Tag Archives: heritage

Waterways Ireland archive open day

Waterways Ireland Archive Open Day – for EHOD 2017

Waterways Ireland Headquarters will be open for guided tours of the Archive and the building. Housing a collection of original engineering drawings, maps and toll books from the 1800’s the Archive offers a unique insight into Ireland’s industrial past. Visit http://www.waterwaysireland.org closer to the event for more detailed information. [Note: I can’t find anything on the WI website, but perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place.]

Opening times: Sat 9 September 2017 13:00 – 17:00; Sun 10 September 2017 13:00 – 17:00. Tours both days at 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00

Lower Lough Erne Boat Tour – for EHOD 2017 [Sunday only]

A guided tour of some of the major early Christian sites on Lower Lough Erne. The tour will be delivered by Fiona Crudden. Sites to be visited include White Island and Devenish Island. Warm & waterproof clothing and walking boots essential. Lunch not included.

Opening times: Sun 10 September 2017 09:00 – 16:00. Free

Other events at www.discovernorthernireland.com/ehod

h/t Antoin Daltún

Waterways Ireland draft heritage plan

Boogie on over to the WI website for a copy of the WI draft heritage plan, and send WI your comments by 6 November 2015.

WI staff have put a lot of work into this and consulted various people, including me. I argued for a more activist approach, with more history and less about communities, and I would have let the twitchers and other nature-lovers look after themselves and their little feathered friends …

Birds hijacking facility at Athlone intended for (and paid for by) humans

Freeloading birds hijacking facility at Athlone intended for (and paid for by) humans. And who’s going to have to pay for cleaning it? Humans, that’s who. Human rights, that’s what we need …

… but I quite appreciate that Waterways Ireland has to be polite to all these people and can’t disobey the law, no matter how insane the legislation is.

But I digress. Get some comments in, preferably plugging industrial and transport heritage and economic history.

Photographing the invisible

Waterways Ireland is having a photographic competition for which it is

seeking contributions from the public on what they think best fulfils the theme “Waterways Heritage”.

Details here. You can win an iPad Air, which I think is a sort of pocket calculator for chaps with ponytails.

I was in two minds about whether to publicise this competition. You see, many of the bits of “heritage” I’m interested in are invisible, having vanished since the late nineteenth century. So maybe they’re not heritage at all?

But I decided that it would probably be difficult for Waterways Ireland to judge a competition in which all the photographs were of invisible objects, so I should encourage the photographing of the visible.

I was asked recently by another respectable public sector body to say, for publication, why industrial heritage was important to me. Unfortunately my response was deemed to be unusable, because it was too controversial. I’ll write more about that soon.

Re-invention or re-creation?

I realise that many folk visit this website in order to find out what is hip and trendy, cool and with-it, in all sorts of fields, from beer to boating, casual dining to cost-benefit analysis. So, in order to keep readers down wid da kidz in da hood [as the young folk say], I’ve been checking out the latest, baddest [which means ‘goodest’, I gather, or what in the old days we would have called ‘best’], grooviest developments on tinterweb. It’s a thing called FaceTweet, and those cool dudes at Waterways Ireland have one of them. Hep to the jive, daddy-o [which means ‘How perfectly splendid, old boy’.]

As far as I can see, FaceTweet is in general intended for folk whose attention span renders them unable to read more than a single paragraph of continuous prose. But brevity is sometimes the soul of wit and good goods come in small parcels [sentiments for whose veracity I have not found peer-reviewed evidence]. And I was interested in Waterways Ireland’s self-description on the page:

Waterways Ireland is the Recreation Authority for over 1000km of Ireland’s Inland navigable waterways.

That phrase, Recreation Authority, does not occur in Waterways Ireland’s Business Plan 2015 [as approved by the North South Ministerial Council on 18 December 2014 and screwed up by the Council shortly afterwards] or in its Corporate Plan 2014–2016 [ditto]. Nor, according to its own search engine, is the phrase used on Waterways Ireland’s proper website [the search engine rather bafflingly reports “We don’t have any refiners to show you”].

Yet the concept of Waterways Ireland as a Recreation Authority is almost entirely in tune with the thinking underlying both of the plans and it is the neatest encapsulation I have yet seen of what WI is about.

I put in ‘almost’ there because the Corporate Plan‘s Executive Summary includes this:

Central to our vision for the future is the development of recreational, heritage and environmental opportunities that link people, history and nature, providing both local communities and visitors with compelling reasons to spend more time in the waterways environment.

While I’m all — well, somewhat — in favour of heritage and environment, the words seem to sit uneasily in that sentence: added as a form of ritual obeisance to the shade of Michael D Higgins, who ripped the rivers and canals from the sheltering embrace of the Office of Public Works engineers and proclaimed the waterways to be heritage artefacts. Heritage is no longer of great interest to TPTB and most people’s experience of it [whatever it is] is as entertainment or recreation; much the same applies to environment, which — for most people — is of interest only as providing a scenic background for more interesting activities.

So both heritage and environment can be subsumed under the heading of recreation, leaving Waterways Ireland with a neat, well-focused description of itself, a subheading for its title, and one that matches its Mission and Vision.

Mind you, it’s not entirely clear what a recreation authority is — Google finds relatively few [129000] instances of the term’s use, most of them in the Americas — but that might be no harm.

Waterways Ireland — the recreation authority

Hep to the jive, daddy-o: I like it.


Heritage outside the box

I was not entirely complimentary about Waterways Ireland’s online survey on the contribution of boating to the economy. However, its latest online survey seemed to me to be better designed.

It’s part of a consultation seeking opinions about a Heritage & Biodiversity Plan. I was afraid that the survey might limit the scope of responses to a small number of prepackaged options, but in fact I found it easy to make suggestions that might be outside the range of those expected. The response boxes expand as required, although I didn’t test the upper limits.

I encourage readers to complete it.

River Nore heritage

On its page headed Heritage Audit of the River Nore, Kilkenny County Council says

Phase 2 of the survey (from Kilkenny City to Inistioge) commenced in 2011 and will be completed in 2012.

It also says (on the same page)

Phase 2 of the survey (from Kilkenny City to just north of New Ross) is in the final stages of editing and will be completed in early 2014.

If anyone has seen any sign of it, I would be grateful for a link.



Reading list

Waterways Ireland has been putting out more and more stuff on its website.

If you haven’t already seen them, you can get the full set of Product Development Studies, in PDF format, here.

Even more interesting, to this site, are the waterway heritage surveys. Those for all waterways other than the Shannon are available here. The Shannon study was done some years ago (I remember making some comments on it at the time) and will be uploaded “in due course”.

I was in a WI office yesterday and had a quick look at the Lower Bann survey, which was done by Fred Hamond (so we know it will be good), and I’m looking forward to learning more about the waterway I know least about. It is done thematically and has lots of illustrations: Fred is able to see and present the bigger picture, but a full database, with all the supporting information, is available on request.

Please, sir, I want some more

I have written from time to time about the Heritage Council and the budget cuts it has suffered. Here’s a comment from December 2010; here I said that the Council’s vigorous lobbying campaign had succeeded in ensuring its own survival; last month it became clear that, although the Council had survived, its main grants scheme had not.

The dauntless Michael Starrett returns to battle in today’s Irish Times [incidentally, if the Irish Times tries to charge me for linking to their site, I’ll set McGarr Solicitors on them]. He argues that natural and cultural heritage are the core of the tourism product and that they are being damaged by the withdrawal of (inter alia) the Council’s programme of (mostly small) grants to (mostly small) community projects.

This line of argument accords with that used by the Council in its successful campaign to ensure its own survival. It was made explicit in the report Economic Value of Ireland’s Historic Environment [PDF] produced by Ecorys and Fitzpatrick Associates for the Heritage Council and launched in May 2012. However, there are some difficulties with its use in the present context.

The first is that some folk might feel that heritage (natural or built) should be appreciated for itself, not for its economic value. That’s fine as long as people do it on their own time; I lose sympathy when that argument is used to extract money from taxpayers while hiding the economic cost and distracting attention from the beneficiaries of that spending.

The second difficulty is that the Economic Value of Ireland’s Historic Environment concentrates on larger sites and attractions:

Reflecting these various criteria, Ireland’s historic environment has been defined for the purposes of this study as comprising the following sets of built heritage assets – those which are statutorily protected, together with components of the broader built heritage:

– World Heritage Sites
– Recorded Monuments, as defined by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
– Protected Structures included in planning authorities’ development plans
– Architectural Conservation Areas included in planning authorities’ development plans
– Designed landscapes surveyed by the Inventory of Architectural Heritage, and
– Other structures erected pre-1919, of which a note says “This is an increasingly accepted definitional component for the broader built heritage, although it is  acknowledged that some Protected Structures may have been built post 1919. Up to 1919 most houses in Ireland and Great Britain were built by skilled craftsmen using traditional indigenous building materials. Although the majority of older buildings are not listed/ statutorily protected, the majority provide flexible domestic and office accommodation. Major investment in money, energy and materials is embodied in these structures.”

The economic impact of the sector is the sum of three things:

  • Direct repair and maintenance output in relation to pre-1919
    building stock
  • Direct tourism expenditure by tourists principally attracted to
    Ireland by the Historic Environment (HE)
  • Direct employment, expenditure and income by the public sector (eg the Office of Public Works), subtracting overlap with the repair and maintenance category and the tourism expenditure category.

Eight of the ten case-studies considered in the report are about large sites, some of them commercial operations and others state-owned. The two exceptions are the Irish Landmark Trust and the Heritage Council’s grant scheme for traditional farm buildings.

Now, as far as I can make out, a lot of the recipients of Heritage Council grants (generally, not just those for farm buildings) would have fallen into the “Other structures erected pre-1919” category. I have not been able to discover, from the report, how much of the Historic Environment’s contribution to Gross Value Added is attributable to that category, or to any other category that might include the Council’s recipients of small grants.

In effect, the report seems to me to made some very broad-brush claims about the annual value of the Historic Environment, and those claims are being used to cast a halo effect over the entire sector. But it is not, it seems to me, proven that spending on any particular sub-sector is a good investment. (If I am wrong on that, I would welcome comments.)

Furthermore, I suspect that most of the contribution of the small projects supported by Heritage Council grants would come from the spending on repair and maintenance (where the total contribution is arrived at after some pretty heroic assumptions) rather than from that by tourists. Approaching it from the bottom up, I suspect that very few tourists are attracted to Ireland by the fact that the Heritage Council has grant-aided the clearing of an individual graveyard or the removal of rhododendron from a woodland.

So the argument that is being presented today, that (to quote the headline) “Tourism will suffer without real support for heritage” where “heritage” means “small local projects”, is not convincing. And it is rendered even less convincing by the fact that Heritage Council grants schemes explicitly gave low priority to tourism projects. But that is not to say that the small schemes are without value: there could and, I would argue, should be an effort to use them as part of the tourism marketing effort.

But there is a real difficulty here. How do you market small-scale tourism attractions? How does a small enterprise, or a small community, sell its heritage? How do the overseers of the national tourism product get tourists out of the well-known areas and off the beaten track, to places where they can meet real people and see real stuff? Maybe that’s what The Ghastly Gathering is about [I’m sorry: I can’t bring myself to read it].

Towards the end of his article, Michael Starrett talks in terms of landscapes, and I think he is right to use a term that is broader than a single site or location for a project. To have an impact, to be marketable, small projects need to be linked. Some of those links could be geographical, within a single area or landscape; some could be temporal, some familial, yet others commercial or otherwise thematic (for instance, the fascinating history of the Irish egg trade). I think that the small projects can help to attract tourists, but they need to be organised.


Heritage Council

The Heritage Council is now down wid da kidz in da hood, having acquired a facetweet page. Does this suggest that facetweeting is now becoming socially aceeptable? And it even has a YouTube thingie, where you can watch exciting videos of ministers making speeches.

Actually, the Heritage Council is becoming very with it, as the young folk say nowadays, aligning itself with the new reality that, unless it can show an economic payoff, its interests will be a low priority with the government.

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, comme on dit, or at least comme Mr Dylan dit.



Intricate channels and interesting boats

Another of the quays on the west side of the Fergus estuary: Lackannashinnagh, near Killadysert (Kildysert).