Irelands first canal constructed was the Newry canal linking Newry with Lough Neagh in 1742. This was soon followed by work to link Dublin with the river Shannon. The Construction of these and other projects were an impressive feat of Engineering for the time and many are navigated to this day. Notes and drawings of these projects record the detail required to realise the projects and highlight someof the problems that were overcome. Take the crossing of the bog of Allen for example. The description from the Irish waterways shows an original page of notes and a sketch of how they would could try to get around this problem-
The eventual construction of raised sides to the canal was open to breaching which is also interesting to look at.
When these first canals were built it was done with human endeavour, being prior to any mechanical steam assistance. The work was mainly undertaken by small private companies, an amalgamation being Henry, Mullins and McMahon (1808). Some perspective on the manpower required is taken from the 1790 workforce of 3,944 men on the Grand canal alone. (Figure taken from 'Industrial Ireland 1750-1930' by Colin Rynne).
If anyone has information in regard of this valuable part of our heritage feel free to add it.
Just to remark in passing that canals were directly linked to birth of geology. Given the amount of work that was being done in moving such an amount of earth mapping became a key skillset, with commonalities in earth/rock types being noted by canal engineers who morphed into the first geologists eg William Smith, creator of the one of the first geological map by use of common fossils. (Off topic - finally I get to use my history and earth science skill sets in one post. )
The sandbar across the Liffey was a problem for centuries and there were plans as early as c1700 (1710? – Halliday wrote about it) to build a canal harbour at Ringsend – one engineer wanted a canal to be built from Dalkey (then the main port for Dublin) along the coast to reach the new ‘pool’ and there were similar plans to build one from Sutton to Dublin.
The canal companies were the ‘bubble’ of their day, caught out by the growth of the railways. The remains of one dead canal can be seen along the Cork-Killarney road by Mallow racecourse – it was to connect the Blackwater to Limerick.
One of the more interesting projects was the canal built to connect Lough Corrib to Lough Mask: http://www.lakedistrictheritage.ie/Cong/canal.html. Much of it still exists.
The contrustion of the Great South Wall as well as the Bull Wall eventually solved the issue of the Bar in Dublin. Mainly as they prevented drift from the two Bulls from silting the Channel as well as led to the creation of a strong outgoing current as tides went out. This scoured the channel increasing the depth of water at the bar.
Exactly. I didn't want to go too far off topic.
I will dig out something on the Dalkey - Dublin canal later.
Slightly OT - but related nontheless - I have a VERY fine 'coffee table' book entitled 'Ireland - The Inner Island - a journey through Ireland's inner waterways'. Written by the well-known Irish author Kevin Dwyer, it's a fascinating look at the almost unknown maze of waterways that criss-cross Ireland - ISBN 1-898256-91-8.
It was a gift from a very dear pal, so it has no price, literally.
Terryhoogan Aqueduct was part of a feeder system to the Newry canal and is the oldest example still in existance. I struggled to get information on it which is surprising as I thought the UK national trust may have been protecting it.
In discussing the canals the lack of return on these, i.e. their seemingly consistent unprofitability is to the fore. This was recognised soon after their opening. In "Universal Geography, Or, a Description of All the Parts of the World..." by Conrad Malte-Brun in 1833 drew attention to this so it was commonly known. He described the Grand canal activity as follows
In an appendix to Halliday’s ‘The Scandinavian Kingdom of Dublin’ - pages 249-250 :-
But the greatest improvement as regards the trade of the port has been the partial removal of the bar at the mouth of the river. For the removal of this bar the most eminent engineers had been consulted. In 1713 the Ballast Office had procured the services of Capt. John Perry who had been employed at Dover Harbour and at the Dagenham breach in the Thames; but, although he suggested plans by which it was conceived that the depth of water might be increased, the task was considered as hopeless, that to render the port fit for vessels drawing even twelve feet of water, it was proposed that an artificial harbour should be constructed near Ringsend, one engineer suggesting that this harbour should be accessible by a ship canal, along the Sutton shore, and another that the canal should be from Dalkey of Kingstown, so as altogether to avoid the bar.
The Parliamentary Records of Ireland vol i page 188 show a ‘Plan for advancing the trade of Dublin’ in which the proposal is, at a cost of £102,144, to enclose Dalkey Sound and come by canal to Dublin.
Both the Sutton and Dalkey canal proposals were turned down and it would seem that Perry was the originator of the Sutton proposal and even went to the extent of printing his map privately to garner support. (Scan below, showing canal running along the seafront from Kilbarrack.)
In Halliday there is a good history of the early development of the port. The Liffey almost adjoined Merrion Square, once nominated as a site for the citadel of Dublin (by Bernard de Gomme, 1673). The sea flowed to Merrion Sq. for another century. ‘Yesterday his Grace the Duke of Leinster went on a sea party........sailed over the low ground in the South Lotts and landed safely at Merrion Sq.’ Dublin Chronicle 26th Jan.1792)
Don't forget the drowning of 11 people at the 8th lock of the Grand Canal in 1792. http://www.athyheritagecentre-museum.ie/grand_canal/
The wicked drink!!!
The boat left Athy at 5am so if the people were intoxicated they must have been up all night! Regardless the number of people using the boat as transport to Dublin shows how quickly it had established a passenger service.
There are some interesting pieces of information contained in the records of the 1985 canals act debate in the Seanad here http://debates.oireachtas.ie/seanad/1985/02/13/00005.asp
And a senator Lanigan stated:
I know of canals at knockabbey castle in Louth that are dated earlier than this.
The bill was quite imaginative as it allowed for the development of canals as a tourism resource.
My grandfather was a lock-keeper on the Grand Canal up until the 1950s in Kildare. He used to bring turf from the Bog of Allen up to Guinness's brewery on a barge and barrels of stout back down along the canal dropping them off at pubs along the way. Needless to say he arrived home every night p*ssed out of his brains.
Funny you mention that. I was walking along the old canal in Slane recently, and saw that there's one part of it that runs straight through the rocky side of the hill. It's fairly impressive (to me at least) the tunneling that was done.
I never realised that there was such a large amount of canals around the country. I suppose it's like the old railway lines in a way.