Grand Canal, Dublin
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The Grand Canal (Irish: An Chanáil Mhór) is the southernmost of a pair of canals that connect Dublin, in the east of Ireland, with the River Shannon in the west, via Tullamore and a number of other villages and towns, the two canals nearly encircling Dublin’s inner city. Its sister canal on the Northside of Dublin is the Royal Canal. The last working cargo barge passed through the Grand Canal in 1960.
The Grand Canal was opened in 1756 to link the Liffey at Dublin with the Shannon. It effectively closed in 1960, the last commercial trip being a barge load of Guinness, but since 1986 there have been various improvements and repairs. Grand Parade on the left, moorings for the city centre on the right. © Copyright John Gibson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The idea of connecting Dublin to the Shannon was proposed as early as 1715, and in 1757 the Irish Parliament granted Thomas Omer £20,000 to start construction of a canal. By 1759 he reported that 3 km (1.9 mi) in the Bog of Allen and 13 km (8.1 mi) of canal from the River Liffey near Sallins towards Dublin were complete. By 1763 he had completed 3 locks and 6 bridges towards Dublin and was concentrating on establishing a water supply from the River Morrell near Sallins. At this point the Corporation of Dublin realised that the canal could be used to improve the water supply to the city, and put up the money to complete the canal into the city. But when the canal was filled, the banks gave way and the city didn’t obtain its water. By 1768, £77,000 had been spent on the project and little more was forthcoming.
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The Grand Canal nowadays begins at the River Liffey in Grand Canal Dock and continues through to the River Shannon with various branches, including a link to the River Barrow waterway at Athy.
From Grand Canal Dock it passes through Ringsend and then traverses the southside, delineating the northern extremities of Ballsbridge, Ranelagh, Rathmines, Harolds Cross and Crumlin. This section is the Circular Line and has seven locks. At Inchicore can be seen the path of the original main line to the Grand Canal Harbour, the City Basin (reservoir) and Guinness brewery. Most of the route of this line now runs along side the Red Luas Line.
Inchicore used to be a village but today it has become a suburb of Dublin. The Grand Canal travels through Inchicore and here it passes The Black Horse Inn, on the left, and the LUAS Red Line Black Horse/An Capall Dubh tram stop, on the right. © Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
From Suir Road Bridge, the lock numbering starts again at 1 as the canal heads west through the suburbs of Dublin West and into Kildare. At Sallins the Naas/Corbally branch diverts southwards while the Grand Canal continues west passing Caragh, Prosperous and Robertstown, its highest point. Just outside Sallins, the Grand Canal passes over the River Liffey at the Leinster Aqueduct. Just east of Robertstown is the location where the Blackwood Feeder used to join the canal, whilst just to the west can be found the busiest junction on the canal where the Old Barrow Line, Milltown Feeder and the entrances to the Athy & Barrow Navigation. Further west, the canal passes Edenderry, Tullamore and Rahan before it reaches the Shannon at Shannon Harbour in County Offaly. In total the main line of the canal is 131 kilometres (81 mi) with 43 locks, five of which are double locks.
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In December 1792, there was a major accident on the Grand Canal. A passage boat left Dublin bound for Athy. It seems that one hundred and fifty people, many of them drunk, forced their way onto a barge, in spite of the captain warning them that the boat would capsize if they did not leave. Near the eighth lock, five men, four women and two children drowned when the boat capsized. The rest of the passengers escaped.
On the evening of Saturday, 6 April 1861 in Portobello Harbour, a horse-drawn bus, driven by Patrick Hardy, had just dropped a passenger on the canal when one of the horses started to rear. The horses backed the bus through the wooden rails of the bridge. The bus, horses and six passengers inside the bus, plunged into the cold waters and were drowned. The conductor was able to jump clear and the driver was pulled from the water by a passing policeman.
Seen here on Canal Road between Charlemont and Rathmines Road.
© Copyright Dean Molyneaux and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.