The Harbour The Grand Canal The Grand Canal was started in Dublin in 1756 and reached the Shannon, at Banagher, in 1803. A branch linking Kilbeggan to the Grand Canal at Ballycommon, eight miles away, was opened on New Year’s day, 1835, after five years of hard digging. And so the world was opened up to the people of Kilbeggan. The canal was used to bring food, on horse-drawn barges, to and from Kilbeggan. What else to you think was imported into Kilbeggan? Coal, farm machinery, porter, tea, household goods, furniture and much more arrived in Kilbeggan on the barges. Can you guess what was exported from Kilbeggan? Locke’s whiskey, wool, corn, livestock, potatoes and many other items were exported to Dublin. The Harbour Building The Harbour Building was built as a store of goods. There was originally a platform outside this building where barges would pull in to deliver and collect goods. Try to imagine the harbour full of water and barges pulling in at the Harbour Building ? The Harbour-Master’s House The house on your left as you enter the harbour area was the harbour-master’s house. The harbour-master oversaw the arrival and departure of barges and the delivery and export of goods. Do you know the building that houses Kilbeggan post-office? Well, it is said that the top of this building is at the same level as the canal. Ask your teacher to help you make up an experiment to prove this! As you continue to walk along the canal-line, watch out for a beautiful, thatched cottage. This cottage is almost two hundred years old. The lovely stone building beside the cottage was used for stabling and was especially busy during the days of horse-drawn canal barges. Skehanagh Bridge Local stonemasons, the Mann family, built the three bridges on this branch of the canal: Skehanagh Bridge, Grange Bridge and Murphy’s Bridge. Detective Work As you already know, horses were once used to pull barges along the water. Walk under Skehanagh Bridge and find the tracks of the horses’ ropes as they dragged the barges under the bridge. Look also for the keystone of the Mann family which is inserted in this bridge. Where has all the water gone? Although the harbour was a busy place for many years, the arrival of the steam-train to the midlands about 1845 marked the beginning of the end for the canal era. The Kilbeggan branch of the Grand Canal was not used after 1940 and was officially closed to navigation in 1961. This was a sad time for Kilbeggan, especially the children who spent all their school holidays fishing ‘up the canal’ which was, at that time, full of pike, perch, roache and eels. The Harbour Committee was formed in 1989 and has done great work in clearing the harbour area and restoring the Harbour building. Their next target is to refill the harbour with water and restock it with fish. Why don’t you find out more about the committee and see if there is anything you and your friends can do to help, and who knows, maybe you will be fishing ‘up the canal’ some summer soon!