Events

                                                                                        

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ANNUAL BOAT RALLY

 RBLNA Annual Boat Rally

30th July-1st August

 

Battery Harbour

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Antrim Boat Club

 earlier rally photos click here

Portglenone Minirally 19th June

21st August Litter Lift and BBQ Rams Island

4th-5th September Downriver Rally

October Strabane Canal Walk

 

Full event details can be obtained from  Victor Hamill

e:mail victor@riverbannloughneagh.org

telephone 02870342520
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 Yacht Race

27th December Morrows Point

Starting 12 Noon

click here for photos

 

This will be the first race starting in the bay for over 50 years since the old sailing club moved. There will be approximately 14 sailing boats racing, nine from Morrows Point and five visiting yachts from Kinnego racing for the John Morrow Boxing Day Shield and the fastest visiting boat also wins a special Boxing Day Shield The race starts at Morrows Point at 12 noon 27th December. The course is six miles start to finish which will be started by the officer of the day Paddy Prunty. Prize giving afterwards in the clubhouse followed by Irish stew soup and hot punch and an evenings entertainment to follows. Due to limited space and draught racing is by invitation only. However visitors are welcome to watch and enjoy the festivities.

 click here for photos 

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2002 CHRISTMAS WALK

 

The Christmas Ramble along the Lagan Navigation was very well supported by members from both N.Ireland Branches and indeed other IWAI branches.  

 V.P. Brian Cassells gave a series of very informative talks at various points of interest during the ramble from Union Locks to Hilden Brewery

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

LAGAN WALK 2002

DIVERSION to BENBURB

Welcome again to the Lagan Canal. Last year we walked from Soldierstown to Aghalee at the Lough Neagh end of the canal, this time we are on the Belfast stretch, at the flight of locks, numbers14 to 17.

The walk which will take a little over an hour will take us firstly along the river, under Moore’s Bridge, past the new Lisburn Civic Centre and the restored lock 12, again along the river, over the foot bridge, then through Hilden housing estate and to the brewery for lunch. The brewery restaurant is known as the tap room.

Sadly today the canal is in two distinct stretches, Belfast to Sprucefield and Moira to Lough Neagh. Our enlightened Politicians in the middle of the last century built the M1 motorway on the bed of the canal from Sprucefield through to Moira. There are plans at present to re-open the stretch from Lisburn through to Belfast, indeed at present substantial funds have already been committed; a small deficit remains to be found.

The Lagan Canal is 27 miles long with 27 locks with 18 lock-keepers. Most of the lock-keeper’s had only one lock to look after, though an exception was this unique flight of four locks, 14 to 17 that you see here in front of you. The lock-keepers lived in a lock house each with a small garden, all were designed that the lock-keeper could see his lock from virtually any part of the house, sadly only one of the lock-keeper’s houses on today’s stretch have survived, that is it behind the fence in front of you. Money for building the canal came from the the Marquis of Donegal and his family and from local taxation and grants from the Dublin Parliament. The stretch from Belfast to Lisburn was engineered by a Dutchman called Thomas Omer and work commenced in 1756. Omer had previously worked on the Newry Navigation. The stretch from Belfast to Lisburn largely consists of river navigation with short cuts of canal. One of the locks on the navigation has already been restored, that at lock 12, opposite the new Lisburn Civic Centre. This flight of locks here at Sprucefield was designed by Richard Owen who was the engineer who took the navigation on to Lough Neagh.

In 1820 it took 14 hours for a loaded lighter to go from Belfast to Lisburn and another 14 to reach Lough Neagh. A local anecdote at that time stated it took the same time for a lighter to go from Belfast to Lough Neagh as it took for a ship to sail to the West Indies!

This then was the flight of four locks and an obvious hive of activity when the lighters were being manipulated through. These locks lifted the barges 26 feet over a distance of 100 yards. Between two of the locks there was a basin where boats could be held while another passed or where the boats could stop temporarily. This was indeed a busy place, not only was there this lock-keeper’s house but a carpenter’s workshop and stables for the horses. Here too was the residence of the canal manager, it is the red brick house behind the lock house, fronting on to the main Lisburn road. This house has changed little over the years and is still known as Navigation House. May Blair in her book “Once upon the Lagan” tells a lovely story about a manager called George Lynch who was appointed superintendent in 1909. His possessions were loaded onto a barge at his old home in County Monaghan and brought via the Ulster Canal, the River Blackwater, Lough Neagh and the Lagan Canal to Lisburn. When the barge reached Halliday’s Bridge, near the Maze, Hughie Bann the bank ranger jumped on board and when the family arrived  at Sprucefield, he helped to unload the barge.

The navigation company had a private phone system which operated between Navigation House and the various lock-keepers cottages. The number of rings corresponded to the number of the lock, one ring for Ellis Gut, two for Aghagallon and so on. The disadvantage of the system was that the bell rang in all the houses along the system. Wilson Ward was the most notable lock-keeper here, though another family named Richie were also residents. It was common place for children to jump aboard here and beg a lift down to the next lock known as Becky Hogg’s.

This then is the summit of the Lagan Canal, after this was a flat section, indeed the next lock on the system is not until Aghalee. The most successful stretch of the canal was the stretch from here to Lough Neagh, the stretch to Belfast suffered from flooding problems and those associated with a river navigation.

When we walk around the bend in the river we come to Moore’s Bridge, built in 1825 at a cost of £3000; this bridge carries the main Lisburn to Hillsborough road.

Immediately after Moore’s bridge on the right hand bank the river is joined by a tributary of the Lagan, known as the Ravernet River.

The next lock downstream, which can still be seen to the left hand side of the weir and on the right side of the path, was known affectionately as Becky Hogg’s. The Hogg family were lock-keeper’s there since the 1850’s and Becky was the wife of William, who died quite early in life. Sadly here too the lockkeeper’s house has gone but the lock is still in reasonable condition. The lock house was on waste ground to the left of the mill race.

This then is the new Civic Centre sitting on the island site where the old Vitriol factory and latterly J.J.Richardson’s linen factory stood. The river flows round the back of this building and this is the newly restored cut, or canal section. You can see the new lock gates installed at a cost of one million pounds with a set of flood gates at the upper end of the chamber.

Lisburn was without doubt the most important port on the navigation. Its harbour was always a hive of activity. One of the most beautiful vessels to grace its jetties was the “Lord Hertford,” a vessel of 60 tons that plied between Belfast and Lisburn, this barge was the first to make the journey in 1763, effectively opening the new navigation. On that occasion it carried numerous important ladies and gentlemen who dined on board. We are told a band played on board throughout the voyage and it was a beautiful sunny day. Alas Lisburn was also the destination of the last barge which came to the island mill site here in 1954 with a load of coal. The town had nine quays, one was owned by the navigation company and the other eight were privately owned. The majority of the cargo handled was coal, for the adjacent gas works, though other cargoes included linen, corn, flour, timber, farm produce etc. Tolls were charged on cargoes but in 1813 to encourage greater use of the waterway it was decided to waiver charges on potatoes, hay and straw, moving downstream. It is fair to say one of the aims of building the Lagan Canal was to ensure the port of Belfast would share in the success of the coal exports from the Tyrone coalfields, but like the Newry Canal, more coal was carried upstream than downstream. Freight rates were between 5s and 6s per barge and about 9d per ton, depending on the cargo carried.

Lisburn could also boast a dry dock erected by Henry Mulholland, a timber merchant. It was said to be big enough for two to three lighters at any one time. The last lighter brought there for repair was during the last war, in 1943. The family associated more than any with Lisburn docks was that of the Hanna Family. John Hanna was in charge of the quays while his brother James and his son Dick were lock-keeper’s. Dick gave over sixty years service as a lock-keeper and is reputed to have rescued over 20 people from drowning in the canal, a feat for which he was awarded the Royal Humane Society Award. The navigation in Lisburn is dominated by the Union Bridge. The present structure dates from 1880 and replaced a number of earlier structures. The street names in this area are testimony to the busy port area this once was.

The walk finished in the courtyard of  Hilden House, a classic Georgian House built as the family home of the Barbour family in the 1820’s. The Barbour’s were linen barons and carried on the linen business in the mill which dominated this little hamlet of Hilden. This was by any standards a huge operation, at a time the mill employed over 1500 workers. The factory had its own quay, largely for the delivery of coal and also ran its own barges, the most notable being the “Nellie” and the “Eva”, named after two of Barbour’s daughters. Barbour’s was not the only mill in the district, other notable linen firms were Richardson Sons and Owden and of course the factory run by the Coulston family. The other factory, located on the present site of the new Civic Centre was the Vitriol Factory which eventually became another linen mill, known as J J Richardson’s. Relationships between the linen barons and the canal operators were often fraught with difficulty; usually disputes were concerning water extraction.

Hilden Lock  beside the old factory, is referred to locally as Scott’s lock. Lock-keeper’s who attended the lighters here over the years were McAlice, Smyth and McPoland. Associated with most of the locks on this stretch was a weir, the lock-keeper’s were also responsible for the maintenance and water level at each weir.

The Lagan navigation was a reasonably successful enterprise, but the company were persuaded to take over the Ulster Canal and this proved a drain on its finances. That then is another story for the Ulster always suffered from a lack of water and because the locks were built to narrower and shorter dimensions. After the outbreak of World War 11, traffic began to decline. Competition from the railways and the improved road network were just too much. In 1954 the stretch from here to Lough Neagh was officially abandoned and in 1958 the stretch from here to Belfast fell too. Sadly the abandonment went virtually unnoticed by the general public. The rest is history, perhaps if we had enthusiasts as interested then, as you are today, who knows what would have happened!

Brian Cassells

December 2002

 

 

Upper Bann/Newry Canal Mini Rally

Saturday 21st September 2002

In conjunction with Craigavon's

      "the country comes to town"     

at Portadown

Photos

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Friends of Coalisland Canal

Coalisland Canal Walk

Wednesday 12th June 2002

The Galleries below contain photographs from the Coalisland Canal walk on the 12th June 2002. The walk was organised by the Friends of The Coalisland Canal and was well supported by members of both N.Ireland branches and members of the local community. The talk afterwards in the Cornmill by Mr. Michael Pollard on the Tyrone Coalfields was very interesting and informative.This is the first of a series of talks of local interest which the Coalisland and District Historical Society intend to hold in the coming months. The Tyrone Coalfields were the main reason for the building of the Coalisland Canal.

Further enquires 028 87740467

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 Lough Derg Branch Visit  the Lough Neagh and Lower Bann Waterway

 

click here for details and photos

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TRIP TO SEE FALKIRK WHEEL

Photos

 

 Scottish Inland Waterways Association

  


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                                                                                This page was last updatedSunday February 12, 2012