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Quay to Unlock Old Memories

20th June 2011
Quay to Unlock Old Memories
The magnificent Tall Ships are not the only rare boats visiting Waterford next week. Coming to salute their past partners in maritime commerce is the fleet of the Heritage Boat Association. Among their number are Grand Canal Company barges 68M and 72M. These veteran boats, in their commercial working life, carried cargos from all over the country along the rivers and canals, to the port of Waterford. From there they were transhipped to the far corners of the world by boats similar to the Tall Ships and their successors.

Cheekpoint was an important milestone on the barges journey, for it was here that the barges turned onto the Suir for the final leg upriver to the ports of Waterford and Carrick. It was also here that the local Eel Fishermen would often cadge a tow from an upriver barge saving them a long and difficult row in their traditional Prongs. In turn the barge men might enjoy a bit of company, a chat over a brew of the 'kittle' on the Bolinder and perhaps a few fresh fish for the supper. And so a fine co-operative grew up between the bargemen and the fishermen that led to many lasting friendships. It is fitting therefore that Cheekpoint once again acts as host to these unique boats, for they enjoy a shared heritage that deserves to be celebrated by both their crews and the local communities.

This year's journey commenced on a frosty morning in March when 68M headed north on the River Shannon and turned onto the Grand Canal north of Banagher. At the same time 72M quietly slipped her moorings in Naas and led the now growing fleet south onto the River Barrow at Athy. At towns and villages along the waterway, communities celebrated the arrival of the Heritage Boats and the revival of the Barrow Navigation, thanks to the excellent work by the engineers and staff of Waterways Ireland. 2011 is a significant year, marking the 220th anniversary of the opening of the Navigation. Five counties are celebrating with a series of events and festivals taking place all year to mark the occasion.

From the June 27th until the July 3rd, the Heritage Boats will be based at Cheekpoint Quay and a wide range of activities are planned with the local community. This visit will highlight the work of the Friends of Cheekpoint Quay to restore the harbour as the focal point of the village.

The Reading Room in the village will be the venue for a River and Maritime and Heritage Boat Association Exhibition. There will be guided walks in Cheekpoint and Faithlegg Woods, a Village Fete on the Green, the launch of the Newfoundland Dory, a Flotilla of Boats from Cheekpoint to Waterford, a School Art Happening and other events.

Published in Inland Waterways Team

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