Killaly was undoubtedly the most influential Irish-born engineer to work on
Ireland’s canals. His 66-year long life neatly encompassed the Golden Age of
the canal and his magic touch as a designer or supervisor can be found on every
inland waterway in Ireland.
into a Protestant family, his solid school education set him up for gainful
employment as an assistant engineer with the Grand Canal Company in 1791.
the next 16 years, he rose to become their foremost engineer, earning an annual
salary equivalent to €150,000 today. He was subsequently appointed Chief
Engineer to the Director General of Inland Navigation.
out on horseback with compass, level and chain, he surveyed the land through
which many future canals were cut, including the Shannon Navigation between
Athlone and Killaloe, and the 22-mile extension that brought the Grand Canal to
meet the River Shannon at Shannon Harbour. He designed numerous locks and
bridges, as well as the imposing aqueduct that carries the Grand Canal over the
River Barrow at Monasterevin.
By 1822, John Killaly had 21,427
men and 4,889 horses working under him, primarily building new roads and
bridges, or repairing existing ones.
1799, he married Alicia Hamilton, the daughter of one of the leading millers in
the Irish midlands. They settled in Tullamore where they raised four sons and
three daughters. Their eldest son became a prominent engineer in Canada,
overseeing the completion of the Welland Canal, which links the Great Lakes of
Erie and Ontario.
John Killaly's design for lockgates on the Royal Canal Extension
1822, John Killaly had 21,427 men and 4,889 horses working under him, primarily
building new roads and bridges, or repairing existing ones. He died in 1832 and
was interred at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, where there is a monument to
obituary declared: ‘In the walks of his profession, he was unequalled in