The Royal Canal was an enormous capital intensive project to undertake in the late 18th Century in Ireland. The Canal would eventually travel 145.6km/90.5miles and link the River Liffey in Dublin City with the River Shannon in Longford. To undertake a project of such scale seems unusual given that at the same time work was well underway on a similar project, the Grand Canal. Construction began on the Grand Canal in 1757. It too was to link the River Liffey in Dublin with the River Shannon, albeit by a more Southerly route. The Grand Canal was completed in 1804.
The origin of the Royal Canal is inextricably linked to its predecessor, the Grand Canal. As the story goes a retired shoemaker was on the board of directors of the Grand Canal. Among his high ranking fellow directors he was deemed to be on a lower rung of the social ladder. His colleagues on the board did not like that the shoemaker was taking such an active role in the affairs of the canal. This eventually culminated in a falling out between the parties. According to Samuel Smiles’ Lives of the Engineers: