The Killucan Barge
The barge exact origins are unknown but it is believed to have being built in Scotland in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It operated as a horse drawn cargo boat on the Grand Canal. It moved to the Royal Canal in the early 1950s to join a fleet of 5 maintenance boats known as “floats”. It was known as float No. 3. It was retired from its duties in 1961 and remained abandoned and semi-submerged for the next 30 years or so east of D’Arcy’s Bridge near Killucan.
In the early 90s the Royal Canal Amenity Group purchased the rusted shell from C.I.E for £10 ( Irish Pounds ) with the intention of restoring it as a canal transport museum. Problems arose and Killucan / Thomastown branch of R.C.A.G took on the major project, but soon found it near impossible to proceed from it’s own limited resources.
In 1995 Mr. Michael D Higgins Minister of Arts,Culture and the Gaeltacht ( now President of Ireland ) announced an initiative to stimulate community interest in the Grand and Royal canals. Part of the program was Barge Restoration projects.
The Killucan group was successful with its application and the rusted holed barge was moved from its watery grave of the last thirty years on Thr. 26th Sept. 1996. It was brought to a FAS funded workshop in Mullingar where work commenced on 11th Nov. 1996.
The work was carried out as a Community Youth Training Project. The downside was that the major fabrication work was not complete until 2000.
Over the next few years the project stood still, but in summer of 2002 community members and dedicated individuals sandblasted and painted the boat. After some negotiations, Waterways Ireland agree to assist the completion of the project. However the project as a commercial venture failed in 2005 because it did not pass the marine tests. It then lay unused in the harbour, was vandalised and in the process of being abandoned altogether.The reopening of the Royal Canal five years later prompted the local RCAG members to propose its use as a living floating memorial to all who worked on the restoration of the Royal. This was accepted,and with renewed vigor all work was completed by local volunteers and the Killucan Barge No. 3 Float was the first boat into Richmond Harbour, Clondra , Co. Longford to raptures applause on the re-opening of the main line of the Royal Canal on Friday 1st Oct.2010. A plaque to commemorate this great event is fixed on board.
It is now used by all Royal Canal communities from Dublin to Clondra for festivals, meetings, museum displays,training etc.
Long may she sail and provide many years of enjoyment for future generations.