Boating to the Ploughing

Grand Canal and Agricultural links to be celebrated during this year’s Ploughing Championships in Athy.

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) will be avoiding the traffic queues at this year’s Ploughing Championships by arriving via the Grand Canal. This is quite appropriate given the historical significance of the role that the Grand Canal played in the development of the surrounding farming hinterlands, the IWAI believe that it is appropriate that the farming and navigation communities come together at this great event which will see both the roles of the Ploughing Championships and the Grand Canal celebrated side by side during the festival.

The IWAI North Barrow Branch are hosting a boating rally and events during the week of 19th to 26 September. These include a raft race on the Barrow and barbeques on the Grand Canal . www.iwai.ie. The Heritage Boat Association which promotes the floating heritage of the canals by moving heritage boats around the system will also have barges present.

The linkage between the canal and the farming community dates back to 1924 when Athy and Carlow farmers campaigned successfully to have Ireland’s first sugar beet factory established in Carlow. The principal form of transport of the beet to the factory was by horse drawn barge and rail, with local beet collected by horse and cart.

The Grand Canal was controlled by the Grand Canal Company; this company ran its own commercial boat fleet and also charged tolls to private boats known as hackers who also traded on the system.

Of course, this wasn’t the only linkage between the farming communities and the navigation system as both the Grand Canal and the River Barrow carried significant commercial traffic linking all the towns on the system such as New Ross, Graiguenamanagh, Carlow and Athy to and from Dublin. On the way into Dublin malted barley was the main cargo which was used as a raw material in the manufacture of Guinness and of course on the way back the finished product was stout. Other goods carried included fertilisers, hides, malt and mineral waters.

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland will also have an exhibition stand in the Ploughing Championships site.

Notes to Editor

 

IWAI is a voluntary body of waterways enthusiasts, founded in 1954. It was formed to promote the development, use and maintenance of Ireland’s navigable rivers and canals. When the Shannon was almost totally undeveloped for pleasure boating, the IWAI fought the building of low bridges, thus ensuring the development of the river as a national asset. Later the IWAI successfully fought the threatened closure of the Grand Canal in Dublin and has done much to instigate the improvement of the Barrow and to focus interest and activity on the restoration of the Royal Canal, the Ulster Canal and other closed navigations.  The IWAI is the respected voice of the waterway user, lobbying and advising national and local government authorities as well as other bodies on all matters connected with the waterways including pollution and future developments. www.iwai.ie.

John Dolan

12 September 2009