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Water Wags Mark the Restoration of the Boyne Canal at Irish Maritime Festival in Drogheda

11th June 2018
Water Wags are visiting Drogheda as part of the Irish Maritime Festival 2018 Water Wags are visiting Drogheda as part of the Irish Maritime Festival 2018

15 years of dedicated voluntary work by the Boyne Navigation Branch, part of Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, will be celebrated at the Irish Maritime Festival in Drogheda next week.

For many years the Boyne Canal had been closed to vessels. Originally a transport route for bringing cargo and produce to Drogheda Port from Navan, the development of the railways in the early 1900’s saw the demise of river transport. By 1932 the Boyne Canal gates were decaying and sealed up.

Over the past 15 years, a small but dedicated team of Boyne Navigation Branch volunteers, have been working to re-open the channel of the Boyne that leads up to the historic Oldbridge House (site of the Battle of the Boyne). This has been a labour of love requiring both investment and many, many hours of hard graft by these highly-skilled volunteers.

Restoration of the Boyne CanalRestoration of the Boyne Canal

The photos indicate the abandoned state of the canal when they started, the craftsmanship of their restoration work and the beautiful amenity that they’ve created for locals and visitors alike.

Through their efforts, the Boyne Canal is gradually re-opening to small vessels, both sail and motor.

To celebrate, the Water Wags are coming to Drogheda as part of next weekend’s Irish Maritime Festival. The concept for the Wags came from Dublin lawyer Thomas Middleton over 130 years ago. His idea of building a fleet of identical light weight sailing boats to race in Dublin Bay was coming to fruition at the same time that the Boyne Canal was in its heyday.

The Wags will set out from the Boyne Fisherman’s Rescue on Saturday morning, sail through Drogheda and will then approach the Boyne Canal in a procession. The sailors will disembark for a visit to Oldbridge House before sailing back down the river after the Boyne Swim. On Sunday the Water Wags will sail in a Regatta on the River Boyne to delight the festival going audience.

The invitation to the Water Wags to visit Drogheda is an initiative of Drogheda Port Company and Louth County Council. It is facilitated by the teams at the Boyne Navigation Branch (IWAI), Boyne Fisherman’s Rescue and the Office of Public Works.

Colette Moss of Louth County Council explains “Louth County Council and Drogheda Port Company, in conjunction with local groups, are working hard to extend our offering to sailors. Last year we opened Fiddle Case Pier in Drogheda, allowing leisure sailors to visit Drogheda for daytrips and overnights.”

Drogheda’s Harbourmaster Capt. Martin Donnelly continues “The new slipway at the ramparts and the opening up of the Boyne Canal makes the river accessible to smaller vessels. Ultimately the Boyne Branch of the IWAI want to make both Oldbridge and Newgrange accessible by boat from the Irish Sea. We commend their tireless, dedicated work in restoring the Boyne Canal.”

Capt. Donnelly concludes “The River Boyne is one of Drogheda’s greatest attributes and we’re proud to use the Irish Maritime Festival to showcase these features to the sailing community and invite them to discover our town and the Boyne Valley region.”

The Irish Maritime Festival takes place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June and is hosted by Louth County Council in conjunction with Drogheda Port Company. The Festival is proudly sponsored by Virgin Media and supported by Flogas, Glanbia and Fáilte Ireland. For more information visit

Published in Drogheda Port
Vincent Delany

About The Author

Vincent Delany

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Sailing historian Vincent Delany is a member of the Association of Yachting Historians, and an active sailor in Water Wag, SOD and Squib classes. He has written a thesis on 'Yachting and yachtsmen on the River Shannon 1830-1930.' He has lectured on the history of The Water Wag Club, Royal St.George Yacht Club, and the Killinure Yacht Club, He has written two sailing books 'The Water Wags 1887-2012' and 'The International 12 foot class in Ireland' both of which are available from

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