According to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, the Earl of Blessington had previously devised a pamphlet to show the practicability of running a canal, or by continuing the present Strabane line to the Erne. To his dismay it just was not a feasible proposition.
The Earl of Blessington (Charles Gardiner) is imprinted on the map. A wealthy man he held estates in Wicklow, Tyrone, Dublin and properties in London. He was the son of Luke Gardiner and the nephew of William Gardiner former aide-de-camp to Sir William Howe and Marquis Cornwallis. C. Gardiner was married to Margaret Farmer, the Countess Blessington, herself a most distinguished writer, who was acquainted with Charles Dickens and Lord Byron. In fact, Byron wrote a special poem for her.
Most of the lithographic work carried out by D. Redman is in a collection in the British Museum. This solitary 1821 example of his art, highlighted a private venture by the printer.
**His work is extremely scarce making this survey map absolutely unique. It is drawn on stone from the original drawing by James Elmes. A duplicate or a similar survey map of this magnitude does not exist, as research has shown and certainly not in private hands.
It is a rare production of a collaboration of various known and highly skilled artists of their time, men of stature and outstanding in their craft. Sadly, like many great artists, their full recognition was often achieved posthumously.
The proposed line of canal by James Elmes clearly emphasises that it was to start on the Mourne, at a point midway between Lifford and Strabane. This was a new line of canal navigation altogether and definitely not extending from the old Londonderry/Strabane route. It was directed on the right side of the Douglas River towards Newtownstewart and on the similar placement towards Omagh alongside the River Strule.The other proposed route by J. Killally placed the new line on the opposite bank of the river source linking Strabane to Newtownstewart through to Omagh. This line conveyed an extension of the original Strabane Canal. Evidence shows that two proposals were under scrutiny.
The 1821 map clearly identifies that several experienced and expert architects/engineers were being consulted individually and very likely, competitively,at this time. Perhaps even, they were combining as a team to review this proposal. Gabriel Montgomery, the local surveyor as it were, was selected to carry out some necessary manuscripted corrections to the various interpretations of the survey and the report of James Monk.
Gabriel Montgomery`s familiarity with the terrain would have been a vital factor in the planning. He was obviously regarded in the highest esteem by his colleagues.
It appears therefore that this foursome of Elmes, Killally, Monk and Montgomery were employed (probably by the new consortium) to conduct the full survey.If the Duke of Abercorn leased the canal to a business group in 1820, in a private investment venture, then it is almost certain that the Chairman was the Earl of Blessington, whose name is imprinted on the survey. He, most of all would have had a vested interest as, through marriage, he inherited the vast estate and lands of Mountjoy, Newtownstewart and its environs. Charles Gardiner would have gained enormously from the canal as would many of his supporters of the project. The financial rewards from the immediate impact of economic growth would have been staggering by to-day`s standards. Would it have been enough to justify the costs of the development plan at the time?
The map proposal of 1821 provides the information to confirm absolutely that the second or even the third stage of the canal development was at least, heading towards the starting gate, if only on paper. A survey of this proportion would have been very expensive but necessary economically for the region as a whole.
It shows that the renowned expert and canal engineer, J.Killally, was contracted to conduct the initial survey. James Elmes presented the second option ( red line of direction) and J. Monk completed the report. Montgomery`s involvement, it appears, was to make the important corrections, perhaps even to oversee the development.
Killally`s plan was an extension of the existing waterway. Elmes`s suggestion was the creation of a second canal. These are shown in the colour scheme used, the red and yellow tinges. Remarkably, a noticeable feature or symbol is the red square, the suggested commencement point of Elmes`s plan. It could be pure coincidence that this was the bridge point for the railway route which crossed the Mourne at a later date.
Unfortunately, all queries can be laid to rest as the proposal of 1821 faded into the abyss never to resurface. The old map of Elmes and Killally was just a dream!
With the recent historical resurgence of interest in canal waterways generally, this rare survey of 1821 must stand as a testimony to the importance placed on the town at a period of commercial enterprise and economic growth.