Tag Archives: Foyle

Broharris and Ballykelly

I have revised and expanded my page on the Broharris Canal, distinguishing between it and the Ballykelly Canal. However, there are still mysteries, and I will welcome comments from anyone who can cast light on the two subjects.

Canal restoration: Strabane and Broharris

Alas, the Derry Journal [h/t Industrial Heritage Ireland, the indispensable source of IH news] tells us that

STEVE BRADLEY believes Derry’s forgotten canal heritage could boost the region’s economic fortunes

No, it couldn’t.

Mr Bradley’s article is extremely interesting. He describes the history of the Strabane and the Broharris canals and, in the process, shows me that my page about the Broharris was entirely wrong. I am about to update that page but I am grateful to him for the information he provided. I hope he will forgive me, then, if I disagree with him about the economic potential of canal restoration.

He makes no exaggerated claims about the potential of the Broharris as anything other than a walking route; it could not be used by boats larger than canoes or kayaks and, even for them, there are no obvious launching or recovery sites.

But he wants more for the Strabane. He says that digging up the canal basin in the town, and restoring the navigable link to the Foyle, would provide a new Canal Quarter to attract investment even though it would, he concedes, be an expensive project.

But it is on the navigation aspects that he goes seriously astray:

Restoring the canal would hopefully also kick-start the use of the Foyle for leisure, recreation and tourism purposes. And restoring the 200 years old link between Strabane and the Foyle would be a great flagship project for a new council district with Derry and Strabane as its two main population centres.

Towns elsewhere have shown how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through, yet locally we have neglected our water assets. It is time to give serious consideration to the role that our forgotten canal heritage could make towards improving the economic fortunes of our area.

I wrote about the Strabane Canal here and here. Sinn Féin, always keen on eighteenth century economics, tried to get Waterways Ireland to waste some of its money on the thing but, happily, failed.

The real problem with this is that there seem to be very few boats on the Foyle; I suspect that many of them are sailing boats that are not terribly suitable for use on canals, while others are fast seagoing vessels that would damage the banks. And boats will not come from Britain or Ireland or anywhere else to visit Strabane by canal: a boat suitable for the sea passage to the Foyle would be inherently unsuitable for the canal, even assuming that the delights of Strabane were sufficient to entice boaters to make the journey.

Irish waterways promoters have operated for years on the principle that, if the government gives them the money to build the canal, the traffic will come. Anyone who believes that should visit Tralee, where a similar canal, short and isolated, linking a town to the sea, is not used other than by walkers and the local rowing club. Seagoing boats go to Fenit instead.

And, on “how restored canals can help bring new life and prosperity to the districts they flow through”, I recommend a visit to the Royal Canal, which is very nice but has very little traffic. As, indeed, does the Grand Canal. English experience with a large connected network of canals is not relevant to Irish conditions, whether on geographic or on economic grounds.


Scots wha hae nae rummelt eggs

The steamer Foyle, Captain Wyse, from Londonderry, arrived at the Broomielaw on Sunday morning, after a boisterous passage.

Among the other freight the Foyle has brought over 25 tons of eggs, which, at eight to the pound, amounts to 448,000, or 37,333 dozens; and at 6d a dozen, are worth about £933. On Saturday evening scarcely an egg was to be had in Glasgow.

Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier 13 March 1834 quoting the Caledonian Mercury

From the BNA

Thon Strabane sheugh

[I’m practising Ulster Scots in a spirit of parity of esteem and such.]

I wrote the other day about a Sinn Féin campaign to have the Strabane Canal foisted upon the unfortunate Waterways Ireland (as though it didn’t have enough trouble already, what with smooth newts and mooring permits).

I once went looking for the Strabane Canal but I couldn’t find it (and wasn’t allowed to spend enough time searching). I don’t know that area at all, so I thought it would be useful to send a drone [well, actually, I used Google Maps in Photos view] to capture an aerial view of the Foyle. I was particularly interested in the likely demand for the Strabane Canal and I thought the number of pleasure craft on the Foyle might be a useful indicator.

This might be the Google view of the downstream lock on the canal.

So I flew the Googledrone down one bank from Strabane to the sea, crossed the mouth of the estuary and came back on the far side. And as far as I can see, there are very few pleasure boats on the Foyle. Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners have a small marina in Stroke City, Lough Foyle Yacht Club races dinghies and Foyle Punts from Culmore Point and there is a port at Greencastle, but that seems to be about it. I saw no serried ranks of motor cruisers, narrowboats or barges parked anywhere. It is of course possible that I missed them in my flyover, but where are the boats to come from to sue the Strabane Canal?

The Strabane Canal and the Foyle

Here is a short account of the Foyle and the Strabane Canal in the 1890s.

Something in the water?

Readers may have realised that I don’t think much of the proposal to restore or rebuild the Ulster Canal. But I have to admit that it is not the most insane canal restoration proposal to have been made in the last few years. Even the restoration of the Strabane Canal doesn’t merit that accolade.

No: the outright winner has to be the Erne Canal proposal. Happily, despite support from Mary Coughlan, TD for the area and Tánaiste (deputy prime minister), the proposal doesn’t seem to have got anywhere.

What do all three of these proposals have in common?

Northsouthery, that’s what.

New section

I have started a new section on People. So far, the top-level page links only to the first entry, which is for Major Rowland Raven-Hart OBE, whose Canoeing in Ireland, published in around 1938, is a short guide to canoeing on several of Ireland’s longer rivers, including the Shannon, the Erne, the Suir, the Barrow and the Munster Blackwater.

I have added such information about Major Raven-Hart as I have been able to find.