An amazing shot of people skating on the Grand Canal at Convent Road, Tullamore in 1947.

Grand Canal in Offaly in the spotlight for upcoming talk

The Grand Canal in Offaly in the 20th century is the subject of the next Offaly History lecture on January 30 at 8pm.

Banagher's James Scully will speak on the Grand Canal and its impact on the county from 1900 right up to the 1960s.

This presentation looks at the major events that occurred on the Grand Canal in County Offaly over the last 100 years or so. The canal company began the new century in good stead. James McCann, chairman since 1892, had brought about many reforms and improvements.

In 1905, the company had 70 trade boats, four tugs on the Shannon and five large vessels on the Shannon. Shareholders enjoyed a steady dividend of 4% but clouds were gathering and soon there was increasing unrest with the trade unions.

Following strikes in 1908 and 1911 there was a major lock out in 1913 as part of the general strike led by Jim Larkin and the I.T.G.W.U.

The many stand-offs that ensued included one near Robertstown in which Jim Taylor of Gallen, near Ferbane, played a noble role. At the company meeting in November 1913 the directors claimed the strike had cost them £11,011.

1916 was a momentous year not alone for the insurrection in Dublin, but also for a major breach at the tunnel, east of Edenderry. The talk will relate the varying reports on this major disruption and recall some of the personnel involved in the major repairs undertaken.

The talk will also examine the comprehensive list of compensation claims made by various companies after raids on canal boats between July 1921 and May 1923. This gives a good insight into the nature and location of a multiplicity of incidents along the line, particularly west of Tullamore.

The iconic travels of Tom Rolt, founder of the British Inland Waterways Association, along the canal will be looked at in detail, in particular his observations of major works being undertaken at Shannon Harbour in 1946.

These optimistic developments took place just a few years before the ill-fated and much resisted amalgamation with Córas Iompar Éireann (C.I.E.) which culminated with the Grand Canal Company’s last meeting in August 1950.

To finish on a more optimistic note the speaker James Scully will share colourful memories of lock keeping families and neighbours near Tullamore and look briefly at existing and proposed developments on the canal today.