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Displaying items by tag: Brian Cassells

#inlandwaterways – When English writer LTC Rolt made a round trip from the Shannon to Dublin in 1946, traversing the Grand and Royal Canals, he was considered an eccentric. In the 1940s commercial traffic on the canals and rivers of Ireland had dwindled to almost nothing. Rolt's notion that these waterways could be a source of joy to leisure boaters was considered pure whimsy. But it was the book Rolt published after this trip, Green and Silver, that was to act as inspiration for the formation of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) in 1954.

There were other catalysts, too, that fired up the Association. The swing bridge at Athlone was to be replaced with a fixed span. The Royal Canal had already fallen into disrepair and was closed to navigation. Dublin Corporation proposed to lay a sewer along the Grand Canal and fill it in to make a road. The IWAI determined to oppose the authorities in their attempts to impede and close the network of waterways.

IWAI and the Waterways of Ireland is a celebration of sixty years of the Association doing just that. It begins with a rattle through the waterways themselves – the many rivers, lakes and canals. A short history of the IWAI follows, interesting as much for the names listed at the inaugural meeting as for what was achieved. Two of these were Colonel Harry Rice, retired from the British Army, and Sean McBride, dedicated Republican, politician and Nobel prize winner. Brian Cassells, writer and compiler of this book, comments 'I smile when I think of a dedicated Republican being best friends with a retired Colonel of the British Army.'

This fact says much about the compelling charm of boating in Ireland – it is a great social leveller. The portraits of people include George O'Brien Kennedy, boat designer; Syd Shine, showband leader; Rosemary Furlong, RNLI fundraiser; Jim McGarry, skipper. A diversity of people who were passionate about the rivers and canals, the boats and buildings.

The backbone of the IWAI remains the branches, and these are covered in full. It is the reasons for their creation, and the progress made, that make these descriptions come alive. How local opinion in Kenagh on the Royal Canal was certain it would never be re-opened (it was). Volunteers working on the Lagan Navigation clocking up 11,000 hours to restore Ireland's only flight of four locks. Coalisland branch members who possessed not a boat between them, dedicated to saving their canalside heritage.

The IWAI still has a campaigning role. There are notable successes in the book, given their own special pages – Ram's Island on Lough Neagh, the Royal Canal, and the Boyne Navigation. There is hope for the restoration of the Ulster Canal.

Brian Cassells has put together a book of immense charm, lusciously produced, rich in photographs. There is some repetition of facts, perhaps inevitable in a book with many different contributors. Nonetheless it is a valuable record of, and insight into, an organisation which has been instrumental in safeguarding a network of waterways that is among the most beautiful in Europe.

Published in Inland Waterways
11th October 2010

Talk on Moneypenny Canoe Trail

Historian Brian Cassells will give a 'TALK & SCREEN SHOW' - on buliding the Moneypenny Canoe Trail next Thursday evening at 7pm, October 21st. 

The talk takes place at the Millennium Arts Centre, William Street, Portadown.

More on Northern Ireland's Canoe trails HERE

More on the Moneypenny trail HERE

Inland Waterways

Published in Inland Waterways

Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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