Naas Branch, Naas Line, Naas and Corbally Branch, Herbertstown Branch … it started life as an independent entity, constructed by the County of Kildare Canal Company, set up by an act of 1786 to link the Grand Canal to Kilcullen and perhaps to Baltinglass in Co Wicklow. It lasted as an independent entity only until 1808, when the Grand Canal Company took it over, extending it to Corbally in 1810; it never reached Kilcullen, never mind Baltinglass, and it does not seem ever to have had much trade, except perhaps to the Leinster Mills. See Ruth Delany The Grand Canal of Ireland David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1973 for more details.
But folk were optimistic in 1788 when the canal had its official opening. It sounds as if it was a bit premature, as the dignitaries’ boat seems to have gone only as far as the third lock, at Oldtown, which was still being constructed; there are two more beyond that before you reach Naas.
This account of the ceremony is from The Gentleman’s and London Magazine: or, Monthly Chronologer for March 1788 Dublin: Printed by John Exshaw.
Naas, March 6. This day was opened the new county of Kildare Canal. His Grace the Duke of Leinster, and the other gentlemen of the company, assembled this morning on board the Millecent packet, where an excellent breakfast, music, &c were provided. They proceeded with streamers flying, and the discharge of several pieces, from Sallins up their own line, through the company’s bridge, the Leinster and Wolfe Lock, &c.
On entering the new line, they were received with loud and repeated acclamation, and as soon as they entered the Leinster Lock, the populace seized the track line, and drew them in teams to the excavation of the third lock at Oldtown.
They passed through each of the locks in rather less than three minutes. The perfect execution of the works, the curving line of the Canal, the variety and beauty of the adjacent country, interspersed with ancient and modern buildings and improvements, all embellished by the fineness of the day, and enhanced by the consideration of the utility of the work to the comfort and industry of the inhabitants of the large tract of country, through which it is to pass, filled every breast with a glow of satisfaction.
It was likewise a matter of pleasing observation that they appeared on this occasion in one of the boats of the Grand Canal Company; a circumstance indicative of that harmony, liberality, and co-operation which do honour to both companies, embarked as they are in undertakings so much calculated for the common good and infinite advantage of the country.