Launch of Ballycommon Renewal Group

The annual gathering at Ballycommon, on the Grand Canal near Tullamore, to mark the dry Kilbeggan line of the Grand Canal that runs from Ballycommon to Kilgeggan, was a very special event this year.

Various groups gathered on Saturday 28th August, to mark two special events – the 21st Birthday of the Kilbeggan Canal Harbour Amenity Group, and the launch of the Ballycommon Canal Renewal Group. The Kilbeggan group have done enormous work over the last two decades, to rebuild and refurbish the Canal Stores buildings in Kilbeggan Harbour, and have also done significant work along the dry canal line south towards Ballycommon. Over the last decade the Offaly Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) has been involved in organising an annual event at Ballycommon, known as the ‘Kilbeggan Challenge’ with the presence of the national organisation of the Heritage Boat Association (formed in 2001), in order to highlight the potential re-watering of the Kilbeggan line of the Canal, and all the associated water based tourism benefits that might bring.

Heritage Week 2010 sees the formation of a local group in Ballycommon, led by Chairman Gerry Feery, to further add involvement, energy and interest in the development of the Grand Canal at Ballycommon. In his speech, Gerry outlined that they aim to work strongly as local group and liase with the various agencies interested in the utilisation of the Grand Canal in the area.

The Ballycommon group organised a fabulous fund-raising BBQ for the summer evening, at Campbells Bridge (the first canal bridge north to Kilbeggan from Ballycommon)  along with a 21st birthday cake for the Kilbeggan gang. The activities were aided by the presence of the community canal barge 107B that was used to display a large range of presentation material relating to the Grand Canal, and in particular to the Ballycommon-Kilbeggan branch line. IWAI and HBA members also attended by boat and many people came by road. Various speakers, including Bernadette Quinn, Chair of the Offaly Branch of the IWAI; Joe Treacy, from the Heritage Boat Association; Dan Scally, Chair of the Kilbeggan Harbour Amenity Group; and Tim Meehan, Chair of the 107B Barge; gave a very warm welcome from the various waterways users to the new Ballycommon Canal Renewal Group. In addition, Offaly IWAI perpetual awards presented included the Heather and Mike Thomas trophy for Canal Development – recipients were the Kilbeggan Canal Harbour Amenity Group for the 21 years of work; the best-dressed boat award was presented to Canal Boat 107B; and the Annual Canal Shield was awarded to the Paddy McGrath Canal Swim group, who made their way by water from Shannon Harbour to Robertstown during late July.

Gerry Feery, from the Ballycommon Canal Renewal Group praised the local committee highly, and commended the large turnout from the Ballycommon and surrounding areas to support the event, as well as the involvement of Cllr. Liam Quinn who has close family ties to the Ballycommon-Kilbeggan line of the Grand Canal. The launch of this group is particularly noteworthy, and the effort involved by all is to be commended. There are too many names to mention individually, many people played a part in the event, so a much appreciated thanks to all involved was a strong theme from the Ballycommon Canal Renewal Group. As the saying goes, watch this space. Further information from the Ballycommon Canal Renewal Group will be made available in the near future.

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