Canal and local IWAI branch set for international recognition

Bruce Crawford, Katrina McGirr, Colin Becket, Heather Crawford, and Shane Foley at McVeigh's lock. This lock has an original wooden cill dating to 1730s.
Bruce Crawford, Katrina McGirr, Colin Becket, Heather Crawford, and Shane Foley at McVeigh's lock. This lock has an original wooden cill dating to 1730s.

The Newry and Portadown branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) is having its canal and its work recognised internationally with delegates from World Canal Conference set to visit Scarva Canal.

Delegates from the World Canal Conference, which meets this year in Athlone, will visit on September 15 to see what has been called one of the most interesting pieces of industrial heritage in the British Isles.

They will also see the work being carried out by the local branch.

Over recent years, quite apart from routine maintenance, the branch has: made and fitted lock gates at Campbell’s and Poyntzpass locks; successfully lobbied for a new cill at Moneypenny’s lock; and carried out the successful eradication of giant hogweed along sections of the canal towpath. Those who use the towpath will be familiar with their work.

The World Canal Conference brings together hundreds of canal and waterway enthusiasts, professionals and academics from around the world. Delegates exchange ideas about canal management and development; revitalisation of canal systems, and the promotion and presentation of canal history.

Enthusiasts from Asia, Africa, Europe and North America attend. Last year’s conference was in Syracuse, New York, USA.

The conference is being organised by Waterways Ireland and the IWAI executive.

Members of both these organisations, Shane Foley and Katrina McGirr (WI) and Colin Becket (IWAI), recently visited Scarva, and Poyntzpass to plan for the visit of the delegates. They were impressed by the beauty of both villages and by the tourist potential of the locality.

But it was the canal that really impressed them.

It is virtually intact and while some locks need some urgent attention the stone walls are still in good order.

Northern Ireland has no working canal and it is thought this would be the easiest to restore.

IWAI Newry and Portadown Chair, Tom Johnson, said: “We often ignore the history and beauty of our doorstep, so it is affirming and encouraging to see the work we have done recognised.

“More importantly the canal is getting the international recognition it deserves.

“Perhaps this will stimulate and incentivise the local authorities who own the canal to re-energise their efforts to preserve, maintain, and restore this historic monument.

“Our branch is keen to play its part in this.”

Newry and Portadown branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland has played a pivotal role in the restoration of the canal. The branch has successfully applied for funding for projects to increase public awareness of the canal and to encourage the various waterside communities to become part of their cause.

Their future plans are to continue to lobby and campaign; to fund raise and apply for grants; to maintain and conserve the architecture and industrial heritage of the canal and continue voluntary groundwork