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Inland Waterways Newry & Portadown Receive Special Recognition Award from IHAI

19th March 2018
Campbell lock on the Newry Canal Campbell lock on the Newry Canal Photo: IWAI/Facebook

The Newry and Portadown Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) has just been presented with the Special Recognition Award by the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland (IHAI). The presentation was made in Dublin on March 14th at the IHAI Awards 2017. The IHAI aims to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the many thousands of sites, monuments and items of machinery that together constitute our industrial heritage. Every year it recognises individuals and groups that have helped to preserve, restore, and promote heritage sites. This year IWAI Newry and Portadown is the deserving recipient of the Special Recognition Award for its work on restoring and maintaining one of the most important pieces of industrial heritage in the UK and Ireland, namely the Newry Canal.

The Newry Canal commenced construction in 1731 and opened to navigation in 1742. It is a scheduled ancient monument, is the oldest still-water Canal in the UK and Ireland and it provided a template for the many miles of Canal soon to be built in England.

The Canal was built to link the Tyrone coalfields, via Lough Neagh and the Upper Bann, to the Irish Sea at Carlingford Lough. Beginning at the Fathom sea lock near Newry, the Canal ascended through 10 locks to a summit level of 68 feet above sea level. It then descended 22 feet to enter the Upper Bann two miles south of Portadown.

Week after week for the past ten years IWAI Newry and Portadown volunteers can be spotted working along the Canal engaged in a range of tasks from litter picking and controlling invasive species to making and hanging lock gates weighing over 1.5 tons.

Free cycling tours introduce members of the public to the history of the Newry Canal while at the same time allowing volunteers to inspect and monitor work that may need urgent attention along the Canal corridor of 18.5 miles. Through the Interpretative Centre at the Sluice Keeper’s Cottage near Poyntzpass, volunteers educate the public on the historic importance of the Newry Canal. The centre is manned from Spring to Autumn and overlooks the scenic Lough Shark.

IWAI Newry and Portadown prides itself on being tech savvy and has produced an App for mobile devices that gives a virtual tour of the Canal. This was a major piece of work involving walking the length of the Canal with a GPS device and camera. The App features narration by members of IWAI Newry and Portadown.

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