DESCRIPTION: Poteen is "the best thing in nature For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys." It cures cramp, colic and spleen, calms a baby when mixed in milk, sooths a mind at school, makes the dumb talk, the lame walk, and helped Brunel dig the Thames tunnel.
AUTHOR: Joseph Lunn (1784-1863) (source: O'Conor)
EARLIEST DATE: 1901 (O'Conor)
KEYWORDS: drink humorous nonballad technology
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Munnelly/Deasy-Lenihan 3, "Paddy's Panacea" (1 text, 1 tune)
O'Conor, pp. 155-156, "Paddy's Panacea" (1 text)
Tom Lenihan, "Paddy's Panacea" (on Voice13) (on IRTLenihan01)
NOTES: Marc Isambard Brunel began construction of the Thames Tunnel in 1825. The tunnel was completed in 1842 and opened in 1843. (source: Thames Tunnel at the Wikipedia site. - BS
The history of the Thames Tunnel is complicated, and the Brunels (Marc Isambard, the father, and Isambard Kingdom, the son) were involved for only part of the time.
The idea for a tunnel went back to 1802, when one Robert Vazie suggested a tunnel between Rotherhithe and Limehouse. This was actually begun in 1805, but the river flooded it in 1808 and work was abandoned (Weinreb/Hibbert, p. 860).
Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) became involved a decade later. He had already invented a system for mass-producing pulley blocks which made ship manufacture much faster and cheaper (Porter, pp. 103-104). A series of inventions to help other types of manufacturing followed (Porter, p. 104), but bad luck and incompetent partners drove him to insolvency.
By 1823, the idea of a Thames Tunnel was back, and Brunel invented what was called a "tunneling shield" to make it easier and safer to build the tunnel (Weinreb/Hibbert, p. 860). The idea was good, and has been used for tunneling ever since (Weinreb/Hibbert, p. 860). In 1825, work began on a 1200 foot tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping.
Unfortunately, while the tunneling shield worked, the tunnel itself -- the first ever constructed under a large, tidal river (Fox, p. 67) -- was problematic. The plan was to run the tunnel just 14 feet under the riverbed at one place (Porter, p. 104), and the support structures just weren't strong enough. There were problems with leakage -- and what was leaking was Thames water, and what's worse, water from the *bottom* of the Thames -- essentially, an open sewer with industrial chemicals thrown in to make the mix even more toxic.
Marc Brumel was so stressed by the work that he eventually had to turn it over to his son. Isambard Kingdom Brumel (1806-1859) joined the project soon after it began, and in 1826, he became the field manager of the project (Fox, p. 66). In 1828, the tunnel was badly flooded; Isambard was badly injured (it took him three months to recover, according to Fox, p. 67) and the project was once again shut down.
The project was shut down from 1828 to 1835, but then resumed again, with an improved tunneling shield and new managers (Weinreb/Hibbert, p. 860). It was finally finished in 1843 -- although there still wasn't enough money to build an approach for wheeled vehicles, so it was used only by pedestrians at first. In 1865, it was converted to use by trains (Porter, p. 104), and is now part of the London Underground.
Since the song mentions the Brunels, we can feel fairly confident it was written before 1835, and probably before 1828. It is hardly surprising to find a song about Irishmen working on the tunnel; the tunneling shield involved 36 workmen in dark, sticky conditions working hard to excavate the tunnel. Given the economic circumstances of the time, and the prejudices, it was an obvious job for Irishmen. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
- Fox: Stephen Fox, Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isumbard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships, Harper Collins, 2003
- Porter: Roy Porter, consultant editor, The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists, second edition (first edition published in six volumes, 1983-1985, as The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists with volumes on Biologists, Chemists, Astronomers, Physicists, Engineers and Inventors, and Mathematicians), Oxford, 1994
- Weinreb/Hibbert: Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, editors, The London Encyclopedia, Macmillan, 1983 (I use the 1986 Ader & Adler reprint)
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