John Killally 1766-1832

The Chief Engineer to the canal company responsible for the extension to Shannon Harbour from Tullamore, County Offaly, was John Killally.

He was responsible for the design, direction and construction of the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal Extension and was regularly involved in numerous engineering projects as Engineer to the Director General of Inland Navigation. He was an important and influential surveyor of this early period of canal initiatives.

As a result of his expertise he received other commissions at home and abroad.  He had the distinction of working alongside another Irish engineer, John Brownrigg (1749-1838).

Killally began his career as a surveyor and worked on a map of Ireland with Beaufort (1739-1821).

In 1794 he was asked to join the Board of the Grand Canal Company, which he did and made an immediate impact as a surveyor and draftsman.  Noticeably, he was destined for greater things.  He received promotion soon afterwards, with an increased salary.

In 1805, the company sent him on a tour of various engineering works in England and Wales where he gained extensive knowledge on canal development and structure.

Around 1810, he resigned from the Grand Canal Company to join the Directors General of Inland Navigation but did remain as a consultant to the company on various queries.

The Directors General of Inland Navigation convinced the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland that essential surveys should be undertaken to define the practicalities of inland waterways.  John Killally was highly recommended and appropriately accepted the challenge.  Despite having numerous other engagements he presented himself as a dedicated professional.

The major aqueduct on the Royal Canal, the Whitworth Aqueduct, was designed by Killally and there is still an inscription underneath it which reads:

“This aqueduct with the entire Royal Canal Extension 24 and a half miles in length, having 21 locks, 38 bridges and 40 tunnels, with several extensive harbours, quays and other works of masonry, was designed by John Killally Esq., Engineer to the Directors

The Canal Engineer

John Killally 1766-1832

General of Inland Navigation and executed under their direction in the short space of 3 years by the undertakers Henry, Mullins and MacMahon.”

As a pioneering canal engineer he spent his life dedicated to improving the development of inland navigation in Ireland and must surely rank among the stalwarts of canal builders of his era.

He was an institution.

In 1799 he married Alicia Hamilton from Tullamore, the daughter of a miller.  Three of his sons followed the same career as their father.  His grandson, Hamilton Hartley Killally, became the first President of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers in 1887.

According to his death notice:

John KillallyEsq., Civil Engineer, died on 6th April 1832 at his residence Williamstown in Tullamore.  His death followed bouts of recurring fever.

The Freeman`s Journal wrote, “the ordinary limits of a daily obituary would be too limited to attempt a biography of this eminent man.  In the walks of his profession he was unequalled in Ireland – in his domestic circle surpassed by none.”