The Heritage Boat Association celebrates Ireland’s floating heritage and one of its aims is to highlight the unique and colourful histories of heritage boats on Ireland’s inland waterways.
It provides a direct link to the past including the commercial and pleasure craft that plied the inland canals, lakes and river systems throughout the Country.
A flotilla of Ireland’s heritage boats arrived into Carrick on Suir on Sunday afternoon, August 7, and were welcomed by Mayor Patsy Fitzgerald, Niall Walsh, Chairman of the Development Association, Tony Musiol, Chairman of the Tourist Association and a large number of local river enthusiasts. Mayor Fitzgerald thanked river historian Jim Power for leading the flotilla through the navigation and under the New Bridge for safe berthing at the Marina and also for organising the trip.
The boats that came to Carrick on Suir were mainly from the Barrow Navigation Three Sisters Fleet, which is celebrating two hundred and twenty years anniversary.
Some of the boats were former Guinness barges used for transporting barrels of stout to various parts of the Country.
It is intended that the crews and passengers will remain for a few days and Mayor Fitzgerald plans to arrange an entertaining programme for them.
This year the HBA celebrates the 220th anniversary of the opening of the Barrow Navigation which linked the Grand Canal with the rivers Barrow, Nore and Suir and opened up a vast region to the ports of Dublin and Waterford and boats such as the 68M and 72M now in Carrick for a week, plied the inland waterways laden with cargo. A century ago there were 1200 boatmen working to transport cargo between inland towns and Irish ports providing an essential service to many Irish people, however this faded in the 1960’s as the canals closed to commercial traffic. With remedial work being undertaken by Waterways Ireland on the Barrow Line and Barrow River, the inland waterways are now being once again promoted for navigation which in turn will spotlight the towns and villages alongside the river routes. The HBA have three of these great canal boats dating back to the 1920’s amongst their fleet in Carrick and are numbered 72M, 68M and 107M along with their 5 other HBA boats. The skippers and crew have been travelling the entire navigation over the last few months to include Carlow, Inistioge, Waterford, now Carrick-on-Suir and all points in between. They are anxious to meet with families who had connections with the commercial trade along the waterways in the past and would be happy to invite some long retired boatmen to their fleet as they may have been actually the crew members of them in a past era. The HBA crew are also liaising with interested parties in promoting the River Suir as they work with various community and voluntary groups interested in promotion of the waterways, history, heritage and development and will be linking in with local community groups and relevant associations during their stay in Carrick. They are a wonderful mix of people from different parts of the country whose collective aspiration is ‘to protect, promote and celebrate the floating heritage on the inland waterways of Ireland’ in a bid to maintain a direct link to the past. The crew will be delighted to meet and talk to local people and will remain at the marina until next weekend. Anyone interested in the Heritage Boat Association which was set up in 2001 and which provides support for members and caters for the needs of operating older boats, can log on to their website at www.heritageboatassociation.ie The HBA also partners with other interested groups for rallies, social events and other gatherings and members include organisations, individuals, families and indeed the heritage boats.