After 18 years of working towards the aesthetic improvement of Mullingar’s primary geographic feature, the Mullingar Royal Canal Amenity Group was formally acknowledged this week with an Address of Recognition accorded by the cathaoirleach and members of Mullingar Town Council.
“We, the members of Mullingar Town Council, are delighted to pay tribute to Mullingar Royal Canal Amenity Group for their efforts and commitment to keeping the Royal Canal in Mullingar and surrounding areas in such a tidy, welcoming and pleasant condition and for the tireless work and dedication of members since the group was founded in reviving the Royal Canal, making it accessible for all to use and to enjoy,” said cathaoirleach and historian, Cllr Ruth Illingworth in her address.
The canal was built between 1790 and 1817 as a trading route competitor for the earlier and more successful Grand Canal which took the more southerly, and less contoured route. The Royal Canal is 145kms long with 46 locks, while the Grand is 131kms with 43 locks.
The Royal, which reached and looped Mullingar in 1806, was constructed for freight and passenger transportation from the River Liffey in Dublin to the River Shannon at Clondra in Co Longford. By 1830, the Royal Canal was carrying over 40,000 passengers annually. Unfortunately, due to the success and extensive use of the railways, the canal was closed to navigation in 1961.
By the 1970s, the canal was falling into disrepair and this led to members of the community from around the western reaches of the canal coming together to set up an action group in order to initiate the clean-up and restoration of the canal – this was the formation of the Royal Canal Amenity Group (RCAG ).
Following the success of a Canal Amenity Group in Abbeyshrule, the Mullingar Royal Canal Amenity Group was formed in 1992 and work began on clean up of overgrown canal banks, as well as reclamation works.
Through the years, a number of trees have been planted by the RCAG to mark historical occasions, such as the 150th anniversary of the Famine, the Millennium, and also a tree to mark the All Ireland U21 football success in 1999. The RCAG has also erected a monument at Pipers Boreen, Mullingar to mark the 200th anniversary of the Royal Canal reaching Mullingar, as well as erecting a seat in memory of the late Eddie Slane, President of the Group.
The RCAG is involved in the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade in Mullingar, entering a float each year with the theme of “Keep it Clean and Keep it Green”.
The group is also involved in the Rover Enthusiasts Vintage show, which is held in Thomastown, Killucan, as well as participating in the Eastern Rally in June, where a flotilla of boats make the journey from Mullingar to Kilcock and the Western Rally in August.
Later in 2010, the group hopes to travel from Mullingar to the Shannon in Clondra, Co Longford. In addition, the Harvest Homecoming, which was introduced last October, is set to become an annual event. As well as the above, the RCAG purchased a boat a couple of years ago called the ‘Edwin G’ and this boat is used by the Group and by others for leisure trips along the canal.
It is funded through a number of initiatives, as well as generous sponsorship from Mullingar Credit Union, Westmeath Community Development Limited, and from Chris Lynch Waste Management. The group encourages as many people as possible to use and enjoy the Royal Canal, and are thankful to be caretakers of this wonderful asset and amenity.
The members of Mullingar Town Council granted the Address of Recognition and wished Mullingar Royal Canal Amenity Group and its extended membership continued energy and good health in the future and wished them success in their future endeavours