Barrow Navigation

The Barrow is one of the major waterways of Ireland. In Irish it is known as An Bearbha from the old Irish, Berba. From its source in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, it flows along the west of County Carlow, before joining the Rivers Suir and Nore, and enters the sea at Waterford. The expansion of the canal system in the 18th Century linked the River Barrow and the South-East region with the Grand Canal and Dublin. 

The story of the Navigation on the Barrow begins in the early eighteenth century. The first Parliamentary Committee established to make the River Barrow navigable was set up in 1703 but no action was forthcoming. In 1759, the Burgess of Carlow petitioned Parliament for an amount of £2,000 to make the Barrow navigable from Monasterevin to St. Mullins. The grant was approved but no progress was recorded. By 1761, work began under the engineer, Thomas Omer and John Semple (overseer). Progress was slow and over twenty years later in 1783, the work had only reached Clashganny just upstream from Graignamanagh.

A meeting of subscribers to the Barrow Navigation was held in the Courthouse, Carlow in October 1788. They commissioned Colonel Tarrant to draw up plans. The Barrow Navigation Company was incorporated in 1790. Work progressed under William Chapman and the St. Mullins to Athy section was completed that year.

During the early decades of the nineteenth century the Barrow Navigation Company experienced financial difficulty. However, trade increased from 16,000 tons in 1790 to almost 60,000 tons by 1830.

From the mid nineteenth century onwards the Barrow Navigation found itself increasingly in competition with the railways. In 1894, the Barrow Navigation Company sold out to the Grand Canal Company.

In recent times, the river Barrow has become increasingly important for tourism and economic development in County Carlow and the South East Region.


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