The Way to Go

Gollierstown Bridge was peaceful as I rested. Suddenly, another joined me, and spoke:
“I remember the boats on the canal. The Grand Canal. Oh yes, it went from Portabella to Ballinasloe
in the finish.
The first cut was at Clondalkin. 1780. To Sallins. The boats? Longer than ye’d imagine: first one, 17
metres you’d call it today, and over 3 metres wide. Of wood an’ iron, pulled fast by two horses
gallopin’ along the canal bank, with riders called “postillions”. Now there’s a word. Them boyos had
to slide sideways outta the saddle as their horses went hell for leather under the bridges. They could
ride all right.
First class travel’d cost 13 pence, old money. Ah, work it out for yourself. Second class was sixpence
ha’penny. Chizzlers under a year, free. A’ course you could take your luggage with ye – 30 pounds in
all. What’s a pound? Ah …
Things were going’ well, so they got a second boat the follyin’ year. But the fares, a’ course, went up:
one shillin’ an’ seven pence ha’penny. Second class’d cost ye a shillin’ an’ a penny.
The boats was a bether way to travel ‘nor the coaches. At least ye got fresh air on the boats and
more room. Much smoother than travellin’ along what they called “roads”. Potholes, darlin’, an’
the coach wheels with no suspension rattlin’ yer bones. Canal boats was more comfortable. Bether
fun too.
Ah fun. Yes.
Well, with the second boat, they decided to bring in some rules and regulations:
* Restricted access to roof. (Did I not say there was a roof? Well, there was.)
* No drunks. (Reasonable, with so much water around, and people fallin’ in after fallin’ out.)
* No disorderly or indecent passengers. (Don’t ask. Ye look too young.)
Two more boats, d’ye mind, in 1782. This time with stoves to keep the people warm. What d’ye
mean? Stoves are big metal yokes with lids and ye can light a fire in them. I tell ye, ye’ve never been
on the canal in winter and the wind that’d blow through ye with nuthin’ between yerself and
consumption on’y the little on yer back. Oh yes.
By 1784, the canal had reached Hazelhatch, a darlin’ place, an’ more rules:
* Upper Deck Passengers were advised to “throw themselves down in order to save their lives”.
(The bridges were low in the middle, d’ye see. With the positllions goin’ sideways and the duckin’
wans above, I tell ye, there was plenty of fun below stairs! No, don’t ask.)
* Card games were allowed, but not with the Boat Masther. (Ever since yer man was found dealin’
off a hooky deck.)
* Ye could bring yer fightin’ cocks along, an’ certain dogs. Fightin’ dogs, as long as ye kept them
fairly quiet.
* No “saucy girls” were allowed. That’s what they called them, on the official notice. (Don’t ask.)
Magnificent accommodation: a kitchen, a pantry, cushions, curtains, a clock, maps, hooks for hats,
“papers, pens and wafers, a penny a sheet”, TWO lavatories (mid-ship an’ astern). And as for eaten’
and drinkin’ … a full 5-course breakfast AND dinner, with wine, brandy, port, and porther.
The crew? Master, Steersman, Stop-man, Boy, Cook, Barmaid, Waitresses, liveried Positllions in blue
and gold uniforms.
1846 and the first railway line. ‘Twas a death-knell for us an’ the Canal. No more passengers after
1852. Never the same after that.
Wha?!! Ye fly now? Tell me, is that fun?
Oh! Lookit, the time! Excuse me please. Nice chat. Farewell!”
And the ghost was gone.