The Heritage Boat Association (HBA) is celebrating its 21st birthday in Ballinasloe Marina over the June public holiday, whilst also marking the 21st anniversary of the opening of the Suck Navigation system and marina.
Up to 30 Canal Barges are expected to turn up to celebrate the Anniversary promising to be quite a spectacle with great historical significance, considering these are the very boats that travelled to Ballinasloe before the closure of the Grand Canal Line back in 1961.
The harbour is steeped in the history of the Grand Canal. The final section of the canal, from Shannon Harbour to Ballinasloe, was opened in 1828. It terminated at Dunlo Harbour, which consisted of a harbour master’s house and two stores, all still surviving to this day on Harbour Road in town. The massive iron mooring rings can be seen on the lower reaches of some of the appartments and houses now in the basin.
Before the advent of the Railways in 1830s the Canals were the principal means of bulky goods transportation – agricultural produce, coal, turf, glass, tobacco, whiskey, beer, lumber, ballast, bricks were all taken from the Ships at Dublin Port , transferred to the Grand Canal Basin and their cargos despatched to the West via the terminus at the Harbour Road. The Westminster Parliamentary Gazette in 1836 ; officially recorded some 1,628 first class passengers and 1,830 who travelled by Canal from the Harbour Road terminus to Dublin -a journey that took approx. 2 and half days.
Following the closure of the canal in 1961, it was no longer possible for boats to make the journey to Ballinasloe until works commenced in the 1990s to make the River Suck navigable, including the construction of Poolboy Lock – joining the town to the majestic Shannon – Erne Waterway in May 2001.
There are 40 retired M ( For Motor ) working boats or barges still active on the inland waterways . The last seven were sold by Inland waterways by way of tender in 2013 when raised from the bed of Tullamore Harbour. The Canal company in the 50s sank a lot of the craft to preserve them in the freshwater in the old harbours and jettys.
Ciarán Clinton of the Heritage Boats Association stated: “We are looking forward to our 21st anniversary event in Ballinasloe Marina. Seeing these barges dating back to 1847 is like taking a step back in time and will give an insight to life when Ballinasloe was the last stop on the Grand Canal. Do come along and have a chat when we are in town, our members enjoy sharing these incredible stories.”
Boats will arrive on May 28 and will be moored for the week until June 6. This will be a great opportunity to get up close to the very barges which were once part of everyday transport life in the town and bring back memories for those who remember the barges in action especially with Guinness.
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