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For one thing, I was no longer alone; a man is never alone with the wind - and the boat made three. - Hilaire Belloc
 

Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

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Home arrow Memories arrow Bring us back a Parrot - Barrow to Bagenalstown - 2005
Bring us back a Parrot - Barrow to Bagenalstown - 2005 PDF Print E-mail
21 January 2009

“Bring us back a parrot” the Dublin kids used to shout over the bridges at the barges as they headed west out of the city, or so the story goes.

Well, we were a long way from Dublin, and still not a parrot to be seen! It was June 2005 and the HBA fleet was on route down the River Barrow, to meet the Tall Ships in Waterford. A squeeze under Carlow Bridge and we were away, the barges pushing their way through silt, sandbars and locks that had not seen traffic like this for, well a human lifetime. But for the barges it must have seemed only yesterday. Robbie tells us that the last time Dabu was down the Barrow she was horse drawn. Somebody comments that maybe horses would have been better than props, given what they were picking up! We were lucky though to have Waterways Ireland on board, or rather, on bank, to flush us through locks, curse and encourage us and generally make life easy.

Bagenalstown lay half a mile below the next lock, so we had pulled Vicki May, our beloved classic ‘gentleman’s timber cruiser’, over to the bank and moored, to gallantly allow the iron mammoths to pass first into the lock chamber. To tell the truth, we did not wish to get hugged between one of them and the lock gate, some of them don’t know how to treat a lady, or what the word ‘stop’ means! And so it was, as we were locking the first barge through, a couple of young lads who had been fishing below the lock, came up and called “Hey Mister, are these the boats? We heard the boats were coming!” An enjoyable hour or more passed. The banter was good, the sun shone warm and the lock behaved. Our young lock keeper apprentices announced it was time for them to head home for tea. “Want a run down to the town” one of the skippers asked, I think it was Mick on 31B or maybe Geraldine on 68M. “What about our bikes?” They were all hoisted up on the deck, a couple of lifejackets found, and two new barge skippers initiated.
 
The boats were left in Bagenalstown for the week, under the guardianship of the ever smiling Christy Kane. We returned the following Friday, ready to resume our journey south to Waterford and the sea. We were having a cuppa in one of the wheelhouses, (or was it a pint?) and a skippers briefing on the trials ahead, when one of the young lads from the previous week, appeared at the door. He had with him an elderly gentleman, his granddad he announced, whose grin even eclipsed that of his young guide.
 
And so we heard a story of how, seventy or more years ago, the boys and girls of the town used to cycle up to the lock and cadge a ride down on the barges, their bikes sitting on top of the barrels of porter, or what ever the cargo might be that day. When the old man had heard from his grandson of the barges return and of their trip with their bikes into town, it had brought back happy memories of similar journeys he had made when he was a young lad. After a chat the two of them, a young boy and his granddad, walked off down the line of boats, chatting and laughing till they turned out of sight up the hill into the town.
 
We were under pressure to move on early the next morning but I often think about our chance meeting and the way things have changed so much and yet so little along the canals and rivers of the system.
 
And to the lads and lassies of Bagenalstown, Athy, Carlow and all points south, “the boats are coming, the boats are coming back!” It’s the Year of the Barrow in 2007, see you all down the river.

And Christy, any chance of a few parrots!

© Paul Martin 2005

 

 
 
31B Williams & Woods on Barrow 2005 Vicki May - classical gentleman's timber cruiser
68M on Barrow 2005 95B on the Barrow 2005

36M on the canal in 1957

Dabu on Barrow 2005
 
 

Last Updated ( 03 April 2011 )
 
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