THE Heritage Boat Association (HBA) recently celebrated 10 years of existence in Banagher having been originally inaugurated in May 2001 at the World Canals Conference in Dublin.
Following months of planning, having previously identified Banagher as the ideal location because of its bygone history as a prosperous river business stopover and a vital location for barges and boats on the Dublin to Limerick navigation, a hugely successful series of events were held throughout the 10 days of activities.
The aim was not only to celebrate the first decade of the Heritage Boat Association, but also to highlight Irish waterways historical economic trading; and current commercial, voluntary and tourism activities.
Many people from the organisation, its committee and other local groups became heavily involved in 10 days of celebrations.
Led by Joe Treacy (Barge 4E), the structure of HBA 10 @ Banagher was based on a free exhibition in Crank House, Banagher, featuring many historical items, artefacts from barges, multimedia presentations, engaging information boards from the HBA, and a nature display from Birdwatch Ireland. Several hundred visitors spent time perusing the old and new material during their visits.
There was high presence from families of boatmen who used to work the trading vessels from bygone years, on the Shannon as the main artery of commercial boating traffic, and on to other locations via canals, rivers and the inland waterways navigation system. These routes used to bring goods and services to and from venues all over Ireland, traversing Ireland both north and south, east and west for local markets and to sea ports for export.
The exhibition hosted a talk each evening on the specific topics of – “Shannon Callows, a view from the land”; “Historic Boats of the Shannon and County Galway”; “a Tour of Banagher’s waterside heritage”; “Clonfert on the Mid-Shannon”; “Loop Head to Liverpool”, “Early Shannon steamers & the great trade route”; “The Heritage Boat Association - a perspective”; and the “History of hire vessels on the Shannon”. Many local people brought along their own river and trading boat memorabilia for discussion with the exhibition guides and the talk presenters each evening.
Over two weeks running up to the celebrations, twenty six 6th Class children from St Rynagh’s National School took part in a series of field trips and art workshops, to aim at artistically interpreting the local river related heritage. They were strongly supported in their quest and creativity by school principal Fergal McMahon, class teacher Catherine Dolan, and local historians James Scully (also a teacher in the school) and Jim Madden. Rosalind Fanning from Tin Jug Studio in Birr facilitated the arts workshops with the pupils and the project was part-funded by Offaly County Council through the Arts Act Grant Scheme 2011. The result is a unique 32 page full colour
A5 publication, recording pupils’ images, poems and stories of their research. Many thanks to Mary Stuart, County Librarian, and Mary Hynes, Banagher Librarian for their input and support to the formal launch of the small publication at Banagher Library on Friday June 3,
The launch in the Library commenced the Bank Holiday weekend celebration activities. In addition to over 20 Heritage Boats in Banagher Harbour that had been heavily viewed since their arrival the previous weekend, the Newgrange Coracle group provided workshops in the art of coracle making; Silverline Cruisers collaborated with BirdWatch Ireland to provide boat trips for the public several times a day, and Shannonside Sub-Aqua Club hosted an afternoon and evening of events on the Sunday including bouncy castles, their celebrated fin-swim, and a barbeque.
The Heritage Boat Association’s aspiration is to protect, promote and celebrate the floating heritage on the inland waterways of Ireland.