The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) will be avoiding the traffic queues at this years 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 GrandCanal .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.