the boarding school, rejoices to shew off her accomplishments and tastes to the best advantage — and having been a short period with an aunt in the city, she prates learnedly of the last new novel, scientifically of the last new singer, hobby-horsically of the riding-school, informs you she has taken lessons in drawing, is a famous hand at a sketch, and a very Titian in her colouring, tells you she has been at the play, and can play on the piano-fort.

Our conversation was as varied as our company. The five Misses Blake chattered and tittered, and tittered and chattered, and flattered and fluttered, and fluttered and flattered: when one began to talk, the rest began to talk; the wagging of the tongue of one was the sure signal for the rest to begin; but the two literary ladies fairly beat them wholus bolus out of the field. The comparative merits of Mesdames De Genlis and De Sevigne occupied a good portion of their discussion, which at one period waxed rather fierce. The decryer of Madame De Sevigne’s works informed us “that, indeed, she had no right to speak disadvantageously of De Sevigne’s writings, as she was paid the compliment of being told her own style was very similar.”

After a short digression upon schools, during which the five Misses Blake were able to edge in a few words, here and there, particularly the schools at Portarlington, calling it the Athens of Ireland, they returned with redoubled violence to Fenelon, Bossuet, and the Martyrs in France, whom they took to pieces more mercilessly than even their cruel persecutors; then they crossed over to Moore and Scott, eulogised Lord Byron, great poet, noble writer, exalted genius, pity he died!! At last they settled down upon Lady Morgan: concerning the place of whose education they were strangely at variance.

“Pardon me, ma’dam, she was educated in a Charter-school.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, with great submission to your superior information, she was brought up in the Duchess of Rutland’s family, and afterwards became Governante to the young Ladies Manners.”

“My information, ma’am, was from the very best authority.”

“None can be more surely depended on than my account, ma’am. Surely we all know that her father was a gentleman of fortune, descended from one of the most ancient families in Ireland; and not likely to send his daughter to a Charter-school. His name was M’Keon.”

“There, ma’am, you see how correct your information is: every one knows her father’s name was Owenson; but we’ll ask Lord R—. Lord R—, who is Lady Morgan?”

“By my sowl,” snored out the Peer, “I wish you wouldn’t be disturbing me, for I’m fast asleep.”

Sleeping together

The gentlemen now put on their night-caps, and variously exerted themselves to secure some comfort for the night — Lord R—’s nasal organ giving forth the solemn sound that tells the midnight hour, whilst the ladies endeavoured to look as amiable and interesting in divers mob-head-gear, as they severally might. Two of the male party placed themselves at full length on the table, esteeming, no doubt, that the convenience of the company was but a small matter, in comparison to the enjoyment of having their figures displayed to the best advantage, and their necks stretched before their due time, as our man of puns remarked.

Others took the ease of a berth on the floor, choosing the softest spot, whilst some laid down their heads on a pillow put upon as much of the table as they could obtain, and snored away the time in most pig stye-ish melody. Nothing seemed to disturb the rest of the passengers, except a few abrupt exclamations, now and again, such as — “Sir, I’ll thank you to keep your foot out of my pocket!” — “Pray, Sir, don’t tread on my eye!” — “The next time you give a kick, Sir, if it be somewhat lighter, you will confer a favor!”

The five Misses Blake, after making various wonderful efforts to engage the attention of our College men, including our punster, from whom the others seemed to take their cue, at last settled down into sleep, which was considerably accelerated by the punster having observed that he hated a Bleak retreat. The young ladies set up as pretty a quintetto as the imagination of a snorer well could fancy.

Disturbance in the night

Grand Canal: Robertstown to Shannon Harbour (OSI 25″ ~1900)

Killagally Glebe (OSI 6″)

At Philipstown a great influx of passengers poured in upon us, about half past two o’clock in the morning, just as I was adjusting myself for a sleep; they were returning from the Assizes of the King’s County. — These were divers gentlemen from the neighbourhood of Banagher, wending their way homewards after the toil and turmoil of their necessary attendance upon the law courts; and as they esteemed it futile to attempt a sleep themselves, they were desperately bent on preventing all others from enjoying even that disturbed repose which the very small convenience of a crowded boat could admit. An immediate ringing of the bell was fixed on, as the most notable expedient for this purpose; and this was accompanied by various calls for porter, cider, ale, Mary the maid, and so forth.

“Eh! what’s all this?” roared out James B—, suddenly awakened from a deep, sound sleep, “By the goodness gracious, we are going to the bottom. Eh, what’s this? is hell broke loose? Bedlam is let out, I believe!” “No,” said the pupil of Tom Gannon, “it is only the people discharged from the Assizes, and they are making merry on the occasion.” “By the goodness gracious though, they shall not be making merry at our expense; I’ll commit them to Galway jail. My Lord, will you get up and keep the peace? you’re a Magistrate boati.” “Pace,” replied his Lordship, “Pace: you’re more handy at the pace yourself (either breaking it or keeping it), James B—, than I am. But what can you expect from Leinsther men? They haven’t the dacency in them like us at all.”


The sun now rose in his unclouded majesty, gilding the towers and woods of Charleville, the magnificent seat of the Earl of that name, and exhibiting the town of Tullamore to our view at a little distance. The windows of the cabin were put down, some fresh air admitted, and the impurities of the past night cleansed away.

Preparations for breakfast soon began, and anticipation of a raking pot of tea, after the fatigues of the night, was by no means a small enjoyment, whilst the occupancy of the thing itself was the source of no little pleasure. The merits of divers eggs were entered into with a gout seldom exhibited any where else; and sundry pieces of bread were sent to be toasted from one end of the table, which, upon their return, were most religiously waylaid and devoured by those through whose hands the toast should pass to reach the sender.

Our literary ladies warmly discussed sundry cups of tea, with even greater heat than the comparative excellencies of Fenelon and Bossuet, digesting the matter with more apparent good will; and agreeing fully upon this, that Nott, Fergusson, and Company had been of great service to the tea trade of Dublin, as they were now able to get their favourite beverage full three halfpence an ounce cheaper than before their establishment was set up.

Journey’s end

As we passed Killigally, John Denis Browne, the notable, gave us an entire relation of his misfortunes in that quarter, and almost charged James B— with being the author of that egregious hoax, which brought him so fruitlessly from his alma mater, and led, in pursuit of exaltation and honor in the church militant, to the prejudice of his studies and lucubrations for the benefit of his country. The five Misses Blake condoled with the misfortunes of so sweet a youth, at the same time congratulating him, by way of comfort, on the splendid address which he got up for himself upon leaving College, and the numerous and respectable signatures affixed.

Killagally Glebe north of the canal (OSI 6″)


We discharged our cargo of Banagheronians at Shannon-harbour, and soon the noble river bearing that name greeted our delighted eyes. A wooden bridge, upon which the horses tread who tow the boat, has been built in this place. Here the stream, though not rapid, always flows majestically.

Shannon Harbour (OSI 6″)

I got into the steamer which plies between this and Killaloe, and bid farewell to my boat companions, leaving the two literary ladies hard again at De Genlis and Madame De Sevigne; and the youngest Miss Blake, at last successful in attaching to herself the wayward fancy of John Denis, by her merciless application of the Blarney stone.

This account is of interest for two reasons. First, it is one of a number of articles featuring John Denis Browne and James B—; it would be interesting to know who wrote them and why they were published. They seem to have been written to promote Browne’s interests; why did they deserve publication?

Second, it provides some useful information about the canal passage-boats: boarding away from regular stations, meals, sleeping. In particular, it confirms that the Shannon steamers, which met the boats from Dublin, did not enter the canal but took passengers aboard on the river, perhaps downstream of the bridge. Was there a quay or wharf to make that easier?



A lesson to estate agents

The Derry Castle Estate and splendid Demesne, near Limerick, on the Bank of the Shannon, exceeding 4500 Acres, with its vast Lake.

MR GEORGE ROBINS is flattered by having received the instructions of the excellent Proprietor,

Michael Henry Head Esq,

to SELL (without any limit as to protecting price), by PUBLIC AUCTION, at the GRESHAM HOTEL, in SACKVILLE-STREET, DUBLIN, on THURSDAY, the 27th of AUGUST, at Twelve o’Clock, in One Lot,

The magnificent ESTATE, which is Freehold of Inheritance, and designated


which, for its splendour and renown, stands high amongst the most favoured throughout Ireland. This circumstance is not a little refreshing, inasmuch as the writer is relieved from an attempt to do it adequate justice, and to content himself with a mere outline.

It may be well, first, to observe that, fortunately, the Estate is free from that fearful pest to agricultural improvement and the yeomen’s comfort — the middle men. All are yearly tenants; the tithe is commuted; and it is a fact of no small importance to know that the use of spirituous liquors is unknown throughout this vast district; the necessary consequence is a total absence of


of any kind. Having thus cleared the ground of the great difficulty that has but too frequently prevailed in the minds of


it may be well to point out a few of its multifarious advantages.

The Mansion is of importance; it stands on an elevated position above the level of the water, and is entirely suited to a family of high pretensions, with corresponding offices within and without. This edifice and its noble demesne is on the


the finest river in the empire. In front is a


20 miles in length, adorned by several delightful islands, whereon are interesting ruins of ancient castles.

The whole comprehends about


of land, highly cultivated, and in the occupation of a happy and contented tenantry. The best illustration of this circumstance is the fact that the arrear is literally a mere bagatelle.

The mountain scenery, which forms a magnificent amphitheatre, is really of surpassing beauty; the cloud-capp’d mountains rising in majestic grandeur until they seem to approach the clouds — the mighty lakes like oceans of liquid silver — the valleys teeming in fertility — present a scene of such grandeur, beauty and variety, as quite to forbid the hope of conveying a just idea of it by description. The views are extensive and indescribably beautiful, extending over the rich surrounding country, and including


and alone terminated by

“Its mighty waters, ever rolling on
Their myriad countless waves.”

Nature has vouchsafed its kindness to a degree infinitely beyond comparison anywhere, and presents a scene well calculated to elevate and impress the human mind, and incline it better to estimate “THE PERFECT PARADISE BELOW”.


may safely challenge competition throughout the civilised world. Millions of water fowl congregate on the vast lake. It should be remarked that, independently of


from the Lands, there are


of which the engineers’ report speaks most intelligibly: proving, past doubt, that for quality, extent, and situation, Mr Pennant’s favoured works, now producing


are not at all superior. Copper and Lead Mines are also on this estate, which, if worked, would realise an immense income. Much more might, and perhaps ought to be said, in praise of Derry Castle. Mr Robins, however, prefers to entreat of the intended competitors to seek ocular demonstration. He knows full well that this hasty and imperfect sketch will not impress them with half the delight they are sure to find there.

To those who may still be sceptical it may be added that the vast renown acquired by this


has rendered it indispensable to indulge the nobility and travellers visiting Ireland by throwing open wide the demesne two days in each week throughout the year.

To conclude — an immense additional income is within reach by those who have money at command, by building


The estate is in the quiet, unpolitical part of Ireland, thirteen miles only from the city of Limerick.

Particulars and Plans, and a drawing of the Castle, are in progress, and may be had 28 days antecedently, at the mansion — of Mr Salmon, at his Offices, 44, Moorgate-street, or Mr David Daly, Solicitor and Receiver, Fitzwilliam-street, Dublin — at Messrs Pyne and Richards’s, George-street, Hanover-square — Gresham Hotel, Dublin — the Auction Mart — and at Mr George Robins’s Offices, London.

PS — The title is clear, concise, and intelligible.

Dublin Evening Mail 7 August 1840

It is possible that Robins was brought in, with his purple pen, after earlier ads failed to attract a buyer. In March 1840 the Limerick Reporter carried an ad that concentrated on the estate’s earning potential.


To be sold, the
With Mansion House, and suitable Square of Offices; Extensive Old Plantation of  Valuable


Generally of above 100 years’ growth, situate on that part of the River Shannon

Which forms that Beautiful Expanse of Water, called


Above 20 Miles long, and 4 broad, on which STEAMERS and TRADING VESSELS ply between Limerick and Shannon Harbour, giving this Estate all the advantages of the

And Trade between Limerick and Dublin.

THE HOUSE stands in a most commanding position with respect to this Magnificent LAKE, with most picturesque Mountain Views, and overhung by ranges of nearly 100 Acres of young plantation along the adjoining slopes, planted from 20 to 30 years’ since, by the late Michael Prittie Head, Esq. It is impossible adequately to describe the


The town and harbour of Killaloe is distant about 3 miles, Nenagh about 9, and Limerick about 12 miles, by land or water.

The Mail Coach Road, from Dublin to Limerick, runs through the detached part of the Estates, called Burgess.


Of a most Peculiar and Valuable quality (and the quantity inexhaustible) is obtained from Lough Derg, for the entire Estate, at all seasons.

It is a BLUE SHELLY MARL, which is dredged from the bottom of the Lake into boats by the Tenantry, for which Quays and Harbours are arranged. It has been analysed, and was found to contain 50 per Cent of CARBONATE OF LIME, with other valuable properties set forth in the Analysis.

The more elevated divisions of these Estates abound in


So long celebrated as SUPERIOR to any in EUROPE, and are now in full operation, with the splendid outlay of capital by the IMPERIAL SLATE COMPANY, in whose employ several hundred men are permanently engaged to the great advantage of the proprietor of the Estates, who participates in the income under the deeds of contract.

The specimens of COPPER and LEAD MINES afford every reason to believe that, if properly brought into operation, they may become


The MOUNTAIN COMMONAGE comprises about 550 Acres, which has


having regard to the MARL raised from the LAKE, being far superior to lime, and an


The extensive ranges of


Outside the Demesne, along the elevated Divisions of the Estate, are also of GREAT VALUE, comprising large sections of

OAK, LARCH, FIR, &c &c

The thinnings of which would materially tend to the improvement and growth of the Timber.


Are estimated at considerably above £10000.

The Estimated PRODUCTIVE RENTAL VALUE of the Estate, exclusive of the Mansion, Offices, &c may be set down by way of General outline, at £3000 per annum, with the ADDITIONAL INCOME to be derived from the vast outlay of capital by the Imperial Slate Quarry Company, to a proportion of which Mr Head is entitled.

Mr Head had arranged with the principal incumbrancers to the amount of about £30000, to allow their demands to remain outstanding at 5 per cent interest, being disposed to pay off other claims by instalments; but some creditors becoming pressing, he has at length decided upon selling the entire Estate, or a competent part, to pay off the Incumbrances, and a purchaser may, if so disposed, avail himself of


to suit his convenience.

Any further particulars will be explained by Michael Henry Head, Esq, Derry Castle, Killaloe.

David Daly, Solicitor, No 26, Fitzwilliam-street, Dublin, is Receiver and Land Agent of the Estates, and has all Rentals, &c and will give every information, furnish statements of title, and receive propositions from purchasers, and under Mr Head’s sanction, will at once conclude a contract for sale.

Te title is perfectly clear, concise, and intelligible, and all seaarches ready for inspection.

The Estates contain 4347 statute Acres, and the young plantations 74800 Trees, exclusive of the old plantations in the Demesne.

February 21

Limerick Reporter 20 March 1840

Neither ad was successful; the estate was not sold until 1844.

The Derry Castle and Burgess estate, county of Tipperary, was knocked down to Francis Spaight, Esq, of Limerick, for £39500 at the Chambers of Master Goold, on Tuesday. The highest bona fide offer for this property at the sale last May was £37500, and it was then bought in at £38000. The estate comprises 3000 acres of land, with mansion house, and offices, on the most picturesque and frequented part of the Upper Shannon, near Killaloe.

Statesman and Dublin Christian Record
16 August 1844



The Lady of the Shannon

Folk interested in early steam transport in Ireland may wish to know that the latest issue [Vol 41] of The Other Clare, journal of the Shannon Archaeological & Historical Society, has an article, “Mr Paterson’s steamer”, about the Lady of the Shannon, the steamer built on the Clyde in 1816 for James Paterson of Kilrush.

While the steamer and its operations are well known (see for instance the page by Senan Scanlan on the Clare County Library site), a lack of contextual information has meant that the scale of Paterson’s achievement is not widely appreciated. His steam boat was built only four years after PS Comet, Europe’s first commercially viable steamer, began operations on the Clyde. Paterson, who built baths at Kilrush at the same time as he acquired his steamer, may have intended to imitate Henry Bell’s operations.

At the time, most steamers operated on rivers and estuaries, but some undertook longer delivery voyages to new areas of operation in Britain and Europe. But Paterson’s may have been the first to brave the rigours of the Atlantic: it probably travelled west off Ireland’s north coast, and then down the west coast to the Shannon. Ensuring that coal was available along the way must have required a good deal of planning.

Commercially, Paterson’s steamer was not a long-term success, and the possible reasons for its failure are explored briefly in the article.

The Shannon Archaeological & Historical Society does not itself appear to sell its journal online; Scéal Eile Books in Ennis may be able to supply it by post, as may the Celtic Bookshop in Limerick.

Steamer at Drumsna

Can you help?

Liam Sherringham has sent me two photos of the remains of a steamer at Drumsna.

I am pretty certain that someone at some time told me something about this vessel, but I’ve lost the information. I think it was said to be a former steam yacht, owned by a family living not too far away and abandoned at the spot, but I am not at all certain about this.

If you are the person who told me about this, I apologise for my lapse and I would be grateful if you could supply the information again. If you are not that person, but know anything about the vessel, do please tell us about it. In either case you can leave a Comment below.

Photo 1 ((c) Liam Sherringham 2017)

Photo 2 ((c) Liam Sherringham 2017)




The Earl of Granard

The Earl of Granard has, within the last ten days, placed a neat little steam-boat for pleasure on the Shannon. She is upwards of fifty tons burden, and is, we believe, the first steam-boat for pleasure ever placed on the Upper Shannon.

Longford Journal 8 October 1859 from the
British Newspaper Archive

From the BNA

First steamer across the Atlantic: new evidence

According to the Irish Times of 11 February 2017

Margaret Gaffney was born on Christmas Day 1813, in Tully, Co Leitrim. Five years later, faced with extreme poverty and religious persecution, her parents and the three youngest of their six children, including Margaret, boarded a steamer bound for Boston.

Eoin Butler, the author of the article, provides no details of the vessel, but I hope he will: up to now folk have believed that an American vessel called the Savannah was the first to use steam on any part of the Atlantic crossing, and that was in 1819, the year after Margaret Gaffney’s crossing.


Limerick 1850

For extent and population it is now the fourth town in Ireland. The shipping at the quays was not numerous. There are but two small steamers which ply from the port, and both are employed only in the summer, one being laid up during winter, as the other is found sufficient for the trade. These steamers ply down the river to Kilrush, calling off the ports on each side on their way. […]

Dung, in any quantity, may be got in Limerick, for 1s per load of 20 to 30 cwt.

James Caird, Farmer, Baldoon The Plantation Scheme; or, the West of Ireland as a field for investment William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London 1850

Boarding in Limerick

On the morning of the day on which I left Limerick, a truly melancholy and fatal accident occurred. Just as the steamer which starts every morning for Kilrush and Kilkee, was in the act of leaving the quay, a car was seen to approach very rapidly to the station, from which the vessel had just begun to move. Planks are not used at these quays, the water being sufficiently deep to admit of the steamer lying so close as to enable the passengers to step off from the quay on board the vessel.

A fine young man jumped off the car, and took a female who was on the opposite side in his arms, and ran with her to the packet, and had just succeeded in placing her feet in the side of the boat. In order to get her safely aboard he had to push her forward, and by this means accomplished the object he had in view. But alas! in achieving so much for her, he lost himself; for at this moment the packet moved off, and it became impossible for him to reach her; while the efforts he had previously made to get the lady on board occasioned him to stretch so far forward that it was equally impossible for him to recover his upright position on the quay. The consequence was that he fell between the quay and the steamer, and, as it was supposed, was struck by a revolution of the paddle, for he never rose.

What must have been the feelings of the poor female in witnessing the sudden and melancholy death of her gallant preserver? She was in delicate health, and was about to proceed to Kilkee for the benefit of sea-bathing, when this awfully heartrending event took place, which deprived her of him who was her darling and her pride; for alas! he was her son.

Thomas Lacy Home Sketches, on both sides of the channel, being a diary Hamilton, Adams, & Co, London; W H Smith & Co, London; McGlashan, Dublin, 1852

Date of event (deduced) Wednesday 28 August 1850