County Down


Silent Valley Reservoir

Tuesday 13th. 1891

The Mourne Water Scheme

Let me now come to the Mourne scheme, which i consider to be the best one in every way. I have described and submitted for investigation. In this district the catchment is beyond suspicion of possible pollution, the water is soft and pure and possesses a bright appearance, There is no population within the catchment area, and therefore no possibility of epidemic disease being carried in the water to the consumers in the city. Filtration will not be required, and in due fact after due settlement in the reservoir, such as the water receives in Lough Katherine, iam satisfied the Mourne water will stand equal if not superior. No water compensation will be required, and any damage done to owners of wheels can be met by a money payment of a comparatively trifling amount. The commissioners could acquire control of all the water and bring in the dry weather flow of the streams without making any storage reservoirs in the first instance, in this way a supply sufficient to keep the city going for several years can be obtained and expenditure kept down.

The system of works can be proceeded with by instalments, lastly the scheme can be eventually expanded so as to produce a supply of water equal to the probable demands of the next century. This will involve the city in an expenditure of three quarters of a million sterling, roughly speaking can Belfast afford to pay such a price. Will it not be wiser policy to go for something cheaper , even though it might not be as good, can this Mourne scheme be carried out so as to bring in an early return of water and that without imposing an undue burden upon the rate payers. I say without hesitation that in my opinion, the Mourne scheme can be carried out by degrees, producing as much water year by year as the city will require for a number of years. An expenditure of 500,000 being the amount of my estimate , leaving out the storage and service reservoirs, must be incurred in from five to seven years or roughly speaking, at the rate of 71,000 per annum. After the construction of the works other than the two reservoirs no further outlay will be required until about 1896. When the Silent Valley storage and the service reservoir would have to proceed with, could Belfast afford to spend 500,000 if the outlay was spread over seven years, taking interest into account, and assuming that the sinking fund would be deferred for, say seven years, as was done in previous cases, i believe the scheme can be carried out.


Wed. June 26th. 1895

Belfast Waterworks, The Mourne scheme, Visit to the Silent Valley

Belfast has prospered rapidly during the last few years, the citizens have laboured hard and their endeavours crowned with success. In such a large city nothing is more conductive to the health, comfort, and cleanliness of the inhabitants than a good wholesome supply of water. Our Water Commissioners, gentlemen who by the business like manner in which they conduct the affairs of the Trust, have kept pace with the times. They are well aware that the water supply is necessary to the prosperity of the city. Sometime ago they decided to procure a supply from the Mourne district. The new catchment or gathering area, from which the first instalment of the water is upwards of 9,000 acres in extent, but this can be greatly added to in the future. It has an elevation varying from 450 ft. to nearly 2,800ft. above sea level, and the character of this catchment is of the finest description for a domestic water supply. Consisting of high and precipitous mountain  slopes largely composed of fine granite and large boulders on the surface. It is also free from cultivation and pollution of any kind, it is uninhabited and lies in close proximity to the sea. The Commissioners will purchase the entire of the lands within this catchment area in order to preserve its present character, and prevent any possibility of pollution in the future to the waters of  from this neighbourhood.

The water is collected at present by the Kilkeel and Annalong rivers, which fall into the sea between Kilkeel and the favourite summer resort, Newcastle, the Kilkeel river will be intercepted in what is known as the Silent Valley by means of a large storage reservoir having an earthen embankment some 620 yds. in length across the valley, and will be upwards of 90ft. high over the present river bed. The top water area will nearly be 250 Acres, and the total holding capacity will be 2,850 million gallons of water, when fully developed the total supply from the whole Mourne district will be 30,000,000 gallons per day. This reservoir will be formed in the usual way by means of an earthen embankment with a puddle trench and wall of the same material  in the centre through its entire length, and will be be faced with a thick lining of granite rubble on the water slope, and will have the necessary storm channels, weirs, water tower and outlet works. The supply will be drawn from the reservoir for use in Belfast through a number of large geared valves at different levels on the outlet standpipe, which will allow the water to pass in large or small quantities through the main outlet tunnel into the main gravitating conduit.

Which will be formed of concrete having a maximum carrying capacity of 30,00.00 gallons per day, the size being 5ft. 6in and a regular fall of 18in. per mile. The main conduit will continued in what is known as "cut and cover work" along the mountain slopes to near the town of Newcastle, where it will be carried through the slopes of Slieves  Donard and St. Thomas Mountains in a tunnel some two and a quarter miles in length, which will be principally in the solid granite and silurian? rocks, and will have a regular fall of 12 inches per mile, and will have a maximum capacity of 30,000.000 gallons per day. Some parts of this tunnel will be at a depth of upwards of 600ft. below the surface of the ground, and can only be worked from either end and two centre shafts, and during construction will require the most improved ventilation and diamond drilling machinery. The service reservoir will be made large enough to meet the demands of the city, leaving a storage capacity of about 80,000,000, or eight days supply of 10,000,000 per day. The service reservoir will be constructed at an elevation of 350 feet over sea level, and will ensure a high pressure supply to the most elevated districts within the the commissioners area. The commissioners have decided not to bring in the full supply available from the Mourne district at present, but will limit the present section to what will meet the increasing demands of the city for a number of years to come, and although the cost of the present works will be considerable the borrowing powers under the bill being in round numbers 800,000, yet when the full quantity and excellent quality of the entire water available is considered, with the fact that several additional supplies can afterwards be brought from the same district, at comparatively a very small additional outlay.

The total value of such a water scheme to a rapidly expanding city like Belfast is very considerable. On the question of the quality of the Mourne water, the commissioners took the best possible advice. Professor James Dewar, F. R. S. of the Royal Institution, London and Cambridge, the highest authority on water analysis in the Kingdom, also Mr. Robert Barklie, F. C. S. Belfast,  a gentleman of large experience, visited the districts and took samples of the water, and advised the commissioners, after the fullest investigation, that the Mourne water was of the highest quality, and suitable for a town supply, most people will admit that that the water commissioners were wise in adopting it. The population of Belfast has increased by leaps and bounds during the past few years and is likely to continue to do so  in the future. Yesterday on the kind invitation of Mr. R. J. McConnell, J. P. the highly respected chairman of the water board, over a hundred gentlemen proceeded from Belfast to Newcastle for the purpose of visiting the Silent Valley. At nine o'clock a special train left Belfast for  conveying the company to Newcastle in little more  than an hour. At Newcastle a number of waggonettes were waiting and in a short time all were on their way to the Silent Valley, a considerable portion of the road is skirted on one side by the sea and on the other side by the Mourne Mountains, the drive was very enjoyable. About three miles out of Newcastle the party took to the right and here the road became more difficult the numerous hills giving the horses some trouble, and making it necessary for some to walk, but this in no way caused inconvenience, in fact the walk was thoroughly enjoyed.

About a mile from the Silent Valley or the "Happy Valley" as the natives designate it, the waggonettes had to be relinquished, the valley is difficult of access, the rough cart way, full of ruts, and the rugged ground on either side did not make a pleasant footway, and not a few were obliged to employ carts to convey them to the place, much to the amusement of their younger brethren. A splendid tent was erected in the centre of the valley, which by the way is almost completely surrounded by lofty mountains, whose rugged grandeur inspires one with awe and admiration. Here refreshments were taken of, and the way in which the arrangements were carried out pointed to the fact that everything Mr. McConnell puts his hand to is done well, a number of photographs were taken by Mr. Welche, after which several races took place. The journey back to Newcastle was by Annalong, the roads were much better than those taken in the morning, and the country much prettier. Newcastle was reached at six o clock, everyone was pleased by with the days outing, Mr. McConnell and Mr. McCullough, C. E. deserve a word of praise for their able assistance in looking after all the arrangements.

Invitations were issued by Mr. McConnell to the following, The Lord Mayor, (Mr. William McCammond), J. P. ,Professor Dill, Rev. Dr. Kane, Rev. W. J. Mc McCaughan, Rev. J. Lynd, Mr. Michael McCartan, M. P., Sir James Haslett, J. P., Sir Wm. Q. Ewart, J. P., Sir D. Dixon, Sir Samuel Black, Messrs. James Henderson, J. P., R. H. H. Baird, J. P.,W. H. Johnston, J. P., R. B. Henry, J. P., J. J. McDonnell, J. P., Robert Young, J. P. Thomas Andrews, J. P., Chairman of the County Down Railways Company, E. W. Pim, J. P., F. D. Ward, J.P. ,Arthur Hamill, J. P., James Barbour, J. P., Alex McLaine, . J. P., T. F.. Shillington, J. P., Thomas Gallagher, J. P., William Masterson, J. P., S. Lawther, J. P., J. M. McCaughey, J. P. J. H. Graham ,J. P., T. Shaw. J. P., T. F. Shillington, J. P, Jas. Musgrave, D. L., W. J. Pirrie, J. P. ,T. Harrison, Robert Corry, A. P. Dalzell,A. Mitchell, Robert Morgan, George McIldowie, James Johnston, A. McMonagle, John McKay, Samuel Stevenson, Thomas Brown, James McConnell, E. S. Finnegan, (City Coroner), J. C. Bretland, Hugh Strain, R. E. McLean, Thomas McCormick, John Forsythe, L. L. Macassey, F. Rodgers, J. J. Stafford, James McKee, Wm. Carlile, John Malcolm, J. Clugston, Dr. Graham, W. J. Woodside, John Laird, Wm. Weir, Wm. Wilson, D. Mitchell, T. E. Carlisle, J. C. White, R. T. Martin, Frank Kerr, Andrew Nance, J. D. Coats, J. Wales, Jas. Kerr, Robert Kelly, Robert Anderson, E. O'Rorke Dickey, W. J. McCormick, Alex Gall, J. Adams, W. McCartney, D. McKelvey, O. C. Nelson, James Stelfox, R. G. Glendinning, Dr. Stewart, D, O'Rorke, G. H. Brett, George Tate, John Reid, James Pinion, (General manager County Down railways), George Inglis, Dr. Davidson, E. Cowy, Bigger, M. D.,W. H. McLaughlan, Thomas Sawers, Joseph McKibbin, Thomas S. Martin, Wm. Greer, Wm. McCormick, R. K. Knox, LL.D, Henry Martin, Jun., John Price, F. Curley, Hy. O'Neill, M. D., J. McCormick, J. A. Hanna, H. M. Pollock, J. Lanyon, R. Welche, James Bradbury, John Martin, Robert Gibson, R. Welche, W. Robinson, J. G.Johnston, J. McChesney, Edward Bates, R. H. Orr.

At half past six o'clock the company sat down to dinner, which was served in admirable style at the Bellevue Hotel, the following was the menu, Potage-Mecodice and tomato,Poisson-Salmon (parsley sauce), Releves-Sirloin beef, roast lamb (mint sauce), roast chicken, duckling, green peas, vegetables (various), Entrements-Fruit tarts and custard, Queen pudding, strawberries and cream, blanch-mange, jelly au vin, Dessert-grapes, bananas, pineapple, Gorgonzola and Cheshire cheese.

On removal of the cloth, Mr. R. J. McConnell, who occupied the chair, proposed the toast "The Queen" which was duly honoured. The chairman said as the time was rapidly advancing when they would have to leave Newcastle he wished in a few words to propose the toast " The Town of Belfast". They were all interested in the city, which he saw so well represented that day. The city of Belfast was one in which they were all intimately connected, they must admit that Belfast had made wondrous strides, since 1850 it had doubled its population, and those strides were due to the hard headedness, integrity, and industry of the citizens of Belfast. Indeed they had made Belfast a city second to none in the United Kingdom.