“Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the Ballybrennan Canal, and just because I’m small, doesn’t mean I’m not important. After all, I’m here since 1854 and I’m part of the South Slob network in Wexford. I’m the one that leads the way from the pumphouse at Drinagh to the estate farm at Ballybrennan . In fact I go right in to the grainstore, which is covered, so that loading and unloading could be carried out in the shelter. So now!
Who are YOU anyway?”
“I’ll have you know I am the Bridgetown Canal and I am here longer than you – between 1850 and 1853 in fact – and I go all the way from the Blackstone to Bridgetown, five miles. They couldn’t have done without me down there, to carry seaweed and sand towards Bridgetown, moving things like potatoes and grain to the ships going to Wales, never mind bricks for the railway bridge at Mill O’Rags near Duncormick. Of course I was needed to drain the land belonging to Mr. Rowe at Ballycross. As a matter of fact, this building project was a relief measure for the poor, being so affected by the famines. It seems that thousands of men were employed and got three pence and one pound of maize a day as pay. Men walked up to twelve miles to work on the drainage scheme. Here I am – still in use after near on 200 years.
So now – beat that!”
“And who’s yer one over there, looking sneaky?”
“Oh, that one I would hardly count at all! It’s called the North Slob Canal, but sure it’s no use for transport as it is not navigable.
Of course, I suppose it WAS important in its way, since at the time of the reclamation of land (around 1847 /1849), it was a catchment drain four and a half miles long controlling the reclaimed slob land from flooding, releasing this catchment through tidal gates into the harbour. Mind you – even though it is unsuitable for the passage of boats, it is very popular with wildlife – kingfishers, they tell me, and herons, wagtails, swans and swallows. A busy place for them, mind you, but it’s not like us, carrying boats and people.”
“Who’s that one over there going sideways?”
“Well now, that’s a quare one, the Castlebridge Canal. You see, Castlebridge community had two natural resources, barley and water. The barley was for malting, brewing and animal feed, and the water was needed to power mills and to provide a freightway to and from the quays at Wexford. The small local river linking with the River Slaney, the Sow, was so winding -terrible -but the waterway was needed for the transport of the produce to avoid the tolls at Wexford Bridge. It was one of the mill owners, James Dixon, that had the idea to cut a canal in 1810 opening a communication with the river Slaney. Can you imagine doing that without machinery, so the old cots and gabbards could get in and out with their load?”
“Ah yes! I suppose some of Ireland’s waterways are appreciated for the scenery, the fish, the swimming, watering the land an’ all that, but not many are as useful and interesting as us -THE CANALS OF COUNTY WEXFORD.”
“Who do you think you are?”