Tag Archives: turf

Money from the bog

To a small extent reclamation is now going on in Ireland; Mr M’Nab, of Castle Connell, county Limerick, has reclaimed 80 acres of the worst red bog, devoid of vegetation and 20 feet deep. It was drained, then coated with the subsoil, and the land which was not worth 2s 6d per acre is now worth 30s per acre.

Thus Robert Montgomery Martin in his Ireland before and after the Union with Great Britain third edition with additions; J D Nichols and Son, London; James McGlashen, Dublin 1848.

I have written here about Mr Macnab (that was how the spelling settled down) and his talent for extracting money from the bog at Portcrusha, which is between Castleconnell and Montpelier, Co Limerick. It seems that his achievements are still remembered — and emulated.

Incidentally, in the same work, published in 1848, Mr Martin refers to the

… large practical mind, great experience,  and Christian philosophy …

of Sir Charles Trevelyan.

Ticking all the boxes

Sometimes an idea comes along that is just so good, so right, so advantageous on all counts that it is simply irresistible. This idea comes from the Americas, from the US Coast Guard. Adapted to the Irish inland waterways, and specifically to the Shannon, it could:

  • help to promote industry in recession-hit rural areas
  • create direct employment
  • help to stimulate indirect employment
  • promote Irish energy independence by reducing reliance on imported hydrocarbons
  • counter pollution of water-courses
  • reduce the number of heavy trucks using remote rural roads
  • use environmentally-friendly water transport, by barge along the Shannon
  • honour and promote the industrial heritage of Co Leitrim and the transport heritage of the Shannon
  • help to defray the costs of maintaining the Shannon Navigation
  • solve Dublin’s water supply problem, at least for non-potable water.

How could anybody resist?

The US Coast Guard has proposed that wastewater from fracking [PDF] should be transported by barge, rather than by truck or railway train, from the fracking sites to remote storage or treatment facilities. So, when fracking begins around Lough Allen, the wastewater could be carried down the Shannon by barge and, if necessary, pumped to Dublin.

It sounds like a winner to me.

Bolshevism, boats and bridges

The balance bridge crossing the canal, near Newcomen-bridge, as designed and erected under the superintendence of Mr Bindon Stoney, engineer of the Dublin Port and Docks Board, has been completed, and adds considerably to the facilities for carrying on the traffic. This bridge has been erected in substitution of a lift-bridge, constructed in 1872, but to which an unfortunate accident occurred in February, 1878.

Ralph S Cusack, Chairman, in the report of the Directors of the Midland Great Western Railway, 19 February 1879, quoted in the Freeman’s Journal 27 February 1879

In mid-October I mentioned that Maureen O’Sullivan [Ind, Dublin Central] had asked the unfortunate Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick, and minister for waterways] about Effin Bridge, the lifting railway bridge below Newcomen Bridge on the Royal Canal in Dublin. The bridge is lifted, to allow boats through, on [IIRC] one Saturday each month in the summer, making five lifts a year. Waterways Ireland says on its website [click Bridges if necessary]

The Newcomen Lift Bridge in Spencer Dock is owned and operated by Irish Rail, and requires a rail possession to be lifted. It can only be lifted for boats at limited prearranged times organised with Waterways Ireland. For details of opening times and to arrange passage contact the Eastern Regional Office on 01 868 0148.

Maureen O’Sullivan wanted

… a meeting of interests concerned with the operation of the lifting bridge with a view to devising a management and operational system that is less hostile to the use of the waterway as currently it is an impediment and discouragement to navigation on the Royal Canal and an obstacle to navigation-communication between the Royal Canal and River Liffey and between Royal Canal and Grand Canal at their eastern reaches […].

Jimmy Deenihan said

The bridge is operated by Irish Rail staff on a request basis at Waterways Ireland’s expense.

However, he wasn’t giving any hostages to fortune by making rash promises or even by commenting on whether the bridge was an impediment to navigation. But Ms O’Sullivan was undeterred: she returned to the topic with two written questions on 5 November 2013 and a priority question, no less, on 7 November 2013 [for certain values of “priority”]. On 5 November she asked two questions of Jimmy Deenihan

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 59 of 16 October 2013, the extent of railway track that needs to be closed by Irish Rail in order for a vessel on the Royal Canal, Dublin, to be given access between the First and Sea Levels of the Royal Canal; if there has been an assessment of whether the extent of track closure could be reduced to facilitate greater ease of navigation on the Royal canal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 59 of 16 October 2013, if the option of a introducing a drop lock to replace the need of the lifting bridge has been considered since the establishment of Waterways Ireland or if that assessment was made by Waterways Ireland’s predecessors; the level of use of the sea level assumed in relation to the assessment; if the impact of the Spencer Dock Greenway was taken into account and vice versa, was account taken of the impact on the Greenway were the sea level to be made accessible to navigation by replacing the lifting bridge; if the assessment includes analysis of whether the effective re-opening of the sea level of the Royal Canal to meaningful levels of year-round traffic would be consistent with the EU’s commitment to the ‘protection and preservation of cultural heritage, in view of the fact that Dublin’s waterway’s heritage is part of the cultural infrastructure of Europe, contributing to economic attractiveness, job opportunities and quality of life; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The ever-patient Mr Deenihan replied:

I am advised that the option of constructing a drop lock to replace the need for the lifting bridge at the location in question has been considered by Waterways Ireland but it was not deemed viable due to the estimated costs involved, given that the minimum cost for a drop lock to replace the bridge would be of the order of €5m. Work to install a drop lock at this location would also involve considerable temporary works, the extent of which would be unknown until ground conditions were assessed in detail.

I am also advised that there have been no assessments or analyses undertaken by Waterways Ireland in respect of the level of use or impact on the Spencer Dock Greenway.

I can inform the Deputy that the length of railway track disconnected from the rest of the loop line from the station when the bridge is in the ‘up’ position is approximately 16 metres. However, as the control and operation of the railway line in the vicinity of the lifting bridge lies entirely with Irish Rail, only it can indicate the extent of the permanent rail line that needs to be closed when the bridge is opened.

He might also have pointed out that €5m is more than WI’s entire capital budget, which is under €4m for all southern waterways for 2014. And if he were an argumentative chap, he might have pointed out that there is no evidence of a demand for

… the effective re-opening of the sea level of the Royal Canal to meaningful levels of year-round traffic …

and no evidence that it would be of any economic benefit to anyone, least of all the residents of Dublin Central, even if boats were travelling that way every day of the week.

He might, if he were an impatient sort of chap, have pointed to the idiocy of the “cultural heritage” argument: with one or two minor exceptions, pleasure craft were not part of the “cultural heritage” of the Royal but, even if they were, such “heritage” wouldn’t be worth millions that might be spent instead on bringing soup to the deserving poor of Dublin Central.

Ms O’Sullivan was back with more on 7 November, this time trying to get Leo Varadkar [FG, Dublin West] to get the National Transport Authority to include Effin Bridge and the Sheriff Street non-lifting bridge (not a Scherzer) included in a National Transport Authority study of “the management and movement of people and goods to, from and within Dublin city centre”. Ms O’Sullivan’s rather confused and confusing case seemed to be that there was a greenway, and there were walking and cycling routes along the canal, so a road bridge (that works perfectly well for carrying a road) and a railway bridge (that works perfectly well for carrying a railway) should be included  in the study because the canal has navigational potential.

Or something. She even managed to bring water polo [does she mean canoe polo?] into the argument.

As far as I can see, walking, cycling, road travel and rail travel — and even water polo — are not in any way adversely affected by the current arrangements, while the canal is of negligible importance in the movement of people and goods. Boating on the canal is a leisure activity for a small number of people who are sufficiently well heeled to own pleasure-boats; I am rather surprised to find that their interests are a matter of such concern.

As the expenditure on reopening the Royal Canal is a sunk cost, I am all in favour of making its use easier — provided that it can be demonstrated that (a) there is a demand for increased use, (b) such increased use will have benefits that outweigh the costs of any improvements and (c) no alternative investment offers better returns. As far as I can see, Ms O’Sullivan has demonstrated none of the three: indeed I see no evidence that she has even considered them.

What’s depressing here is the absence of any indication of a rational approach to capital spending on waterways. They’re still cargo: a magical source of wealth, that will bring peace and prosperity as long as we all believe in fairies and avoid facts, thinking and analysis.

No wonder the country is in a state of chassis.

Update 15 November 2013: some information about demand for passage under Effin Bridge.

No queue for the quay …

… at Querrin on the Shannon Estuary. The page discusses its building and the early years of its operation.

Up with this sort of thing

Folk interested in the history of the Shannon before 1850 may like to know of a talk …

The smart green technology of the 1830s: the Shannon steamers and the definition of Ireland

… to be delivered to the Thomond Archaeological and Historical Society on Monday 4 November 2013. It’s in Room T.1.17, TARA Building, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, at 8pm.

A related topic …

Charles Wye Williams and the Anglo-Irish Trade

… will be discussed in one of the papers at the Eighth [British] Waterways History Conference on Saturday 26 October 2013 at the University of Birmingham. Leave a Comment below if you would like contact information for the conference.

Shannon passage times 1838


Kilrush to Limerick 4 hours

Tarbert to Limerick 3 hours

Clare[castle] to Limerick 3.5 hours

Limerick Navigation

Limerick to Killaloe:

  • iron passenger boat 2.5 hours
  • timber passenger boat 3.5 hours
  • trade boat 6 hours.


Killaloe to Portumna:

  • passenger steamer 6 hours
  • steamer towing lumber boats 8 hours.

Portumna to Shannon Harbour:

  • 6 hours.

Shannon Harbour to Athlone:

  • 8 hours.

Source: Railway Commissioners second report Appendix B No 6.

The Charles Wye Williams bridge campaign

Dublin City Council has published its call for proposals for naming the new bridge across the Liffey. According to RTE, various bolshies and literary types have been suggested, as though we didn’t have enough of them (and of politicians too). Accordingly, I have submitted an application suggesting that the bridge be named after a successful entrepreneur who understood technology and created employment: Charles Wye Williams, the Father of the Shannon, whose fleet of nine steamers and fifty-two barges gave us the Shannon as we know it today.

I will be happy to send a copy (PDF) of my application to anyone who is willing to support it.

The Limerick Navigation: lock sizes

Here is a table showing the sizes of the locks on the (now abandoned) Limerick Navigation.

Sailing in the Lowtown high

WI & L&MK at Lowtown, with pics and map, here.

Mark Twain and the Cammoge drownings of 1849

Mark Twain wrote:

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

I have indulged in just such conjecture about the design of the ferry boat in use at Cammoge in 1849, crossing the outlet from Poulnasherry Bay, west of Kilrush on the Shannon estuary. The news reports of the time give very little information about the design of the boat, and the reliability of that information is questionable, which makes my speculation even more dangerous. Nonetheless, I thought it might be useful to set out some thoughts on the subject in the hope that other folk, who know more about the background, the location or naval architecture than I do, might be able to help to clarify the design.