Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Inland afloat headers

Royal Canal's 200th Anniversary Commemorated By President Higgins

30th May 2017
President Higgins Addressing the Crowd at the Royal Canal's 200th Anniversary President Higgins Addressing the Crowd at the Royal Canal's 200th Anniversary

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, commemorated the Royal Canal's 200th Anniversary in the presence of Waterways Ireland, the Royal Canal Amenity Group and invited guests in Clondra, Co Longford on the 27th May 2017. The President unveiled a plaque before speaking at the event in the presence of 300 guests.

The event took place on the anniversary of the day when the canal was completed all the way to the Shannon in 1817. During its heyday, people, coal and crops were moved to Dublin from Arigna Mines, farms and rural communities all over the North West, and people and goods returned. The Royal Canal closed in 1960 and remained closed for 50 years. The Canal reopened to navigation in 2010 following extensive lobbying and volunteer work by the Royal Canal Amenity Group and the work of Waterways Ireland staff. In its 25th year of operation the Royal Canal also saw the mass exodus of people escaping the famine by walking the towpath to Dublin to take a boat to the new world. The largest known group of 1490 people left the Mahon Estate at Strokestown House to walk to Dublin, along the Royal Canal, 175 years ago this week. They were also commemorated as part of the ceremony with President Higgins review of the bronze shoes and plaque on the plinth in Richmond Harbour. The shoes are similar to those given to the 1490 people for their journey to Canada.

As Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, in the 1990's President Higgins had responsibility for the inland waterways in the portfolio. The President drove the re-vitalisation of the canal networks, including the redevelopment of the Royal Canal, through his efforts and funding for works on the canal.

Speaking about the role of the volunteers in the restoration, Matt Kennedy Chairperson of the Royal Canal Amenity Group said "this 145km Linear-parkway owes its existence to the perseverance and hard work by volunteers from the Royal Canal Amenity Group and staff from what is now Waterways Ireland. And as the Royal Canal moves into its next 100 years we look forward to working with Waterways Ireland and indeed all those who are committed to further developing and promoting this wonderful amenity as it moves to link up with walking and cycling routes across Europe"

Dawn Livingstone, Chief Executive, Waterways Ireland spoke saying "President Higgins spoke so eloquently about the Royal Canal and its place in our heritage. The Royal Canal is a wonderful recreational amenity free for all to use. Our partnerships with the local authorities, the boating groups including the Royal Canal Amenity Group, Fáilte Ireland and organisations such as the Irish Heritage Trust, are working to deliver new and exciting visitor experiences along the Royal Canal as such as the Blueway and the National Famine Way. These developments will deliver step change for tourism and the local economy in these areas."

James Osborne, Chairman of the Irish Heritage Trust said: "As the famine walkers set off today, they will not only be walking in the footsteps of the 1,490 Strokestown emigrants, but also helping to blaze a trail for the National Famine Way. It is only fitting that we mark this occasion with the unveiling of a nineteenth-century pair of shoes cast in bronze that is inscribed: “in Memory of the largest known group to have walked the full length of the Royal Canal – the 1,490 Strokestown Famine Emigrants in May of 1847”.

Leave a comment

Whether you're a boat enthusiast, historian, archaeologist, fisherman, or just taken by the natural beauty of Ireland's waterways, you will find something of interest in our Inland pages on Afloat.ie.

Inland Waterways

Ireland is lucky to have a wealth of river systems and canals crossing the country that, while once vital for transporting goods, are today equally as important for angling, recreational boating and of course tourism.

From the Barrow Navigation to the Erne System, the Grand Canal, the Lower Bann, the Royal Canal, the Shannon-Erne Waterway and the Shannon Navigation, these inland waterways are popular year in, year out for anyone with an interest in rambling; flora and fauna; fishing; sailing; motorboating; canoeing, kayaking and waterskiing; and cruising on narrowboats.

Although most will surely identify Ireland's inland waterways with boating holidays and a peaceful afternoon's angling, many varieties of watersport are increasingly favoured activities. Powerboat and Jetski courses abound, as do opportunities for waterskiing or wakeboarding. For those who don't require engine power, there's canoeing and kayaking, as Ireland's waterways have much to offer both recreational paddlers and those looking for more of a challenge. And when it comes to more sedate activities, there's nothing like going for a walk along a canal or river bank following some of the long-distance Waymarked Ways or Slí na Sláinte paths that criss-cross the country.

Ireland's network of rivers, lakes and canals is maintained by Waterways Ireland, which is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement in 1999. The body has responsibility for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of inland navigable waterways on the island of Ireland, principally for recreational purposes. It also maintains Ireland's loughs, lakes and channels which are sought after for sailing; the network of canal locks and tow paths; as well as any buoys, bridges and harbours along the routes.

Along the Grand and Royal Canals and sections of the Barrow Navigation and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, Waterways Ireland is also responsible for angling activities, and charges Inland Fisheries Ireland with carrying out fisheries development, weed management and ensuring water quality.

Brian Goggin's Inland Blog

Giving his personal perspective on Ireland's Inland Waterways from present-day activities to their rich heritage, Brian Goggin tells it like it is with his Inland Blog.

From recognising achievements in management of the waterways to his worries on the costs of getting afloat on Ireland's canals, Goggin always has something important to say.

He also maintains the website Irish Waterways History that serves as a repository for a wealth of historical accounts of the past commercial and social uses alike of Ireland's rivers and canals, which were once the lifeblood of many a rural community.

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

DBSC
nyc sidebutton flag

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

chmarine sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating