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If you were trying to think of the most utterly rural town in all Ireland, Longford would certainly be among the top ten - maybe tops of all. And our rustic view of it is emphasised by the fact that we access it almost totally by road or rail. Yet when the Vikings arrived among us, they regarded Longford as a seaport which happened to be a long way inland.

They left the evidence of this behind in their now-garbled original name of Longport, which has several translations, but “longships harbour” seems the most likely here. And we find it again at that lovely yet strategically-located inlet of Ballylongford on the south shore of the Shannon Estuary.

 How rural can you get? Longford seems the very image of a country town, yet in their day the Vikings regarded it as a seaport which happened to be far inland How rural can you get? Longford seems the very image of a country town, yet in their day the Vikings regarded it as a seaport which happened to be far inland

THE VIKINGS WERE GOOD FOR US

In the long run, the Viking raids that began in 795AD were apparently a Good Thing. For it was to become a fully population-modifying invasion of sorts by 840AD, at a time when apparently the all-island population had fallen below a million - possibly by a considerable amount. There’d been no significant incursion or full-blown invasions to bring new blood for around a thousand years or more. And it seems the native gene pool was in a very soggy state, perhaps because of the social domination of the great monasteries, even if many of the monks and prelates weren’t determinedly celibate.

The 100ft Sea Stallion – on display here in Collins Barracks in 2007 - was a Danish replica of a Viking ship originally built in Dublin of timber from Glendalough in 1042. At the time of her visit in 2007, she received a mixed reception, but recent research suggests that the addition of Viking genes was – in the long run – of great benefit to the declining Irish populationThe 100ft Sea Stallion – on display here in Collins Barracks in 2007 - was a Danish replica of a Viking ship originally built in Dublin of timber from Glendalough in 1042. At the time of her visit in 2007, she received a mixed reception, but recent research suggests that the addition of Viking genes was – in the long run – of great benefit to the declining Irish population

Adopting such a coldly analytical look at the state of the national human bloodstock may seem a bit extreme. But in Cheltenham Week of all weeks, the significance of strong bloodlines and healthy breeding choices is not questioned in the equine world, so why not with people?

A WHIFF OF EUGENICS

We may be reluctant to do so, as there’s more than a whiff of eugenics about it, and that tends to get a bad press. But while the monasteries – the heart of mini-university states in their larger examples - had huge significance locally, that was about it. For though their power within their local communities was if anything greater than ever, their peak years of intellectual industry, exploration and internationally significant missionary achievement were long gone. And the people living around them, looking to the monasteries as the ultimate centre of much in their way of life, were arguably a population whose general physical and intellectual quality was degenerating.

Be that as it may, the Vikings – admittedly using rather crude methods – reversed this genetic decline, such that if you’re called Doyle, McLaughlin, MacManus, O’Rourke, Cotter, Sweetman, Harford, McBirney and many other now respected names notably associated with success, you’ll be glad the Vikings came to call.

You want something done? Get a Viking to do it. The late Denis Doyle brought many very welcome developments to Irish sailingYou want something done? Get a Viking to do it. The late Denis Doyle brought many very welcome developments to Irish sailing

MURPHY WAS ALWAYS COMING TO CALL

That said, our most frequent surname of Murphy may mean “sea warrior” or more accurately “Warrior from the Sea”, yet it lacks solely Viking connections. This surely suggests that throughout Irish history, all the time from overseas there arrived on our coasts energetic people - either as sole traders or small groups - who charmed their way into coastal communities, and in time into the top slot in the numbers game in Irish surnames.

Which makes it ironic that though our top surnames numerically speaking will include the originally very nautical Murphy and Doyle, these days you’d say we were more of a significantly aviation nation than a maritime one. Perhaps you could argue we’re now tops at organising the sailing of the skies.

Denis Doyle’s new Frers 51 Moonduster in 1981. Built in his own Crosshaven Boatyard, she became a splendid flagship for the Irish offshore racing fleet for twenty years.Denis Doyle’s new Frers 51 Moonduster in 1981. Built in his own Crosshaven Boatyard, she became a splendid flagship for the Irish offshore racing fleet for twenty years.

SEEING THE SEA AND INLAND WATERWAYS SEPARATELY

Either way, these days we tend – unlike the Vikings - to regard sea sailing and our myriad inland waterways as having become discernibly different areas of interest. Though there are many overlaps and the wonderful Shannon One Designs are in a world of their own, it’s not pushing it too much to suggest that sea sailors and the inland waterways meanderers are now two separate tribes.

Tribal inter-mixing? Denis Doyle, Joe Fitzgerald and Douglas Heard at an ICC rally on Lough Ree. Photo: W M NixonTribal inter-mixing? Denis Doyle, Joe Fitzgerald and Douglas Heard at an ICC rally on Lough Ree. Photo: W M Nixon

These weird ramblings into the mists of Viking times and on the current situation ’twixt land and sea have been occasioned by the arrival in the post of the Spring 2024 issue of IWN, otherwise Inland Waterway News, the quarterly journal of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.

It’s a magazine I enjoy reading very much, not just for its varied and informative contents, but also for the very good reason that I have absolutely no responsibility for creating any of those contents. For even in this era of 24/7 rolling news, a boats-and-water-oriented wordsmith can have more deadlines than is good for either writer or reader.

BOYHOOD CRUISING UNDER SAIL ON THE INLAND WATERWAYS

That isn’t to say that your columnist hasn’t done quite a bit of inland waterways cruising. In fact, the first cruising venture of any kind, with a 14ft Ballyholme Insect class sailing dinghy and a tiny tent, was in 1957 from Portadown downriver along the Upper Bann to cross the very large and seemingly boat-less Lough Neagh eastabout, and then on via the Lower Bann to salt water at Coleraine.

Our mini teach-yourself sail training ship – the Ballyholme Insect Class 14ft dinghy Grasshopper, recently restored on Sketrick Island in Strangford Lough, sailed the navigable length of the River Bann and across Lough Neagh in 1957Our mini teach-yourself sail training ship – the Ballyholme Insect Class 14ft dinghy Grasshopper, recently restored on Sketrick Island in Strangford Lough, sailed the navigable length of the River Bann and across Lough Neagh in 1957

There, we were able to comply with parental instructions not to try sailing home to Belfast Lough via the Atlantic and Rathlin Sound by somehow getting a lorry to bring us back to Bangor, for road trailers for the heavy Insects were virtually unknown.

That was in a world now gone. Indeed, it started to change the following year, when the government of Northern Ireland lowered Lough Neagh by nearly six feet, which meant that many of the delightful little harbours we’d visited were soon disappearing beneath undergrowth at some distance from the lake waters. Those lake waters were clear at the time, but are now algae-plagued in summer, for when they use fancy chemicals in northern farming, they seek rapid results and don’t mess about.

THE LOUGH NEAGH CLUB SAILING SCENE

While there’d been a small sailing scene on Lough Neagh before the Great War of 1914-1918, that Armageddon halted most significance inter-war development. But after World War II by 1948, Lough Neagh Sailing Club at Kinnego near Lurgan – originally founded in 1897 – was becoming more lively.

Yet by the time we were sailing the lough in 1957, the removal of petrol rationing and the greater available of cars meant the keener sailors were finding more worthwhile competition for their racing at salt water venues, particularly on Strangford Lough where the late great George Bloch of Lurgan - formerly noted for sailing the old Belfast Lough No 3 Shulah on Lough Neagh – made his move tangible by buying a new Glen OD in 1951 to race with the growing Whiterock fleet of Strangford Lough YC Glens.

The late George Bloch’s former Belfast Lough Number III class Shulah on Lough Neagh in 1950The late George Bloch’s former Belfast Lough Number III class Shulah on Lough Neagh in 1950

LAST TRANSIT OF LOUGH NEAGH’S NEWRY CANAL

As to Lough Neagh sailors’ interaction with the commercially declining inland waterways which had served their great lake, they’d left their mark in that architect Philip Bell of LNSC, with his own-designed 7-ton cruising sloop Owen Roe, was recorded in 1936 as the last boat of any kind to transit the Newry Canal which connected Lough Neagh to the sea at Carlingford Lough.

But in time he too moved to Strangford Lough YC at Whiterock, with the result that his son Adrian Bell and life-partner Maeve McKeown were moved along a sailing trajectory whose emphasis moved from Lough Neagh to Strangford Lough through several boat classes, of which the most notable was the International Fireball in which they were world standard for several years. And now Adrian and Maeve have become pillars of the Irish Cruising Club with a particularly interest in exploring the Baltic Sea.

STRONGER SOUTHERN INTERACTION BETWEEN LAKES AND SEA

Thus there was a small interaction between northern lake sailing the inland waters, and sea sailing, which was also seen further west in the more active sailing activity on Lough Erne. But further south, with the new 1922-vintage Shannon One Designs making an impressive sea sailing debut on Dublin Bay in the sailing events of the 1924 Tailteann Games where they won the Gold Medal against the Dublin Bay Water Wags, the interaction between sea, canal, river and lake was much more active, as the numbers involved were considerable.

Shannon One Designs racing on Lough Derg. It was the first boats from Lough Derg YC in 1924 that came home with the Gold Medal from the Tailteann Games Sailing Events in Dublin Bay.

Typical of them was the young Dr Alf Delaney of Longford, who was a leading figure in the Shannon One Design Class while his family kept a “mother ship motor yacht” on the North Shannon. But as the SODs only came fully to life for their regatta weeks on Lough Ree and Lough Deg in August, his enthusiasm was such that every Saturday morning in other summer months he’d drive his little car to the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire in order to race-prepare the Water Wag of Dr Harry Murphy, for whom he crewed.

THE MURPHY RACE PREPARATION TECHNIQUE

You might like to think Dr Murphy was busy making special visits to ailing patients. But in fact he was almost invariably to be found in a bar called the Bodega in the fashionable heart of Dublin, sampling sherries with some old cronies while knowing that even if he arrived in Dun Laoghaire at the last minute on the rather relaxed commuter trains of the day, young Alf would have the boat ready and out they’d go, quite often to a win.

Weird as it was, this setup reflected a close and comfortable relationship between sea sailors and their inland waterways counterparts. It was well reflected in a key event of 1954, an achievement by Irish Dinghy Racing Association President Douglas Heard. His breadth of interests is reflected in the fact that he was to become Royal St George YC Commodore for 1960 to 1965, but meanwhile in 1954 he set out to transit the almost moribund Royal Canal from Dublin to the North Shannon with his cleverly converted former ship’s lifeboat Hark, so called because he enjoyed cruising the inland waterways with such an eclectic collection of friends that Hark was an abbreviation of Heard’s Ark.

HEARD’S ARK HEADS NORTHWEST

The friends for what was rightly assumed would be the last transit of the neglected Royal Canal were in keeping with the best Hark traditions, as they included noted offshore sailor Dr Rory O’Hanlon (who was later to take his Dragon Firedrake through the Grand Canal for Lough Derg cruising) and Alf Delaney’s brother Vincent, a top sailor on lake and sea whose wife Ruth (nee Healy, later she was Mrs Douglas Heard) was to become a leading authority and writer on the convoluted history of Ireland’s inland waterways.

Men of many interests. Douglas Heard (left) and Rory O’Hanlon aboard the latter’s Peter Brett 37 Tjaldur at a Cruising Club of America meet in Nova Scotia in 1967. Photo: Des BarringtonMen of many interests. Douglas Heard (left) and Rory O’Hanlon aboard the latter’s Peter Brett 37 Tjaldur at a Cruising Club of America meet in Nova Scotia in 1967. Photo: Des Barrington

ROYAL CLOSURE IN 1961, MIRACULOUS RE-OPENING IN 2010

They were right in assuming this would be the last transit of the old-style Royal Canal even if it did not officially close until 1961, and they were right in assuming that for many years the attractive waterway (it was much more scenic than the rival Grand Canal) would gradually fade from much of the national consciousness.

Yet in 2010 the Royal Canal – with many modern improvements, yet still retaining its basic character – was re-opened all the way from Dublin to Richmond Harbour at the Shannon near Longford.
We make a point that it’s “near Longford”, for today’s perception of Longford town as being uttterly rural is reinforced by the fact that its old harbour – reached by a short canal from the Shannon - has become a car park, whereas Richmond Harbour is a gem of a place, complete with its own antique dry dock.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN IRISH YACHTING ASSOCIATION AND INLAND WATERWAYS ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND

Though there were many factors involved in this remarkable re-birth of the Royal Canal in 2010, there’s no doubt that the foundation of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland in 1954 – 70 years ago this year - had seeded a thriving organisation that has gone from strength to strength to become a national force in maintaining and improving our myriad waterways.

Thus it made for a fascinating organisational difference from another body with which Douglas Heard was closely involved, the Irish Dinghy Racing Association. Founded in 1946 – just eight years before the IWAI came into being - the IDRA was seen as subservient to the powerful clubs, and when the late Clayton Love Jnr headed up its re-development to become the Irish Yachting Association in 1962, he found he’d a challenge persuading some of the more ancient clubs that the new IYA could provide the same services as the British authority, which had further enhanced its attraction by morphing smoothly from being the Yacht Racing Association into the grand new classy-sounding Royal Yachting Association.

POWERFUL CLUBS

And even when the IYA did gain traction, it was a fact that more than a dozen Irish yacht clubs were larger and wealthier organisations than this new “national authority”. This was so much the case that I wrote more than one analysis, pointing out that the President of the IYA, whosoever he or she might be, was for all the world like the monarch of a rather weak mediaeval state who struggled on as best they could, while being troublingly surrounded by restless warlords who were only nominally under their control.

The IWAI headquarters at Dunrovin on Lough Ree – opened in 2022 – is essentially functional and incorporates the Lough Ree Lifeboat StationThe IWAI headquarters at Dunrovin on Lough Ree – opened in 2022 – is essentially functional and incorporates the Lough Ree Lifeboat Station

But the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, by contrast, stated out with an enthusiastic central committee and officer board that gradually expanded the Association through accredited local branches such that now, thanks to Inland Waterways News receiving updates from appointed correspondents with every branch, this quarterly magazine provides one of out best available resources for getting a sense of what’s going in all over the country, albeit through the narrow lens of inland waterways interest.

It works so well that even local waterways which have no chance of ever being connected to the main all-Ireland system, such as the Slaney and the Boyne, have their IWAI branches providing enthusiastic updates of what’s going on in their own little world.

ALL IRELAND WATERWAYS IRELAND

This sense of an all-island spread is helped by the maintenance and development of all the waterways being under the control of Waterways Ireland, one of the few all-island bodies proposed in the Good Friday agreement that actually came into being, with its headquarters in Enniskillen and service yards – some laden in history, others more recent additions – in every main waterway centre.

This natural spread is reflected in the “consumer association”, the IWAI, as the current President Kay Baxter of Boyle in Roscommon would count Lough Key as her home water, while IWN is put together by Alison Alderton in Galway, and other officers are found nationwide.

IWAI HQ HONOURS FOUNDER MEMBER

Nevertheless they do have a purpose-built HQ on Lough Ree at Dunrovin which is shared wit the local lifeboat. The building’s existence goes back to the foundation years when a key figure in the IWAI was a retired Indian Army Colonel, Harry Rice, who’d settled with his wife Cynthia in a little lakeside dwelling they determinedly called Dunrovin whatever snooty folk might say.

They left Dunrovin to the IWAI, and after much thought as to how best to rebuild it, although the very functional building now on the site is very different from the old Rice home, it would be absolute sacrilege to call it anything else.

CHANGE IN EMPHASIS OF WATERWAYS?

And as the designated HQ of the IWAI, this is a place of importance, for today the true purpose of the inland waterways is sometimes being lost through people discovering that the towpaths provide ideal facilities for walking, cycling, running or whatever.

At first, Waterways Ireland tried to adapt to this by referring to “Blueways”. But now events and re-namings have overtaken them, and we learn that the up-graded Royal Canal Greenway has been so lauded and awarded that boats are barely getting a look in.

DISTURBING DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES

Thus this new issue of Inland Waterways News has a disturbing item about Rhode Quay on the Grand Canal between Ticknevin and Ballycommon, at a rural spot that would be completely unknown in the middle of nowhere were it not for the fact that the Grand Canal brought boats to it and through it.

It seems that while “a huge amount of work and money” has gone into improving the greenway facilities even unto a car park, all that boats wishing to berth at the quay can avail of is one bollard, “a rotting stump”, while the quay wall urgently needs maintenance, and there are no other boat-help facilities, not even a water tap.

Waterway Ireland’s official response to the local IWAI branch was that “Rhode Quay is included in Waterway Ireland yearly Annual Maintenance plan and works will be carried out there this year including grass cutting, vegetation maintenance, and general quay wall maintenance”.

Now admittedly the waterways Ireland “estate” is a huge and complex thing, and the allocation of resources in terms of staff, equipment and so forth can become very thin spread. But nevertheless it’s a bit thought-provoking to reflect that the boat people, the enthusiasts who managed to save these priceless waterways, are now feeling somewhat shunted aside as the global mania for easy exercise takes over their canals for other purposes.

HIDDEN MESSAGE OF IWN COVER?

But before we start to throw blame around, it’s worthwhile considering the evocative cover of this new issue of IWN. It was taken in the off-season along the Royal Canal, at the place where it almost reaches Lough Ree at Ballymahon before peeling away northwards towards distant Richmond Harbour.

It’s so atmospheric and all-accessible that the initial inclination is simply to accept the healthy image it projects. But what’s this? The admirable towpath cyclist is actually taking a photo with the mobile as they pedal along – indeed, they may even be using the video option. Yet despite the nearness of deep cold water, that’s a backpack they’re wearing, not a lifejacket. And finally, while the Royal Canal may be one of the most romantically crazy waterways projects ever undertaken in Ireland - which is saying a lot – there’s simply not a boat to be seen, not one.

 Mixed messages? As the IWAI starts to celebrate its 70th anniversary, the latest cover of its excellent quarterly journal seems to accept that, for many people, boating is only one function of Ireland’s myriad canal system Mixed messages? As the IWAI starts to celebrate its 70th anniversary, the latest cover of its excellent quarterly journal seems to accept that, for many people, boating is only one function of Ireland’s myriad canal system

Could it be that we’re all unconsciously coming round to the view that our canals and canalised rivers are now most useful for the much-needed project of easily improving the national condition of health and wellbeing, while sending boats along them has become secondary?

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

Ireland’s inland boating season officially reopens from March 17th, in line with other European countries, with all services and facilities once again accessible at the extensive range of moorings and harbours across Ireland. Over 15,000 registered boats avail of Ireland’s navigations for recreational use, with Waterways Ireland looking forward to welcoming their return to the water throughout the spring and summer seasons.

Waterways Ireland provides a range of services and facilities at over 250 amenity sites across the 1,100km of navigable waterways. These range from waterfront rural sites with parking and a mooring or quay wall to semi-urban and urban waterside sites with floating moorings electricity, toilets and showers. Local businesses, including cafes, restaurants, bike and water activity rentals, will also benefit from the new and returning boaters visiting their communities throughout the peak seasons.

Since 2002, Waterways Ireland has invested over €100m along the Shannon Navigation and Shannon-Erne Waterway alone with significant investments across other navigations. This investment has created an international boating destination capable of attracting and accommodating thousands of boaters and visitors, both from home and abroad, to enjoy the Shannon and Shannon-Erne facilities and experience the wonders of Ireland’s Hidden Heartland.

In addition, boaters returning to the waters will enjoy several new and refurbished facilities opening this year that will enhance boaters’ waterways experience. This includes a refurbished and extended Connaught Harbour in Portumna and a new section of Blueway in Portumna, linking Connaught Harbour and Castle Harbour. Extension work on jetties on the Erne at Devenish Island will also be finished shortly, and a Service Block Refurbishment (Ballyconnell and Ballinamore) will be underway this spring.

175 locks and chambers, and 360 bridges are ready to operate for the season ahead across the Grand Canal, Royal Canal, Shannon, Shannon-Erne, Erne, Barrow, and Lower Bann navigations.

Commenting on the season reopening, Inspector of Navigation, Paddy Harkin said: “As the boating season reopens, we look forward to welcoming locals and visitors back to enjoy everything the waterways have to offer. Each year, we’re seeing boating increase in popularity, and it affords visitors a fantastic opportunity to immerse themselves in nature in a way they might not have experienced before. At Waterways Ireland, we ask boaters to please remember to be safe when out on the water and to always make sure to have boat safety equipment such as life jackets and fire extinguishers on board. We would like to wish everyone an enjoyable and safe boating experience in 2024.”

Published in Inland Waterways

Waterways Ireland advises masters of vessels and waterways users on the Royal Canal in Co Kildare that a kayaking event will take place over a distance of 2.5km either side of Pike Bridge between Maynooth and Leixlip on Saturday 11 February.

It’s expected that some 30 kayaks will be involved. Masters of vessels are requested to proceed with additional caution in the vicinity of the event.

Published in Inland Waterways

The inland waterways will be celebrated at Killaloe next month, the quintessential waterways town on the River Shannon in Co.Clare.

Called ‘LUA’, it will be “a celebration of wild water at the ancient settlement of Killaloe, which is a gift of the Shannon, ” says Rev.Paul Fitzpatrick, Dean’s Vicar at St.Flannan’s Cathedral in Killaloe, who has designed the event “to explore our evolving engagement with wild water and how best to individually and collectively irrigate a more beneficial relationship with it, both culturally and environmentally.”

Rev Paul Fitzpatrick and members of his Killaloe congregationRev Paul Fitzpatrick and members of his Killaloe congregation

It will take place from Friday, September 16, through Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, with an exhibition on the theme of waterways and the environment and a presentation by the Director of the AK ILEN project, Gary McMahon, about the restoration of Ireland’s last sailing schooner.

"Called ‘LUA’, it will be “a celebration of wild water at the ancient settlement of Killaloe"

Killaloe is “incredible with maritime history, rooted in the ancient and contemporary, revolving around the life and times of what is the treasure of the maritime and the inland waterways,” says Rev. Fitzpatrick, an enthusiastic boater on the Shannon himself.

Listen to him on the Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney

An official key-handover ceremony took place this week in Coosan between the RNLI and the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI). The RNLI built the new permanent Lough Ree Lifeboat station and the new Dunrovin IWAI HQ on an IWAI site at Coosan. A portion of the site has been leased by the IWAI for the sole purpose of locating the new permanent lifeboat station on the shores of Lough Ree.

Present at the key handover ceremony was the IWAI President Alan Kelly and Vice-President Kay Baxter to accept the keys on behalf of the association and its members. Also present were the members of the IWAI Dunrovin Development Committee who have worked on this project for the past seven years. Representing the RNLI was Chris Scully RNLI Regional Estates Manager and project lead and RNLI Lifesaving Lead Owen Medland

Dunrovin Development Committee Chair Martin Donnelly in his opening remarks at the ceremony said “Any project of this magnitude is a challenging undertaking but delivering a lifeboat station and a clubhouse, for two charities during a pandemic is a testament to the resilience, determination, and commitment the IWAI and RNLI have to waterways users.

RNLI Regional Estates Manager Chris Scully, IWAI President Alan Kelly (IWAI Kildare), IWAI Vice-President Kay Baxter (IWAI Boyle)RNLI Regional Estates Manager Chris Scully, IWAI President Alan Kelly (IWAI Kildare), IWAI Vice-President Kay Baxter (IWAI Boyle)

Mr. Donnelly added “For the past seven years the IWAI Dunrovin Development Committee has worked voluntarily, despite the challenges, to ensure this joint build was delivered. Without the enormous efforts of the committee and our membership support, this project would never have gotten over the line. We have worked hand in hand with the RNLI team initially from RNLI HQ Poole Dorset and more recently from the Swords RNLI HQ. This work ensures this part of the River Shannon and Lough Ree has a permanent lifeboat station fit for purpose, manned by local volunteers and providing essential rescue services.”

Mr. Donnelly went on to highlight the significance of the project for the wider area “What has been delivered here for both organisations is a vote of confidence in our water-based activities and in the future. With the increasing focus on outdoor activity and the growing love of our environment and waterways, there will be a rise in participation in water sports and an increase in visitor numbers looking to participate in water-based activities. With the new lifeboat station at Coosan, they can feel safe knowing the RNLI is at hand should the need arise. The IWAI as a charity has a strong ethos of delivering for the greater good so this key handover ceremony is a significant occasion for the IWAI Dunrovin Development Committee who delivered handsomely the largest project ever undertaken by the IWAI for the benefit of the whole organisation.”

In handing over the key RNLI Regional Estates Manager Chris Scully said “On behalf of the RNLI and everyone connected with the planning and construction of this permanent Lough Ree Lifeboat Station at Dunrovin, I'd like to thank the IWAI for providing the site for our operations and working so closely with us over the past number of years to bring this build to fruition. The last few years have been particularly challenging for us all and the IWAI support to the RNLI has been welcome and warm. We are proud that following 10 years in a temporary facility, we have delivered a permanent Lifeboat station on Lough Ree, which is purpose-built for our volunteer crews. It is a fitting home, with all the necessary facilities to maintain a professional rescue service for the local community and wider waterways users.”

He continued 'We have a long and proud history of working with the inland waterways and for many years they have generously contributed annually to our fundraising efforts which we hope will continue into the future. The RNLI is independent and depends on voluntary fundraising and donations to maintain its rescue service. This is a special partnership that will continue into the future. In handing over the key, he concluded “Congratulations, it’s time to collect the keys”

In accepting the keys to Dunrovin Alan Kelly IWAI President said “This is a momentous occasion for the IWAI. Dunrovin as a site has been in our ownership for many years. The site was generously bequeathed by Harry and Cynthis Rice whose love of the waterways and place in history as founding members of this organisation is legendary.

The IWAI President continued “While I may have marked the sod-turning virtually, I am honoured to be here physically on the site of our new IWAI HQ for this key handing over ceremony. This is a historical occasion us as we have finally fulfilled our ambition to have a home for the IWAI on the site where the all-Ireland organisation was first conceived. Dunrovin is our spiritual home, and it is fitting that we share this site with the RNLI.”

In referring to the RNLI Mr. Kelly said “Our relationship with the RNLI is a long and close one and I know all water lovers all over Ireland owe a debt of gratitude to them. This strategic partnership has been ably steered by Martin Donnelly and the IWAI Dunrovin Development Committee and I look forward to a long and happy future working together as neighbours as we use this facility for all our activities.

On funding for the build, Mr Kelly acknowledged “Dunrovin would not have been delivered without the unstinting support and financial donations from our IWAI members and branches. We are an all-Ireland organisation and people up and down the country put their hands in their pockets and generously contributed to the build. None of us were in a position to run fundraising events over the past two years and had to rely on our own people to support the project. The appeal was responded to individually and collectively with overwhelming generosity, a testament to the character and strength of this great all Ireland organisation.

We also give thanks to our corporate sponsors who during challenging times supported us and we will certainly acknowledge this support. I can guarantee our members will practically support the sponsorship by doing business with those sponsors. I also acknowledge the generous support of the general public, Westmeath Local Community Development, and Waterways Ireland.”

IWAI Vice President, Kay Baxter said “I know from talking to people there is a real appetite among the members and branches to get out on the water and run events and activities at our new Dunrovin IWAI HQ and I am proud to say that in 2022, after many years they will finally be able to do so. Prior to the strategic partnership with RNLI and the joint development, the site in Coosan was ably looked after by the Dunrovin trustees Michal Martin, Damien Delany, and the IWAI Athlone branch. We owe a debt of gratitude to both for their tireless work over many years, in the background”

Ms. Baxter finished by saying “I can promise you that we will plan a launch event for Dunrovin where we will celebrate the opening of the facility and cut the ribbon and personally thank all those who have supported this project along its journey.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Tagged under

Have you ever wondered how Ireland’s rivers got their names, how the canal network came into being, or what a lockkeeper does? These are just some facets of Ireland’s navigable waterways explored in a new podcast series from Waterways Ireland called “Waterways Through Time”. Presented by historian Turtle Bunbury, the eight-part series takes the listener through the history and archaeology of Ireland’s waterways, including the canal network; how rivers and lakes were named; the archaeological legacy of the Mesolithic; Neolithic and Bronze Age periods; the geological origins of the rivers and lakes and the land through which the canals were cut. Ireland’s early Christian settlements along the inland waterways are also explored. The series also features interviews with lockkeepers on the Barrow navigation, the Shannon, and the Grand Canal.

This is the first podcast series commissioned by Waterways Ireland. It complements other resources in the organisation’s digital archive. Commenting, Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, John McDonagh said: “Ireland has a rich inland water heritage. Through this series, we are placing this heritage centre stage to perpetuate these unique and inspiring insights. Waterways Ireland has a wonderful digital archive featuring thousands of drawings, sketches, and records of the Irish inland waterways, dating from the 18th century to the present day. The podcast series complements our oral history programme and the ‘Stories from the Waterways’ film series, which are available on the Waterways Ireland website. We encourage people of all ages to listen to these podcasts and to visit our digital archive, which will add to their enjoyment of our waterways.”

Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD added: “I would like to commend Waterways Ireland on another wonderful project that captures Ireland’s unique waterways heritage. This series is an important oral history tool that records the guests’ stories and memories and makes them easily accessible to the public.”

The podcast series was developed and presented by well-known historian Turtle Bunbury. He said: “The series contains a mix of stories, historical events and contemporary interviews with people associated with the waterways. This was a fascinating project on which to work. It was truly a pleasure to research and develop it. Chatting to those connected to the waterways and weaving together the various myths, legends and historical facts to tell the stories of the waterways has been a wonderful experience that gives a new perspective on our inland waterway heritage.”

Launched in 2021, the Waterways Ireland digital archive explores more than 200 years of Irish waterways. It contains a range of collections, from engineering maps and drawings, an oral history collection and donated collections of slides, photographs, videos, and documents. It can be found here.

The podcast series is now available on all podcast outlets from late February 2022.

Episode Details:

1. The Flow of Time
An overview of the podcast series, including an introduction to Waterways Ireland and the various rivers, lakes, canals, and navigations that it is entrusted with managing. This episode also provides a potted history of the creation of the canal network in Ireland, explaining how and why they were conceived and how and why the great project failed.
2. Goddesses of the Water
Irish rivers and loughs are named for a deity from the annals of mythology. Most are goddesses of the Tuatha de Danaan. Some are from the Fir Bolg. Others involve the likes of Finn MacCool and the Children of Lir. In this episode Turtle tracks the origin of these names and provides a colourful retelling of the legends associated with Ireland’s original waterways.
3. Of Glaciers and Crannogs
A look at the geological origins of Ireland’s rivers and lakes, and the land through which the canals were cut, as well as the archaeological legacy of the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age periods which gave rise to burial tombs, log-boats, bog-roads and crannogs in and around waterways, such as the Shannon, the Barrow, the Erne and the Bann.
4. Spiritual Waters, Part 1: Saints and Scholars
This episode tracks the early Christian settlement along the River Barrow, and the birth of monastic schools along the Shannon and the Boyne at Clonmacnoise, Clonfert and Clonard.
5. Spiritual Waters, Part 2: Hermits and Island Monasteries
Homing in on some of the 51 island monasteries on Ireland’s inland waterways, such as Lough Erne, Lough Key and Lough Ree, this episode tells the story of some of the hermits and anchorites who lived in such places.
6. The Barrow Interview: John O’Neill
A brief overview of the Barrow Navigation homing in on John O’Neill and his late aunt Maggie Gorman, lockkeepers, as well as the tales of his father rowing across the river to work, and the gimlet used by the Guinness bargemen to tap the casks.
7. The Shannon Interview: Elizabeth Higgins
One of Ireland’s three lady lockkeepers discusses her unusual experiences on the Shannon, with contextual background on the area of the river which she patrols and manages.
8. The Grand Canal Interview: Alan Lindley
A potted history of the Grand Canal and the Barrow Navigation, told through an interview with Alan Lindley, whose family have been on the locks since the canal was constructed in the 1790s.

Published in Inland
Tagged under

Nichola Mallon MLA, Minister for Infrastructure today (24th November) met with Waterways Ireland CEO John McDonagh at its Headquarters in Enniskillen.

John Mc Donagh briefed Minister Mallon on a range of key projects including the 10-year Strategy and Waterways Ireland’s draft Climate Action Plan which is currently undergoing public consultation.

Waterways Ireland is the custodian of Ireland’s inland navigable waterways and sees climate change as a critical challenge for the organisation and its stakeholders. As the body responsible for vital shared heritage across Ireland and Northern Ireland, there is an opportunity and a responsibility to take a leadership role in climate action. Waterways Ireland has identified transformative and innovative ways to engage in climate action initiatives over the lifetime of the plan to reduce emissions by at least 51% and improve energy efficiency by at least 50%. It also addresses Waterways Ireland’s aim to be a net-zero organisation by 2050.

"Waterways Ireland’s aim is to be a net-zero organisation by 2050"

Under the draft plan, Waterways Ireland commits to considering climate action in decisions around the acquisition, operation, maintenance and disposal of its assets, as well as the procurement of energy, consumables and third-party services. These activities will be supported by targeted actions and initiatives in priority areas to implement climate mitigation and adaptation measures. Progress in achieving key results will be measured quarterly, ensuring that activities are agile and can keep pace with carbon budgets and other measures developed for the sector.

John Mc Donagh Waterways Ireland CEO said “I welcome Minister Mallon to Waterways Ireland, to share our vision & plans for the future We are custodians of the incredible natural and built heritage with which we have been entrusted. Over the next 10 years, we have an ambitious plan to reimagine and develop a sustainable waterway network which contributes significantly to the recreation, social, economic and environmental life in our communities.”

Published in Inland Waterways

Waterways Ireland advises the following reopening of facilities will occur on Thursday 03 December 2020.

Navigational Use

  • Shannon Navigation - Locks and Bridges will be open on Winter Hours. Times are available on the Waterways Ireland website. There continues to be no charge for Lock passage.
  • Shannon Navigation - Vessels can avail of the Winter Moorings facility by applying online.
  • Shannon Erne Waterway - Locks will be open, operating Hours - 09:00hrs to 16:00hrs daily.
  • Shannon Navigation & Shannon- Erne Waterway - Waterways Ireland service blocks will re-open (only those that operate all year round)
  • Grand Canal / Royal Canal / Barrow Line & Navigation – Normal winter arrangements will apply.

General Navigation Guidelines

Navigation remains open within your home county until 18 December. From 18th Dec to 6th Jan 2021 the navigation is open outside of your home county.

When on jetties please be aware of other users. Wait or move aside to allow others to pass at a safe distance.

Observe social distancing protocols - keep a distance of at least 2m (6 feet) away from other people;

Be mindful of others and act always with consideration and with respect and observe the leave no trace principles and protect our environment;

Observe all health etiquettes when on the towpaths.

In all instances, social distancing must be maintained keeping your distance from both other people and moored boats. Please refer to your relevant representative body for guidance on the most appropriate health and safety precautions and advice.

Published in Inland Waterways

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland has cancelled its Council Meeting scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 7th.

IWAI President Alan Kelly has advised that due to the increased risk posed by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and that cases of Coronavirus have now been
confirmed North, South, East and West it has been decided to cancel the IWAI Council meeting scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 7th.

The IWAI says it is keeping the situation 'under review' and a decision made about the AGM (scheduled for April 25) at a later date.

Tagged under

A historic railway bridge in south west Wexford, reports New Ross Standard, has raised concern in that the structure which has been out of use for a decade is being left to rot and could eventually fall into the river.

Former Labour county councillor Denis North, who worked for CIE for 45 years, including 13 years operating the bridge, said the central span may fall into the River Barrow in years to come if it isn't maintained and returned to use.

Irish Rail CEO Jim Meade informed Mr North in May that there is no proposal to close the Barrow Bridge.

'The Barrow Bridge operating equipment is very old and requires significant resources to maintain and operate,' Mr Meade wrote.

He said: 'While the railway line is suspended, the focus of operation has been to support the Port of New Ross shipping operations in line with our statutory responsibility for the bridge operation.'

He said: 'In order to ensure the consistent delivery of the required shipping lane access for the Port of New Ross, we have reviewed the operation with the Port of New Ross Chief Executive and our Chief Civil engineer and propose to temporarily secure the bridge in the open position for shipping traffic, to improve the navigation controls and lighting on the bridge to a required standard and to allow the remote monitoring of bridge operations. The effect of this proposed change will ensure the reliability of the operation for maritime navigation and reduce our operations and infrastructure costs in the meantime.'

For more on the story click this link. 

Published in Irish Ports
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Beneteau 211 sailing in Ireland

A small, fast cruiser/racer – in style very much a miniature Open 60 or early Figaro, the Beneteau First 211 offers high sailing performance for her size, plus simple accommodation for up to four people.
The boat is very dinghy-style to sail, although the keel makes her self-righting, and foam buoyancy renders her unsinkable, according to the French manufacturer.

Designed by Groupe Finot and introduced in 1998 as a replacement model for the 1992 model First 210, the Beneteau First 211 is a small high-performance yacht designed to be simple to sail and take the ground or be trailed. The words' pocket rockets' tend to be used to describe these boats!
The design was revised to become the Beneteau First 21.7 in 2005. All three models, 210, 211 and 21.7, are very similar in style and concept and share many actual components.

The hull of the Beneteau First 211 is solid GRP, with sandwich construction for the deck moulding. There is foam buoyancy at the bow and stern, guaranteeing unsinkability. The ballasted drop keel is raised by a manual jack and allows easy transport of the boat and drying out if required, supported level by the twin rudders.
The sailplan has a non-overlapping jib to keep sheet loads down and a large spinnaker to achieve high speeds downwind. With almost six foot of draught with keel down and twin rudders for control, upwind performance is also excellent.

The design is popular in Ireland's boating capital at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, where up to a dozen race as part of a one-design class in regular Dublin Bay Sailing Club racing. The boats also race for national championship honours annually. The boats are kept on Dun Laoghaire Marina and look all the more impressive as the fleet of pocket rocket racers are all moored together on one pontoon.

At A Glance – Beneteau First 211 Specifications

LOA: 6.2m (20ft 4in)

Draught: 1.8m to 0.65m (5ft 11in to 2ft 2in)

Displacement: 1,100kg (2,200lb)

LWL: 6m (19ft 7in)

ARCHITECT
• Finot Conq et Associés

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