Tag Archives: Tralee

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.

 

Tralee Ship Canal

The new ship canal at Blennerville, Tralee, has lost three foot of water out of twelve since its construction.

Catholic Telegraph 8 May 1852

From the BNA

Tralee Ship Canal

The principal export trade of Tralee is in grain, cattle, and pork; they are sent to Cork by land. The harbour is exceedingly bad and dangerous, and, at the time of my visit, a ship-canal was in process of cutting from the bay. By some men of intelligence and experience, a railway was considered preferable.[1]

[1] Jonathan Binns The Miseries and Beauties of Ireland Longman, Orme, Brown and Co, London 1837

Not the end of the Tralee Ship Canal [updated]

I am grateful to Holger Lorenz of Tralee for alerting me to the removal of one of the gates of the Tralee Ship Canal. Holger’s photos of the lock and gate are here:

Photo 1    Photo 2    Photo 3    Photo 4    Photo 5    Photo 6

According to a Radio Kerry story, the gate had to be removed for maintenance and Tralee Town Council had “no time frame” for replacing it.

It seems to me, from Holger’s photos, that only one gate of the upper pair was removed. If the lower gates were working properly, surely they should be able to keep the canal in water.

It is some years since I visited Tralee. At the time, there was a largeish barge moored on the canal at the bridge. If it hasn’t been moved, I presume that its occupants are now unhappy.

I do not know what Tralee Town Council, or whoever it was, hoped to achieve by restoring the canal (or, for that matter, why whoever it was built the Jeanie Johnston, which was a huge waste of money). But whatever they hoped to achieve, I suspect that the canal failed to meet expectations. I do not know whether there has ever been a formal review of the project but I cannot imagine that it provided a reasonable return on investment.

The best thing to do with it now would be to seal up the seaward end with a fixed wall, forget about opening the bridge, maintain some flow through the canal to keep the water from becoming overly offensive and let the rowers take over the canal.

Addendum February 2015

This story from The Kerryman in November 2014 escaped my notice; it says that the damaged gates were replaced. It also says that the gates “now have a new motorised opening system that replaces the old crank mechanism”, which may reflect some confusion on the Kerryman‘s part as the gates were hydraulically operated.

I still don’t understand why the lower gates, or stop planks, could not have been used to maintain the level in the canal.

Addendum March 2015

Kerry County Council confirms that the lock has been restored and that the canal is fully operational.

See also comments below.

Rowing to Dublin …

… to visit King Dan.

In prison.

From Kerry, via the Grand Canal.

Tralee again

Tim Boddington has very kindly sent me some photos taken when the lock was being restored. Amazingly, it wasn’t raining at the time. Many thanks to Tim; I’ve added some of his photos to the Tralee page.

Tralee Ship Canal

Tralee Ship Canal, about 2 km long, links the town of Tralee, in County Kerry, to the sea. It might be the most westerly canal in Europe (query Belmullet).

The canal was restored recently, courtesy of the taxpayer, but seems to be little used. It has a sea lock (but no other locks) and a swivel bridge. Here are some photos taken on a very wet and windy day.