AS part of Heritage Week 2011, the South Kilkenny Historical Society organised a cruise of the River Barrow. Despite the less than favourable weather conditions, all of the participants enjoyed an excellent afternoon.
In addition to the event being a Heritage Week event, it also coincided with the 220th anniversary of navigation on the River Barrow. Commentary was provided by Mr Mark Minihan (Galley Cruises, New Ross) and one of the society’s members, Mr Denis North.
As the cruise departed New Ross, very close to O’Hanrahan bridge. a brief history of the town was given by Denis. O’Hanrahan bridge was opened in 1961 and is named after Michael O’Hanrahan, who was stationed in Jacobs biscuit factory in the 1916 Rising, and was executed for his part in that uprising.
He also recalled the now almost extinct village of Rosbercon, on the other side of the river and went on to describe what the village was like before the Celtic Tiger, which destroyed this local community. The site of the old bridge of New Ross was pointed out. This Victorian bridge spanned the river from 1869 to 1961 and had an opening span which allowed boats to travel upriver beyond New Ross. The village of Rosbercon, which had numerous shops, public houses and a railway station, is of course located in County Kilkenny and staunchly ‘Black and Amber’. Denis recalled the coming of the ice-cream parlour to one of the three establishments associated with the O’Doherty family. None of the O’Doherty businesses survive today and the area has only one public house now.
The site of the ‘Boat Club’ was pointed out. This club was founded in 1876 and in the middle of the last century has its own newspaper – the ‘Boat Club Gazette’.
The location of Anfield lane was identified and its association with Liverpool Football Club explained. The graves family lived in this area and when Robert Graves became Mayor of Liverpool he played a major role in acquiring and developing a new ground for use by the local football club. He called it Anfield after the local lane. Robert Graves later became M.P. for Liverpool.
The property which was subject of a Supreme Court ruling was also pointed out. This action resulted in a landmark decision regarding property valuation, due to its proximity to the river. During the 1850s, when the island of Ireland was being valued for the purpose of rates, by Richard Griffith (Griffiths Valuation) it was given a high rate of valuation, due to its close proximity to the river, which was a very important method of transport that time. However, due to the decline in river transport, the Supreme Court ruled that the close proximity to the river could not be taken into account.
The cruise passed under the railway bridge (The Red Bridge), which was erected in 1887. Up to the closure of the line in 1952, it was possible to travel from New Ross to Dublin by train, by linking up with the Wexford to Dublin train at Macmine junction, south of Enniscorthy.A way of life, long since gone, was also recalled. Fishing was an important economic factor in bye-gone years, with many a family in the area being saved from starvation by fish from the Barrow.
The Ferrymountgarret bridge, which replaced the wooden structure burned down by republicans in 1921, links Kilkenny with Wexford. It has a bascule-style opening span, which wasn’t very common in Ireland, but prominent in the U.K.
Social events on the river barrow were also recalled and the eighty participants (maximun capacity) were treated to afternoon tea on board, before returning to New Ross, two hours later.Due to the phenomenal interest in the event, which could not cater for all those interested in taking part, another cruise is being considered should numbers justify it.