Ministers have received copies of a new book charting the history of the Ulster Canal.
Ms Heather Humphreys, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Ms Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure both accepted signed copies of the book by local historian and author, Brian Cassells, assuring him at the same time of their support for the re-opening of the canal.
The publication is published by the Blackwater Regional Partnership which includes Mid Ulster District Council, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and Monaghan County Council, and details the story of the canal from its completion in 1841 to its closure in 1929.
The canal linked Wattlebridge on the River Finn with the River Blackwater at Charlemont. The construction was 46 miles long but linked the inland waterway system around Lough Neagh to the Lough Erne system and eventually through the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell canal to the River Shannon.
The vision for the Ulster Canal was to develop an integrated canal network stretching from Coleraine, Belfast and Newry in the north to Limerick, Waterford and Dublin in the south for the movement of industrial goods, fuel and food to support the industrial revolution across the British Isles and growing cities of Belfast and Dublin.
The last boat travelled along the Ulster Canal in 1929.
“The Blackwater Region needs the “grand vision” of previous generations and investment in the Ulster Canal to regenerate economic activity in these beautiful villages along the route of the Ulster Canal. The project ticks all the boxes as a genuine cross border infrastructure,” confirmed the author Brian Cassells
Councillor Gareth Wilson welcomed guests to the launch on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Borough Council:
"It was a pleasure to attend this event on behalf of The Lord Mayor and to learn of the great work that has been undertaken to unearth the history of the Ulster Canal and also to meet Brian Cassells and hear of his contribution to the project. Hopefully work will continue on this water way and more and more of the route will be unearthed, rediscovered and restored in the years ahead."
Speaking at the launch, Councillor David Maxwell, Chair of the Blackwater Regional Partnership said:
“The story of the Ulster Canal was part of a grand vision to build communication links and commerce between all parts of Ireland. It was constructed to bring prosperity and employment to rural areas of the country. It was a laudable and worthy ambition back in 1838 and the need for investment and regeneration of the rural Blackwater region is just as great today”.
“I would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their funding contribution and thank Brian Cassells for giving his time – free of charge - to write this wonderful book. He is an acknowledged expert in the story of the Ulster Canal and his enthusiasm brings us along with him in the telling of the story”.
‘The Ulster Canal’ by Brian Cassells is on sale in local bookshops and online at www.cottage-publications.com .