A larger crowd than expected turned out on the evening…
Galway Waterways Foundation – celebrating, preserving & enhancing Galway’s rivers & canals
The Galway Waterways Foundation is working to celebrate, preserve and enhance Galway’s rivers and canals. Philip James tells us about this new organisation and it’s work.
Few people think of Galway as a canal city and even less as a city of islands. Yet before human intervention Galway was a city of seven rivers and seven islands. In fact, its original Gaelic name was Baile na Sruthán, City of Streams.
No other geographical feature has influenced the history and development of Galway more than its waterways. The original Stone Age and Celtic peoples settled in Galway because of the abundance of salmon, eels, and trout in the rivers. The Anglo-Normans established their outpost in Galway in the 13th century because of the defensive characteristics provided by water on three sides. The strength of the River Corrib was harnessed during the 16th through the 19th centuries by creating canals and channels to drive water wheels that powered 30 businesses from milling to distilling.
Gradually throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries all of this rich history and the culture that developed alongside the rivers have been forgotten. Galway’s 13 kilometre, intricate system of rivers and canals are unloved, poorly managed, and under-developed. The reasons are a lack of public awareness, out-dated 19th century legislation, and a lack of political will to grasp the problems and the opportunities that the waterways represent.
A group of local activists formed the Galway Waterways Foundation in 2017 to raise awareness of the condition of Galway’s waterways, to engage citizens in the restoration of these important resources, to attract funding, and to lobby the politicians and the permanent staff in the Local Authority for attention and improvements. The ambition of the Foundation is to evolve into a fully-fledged Rivers Trust following the model of the successful River Trust model from the U.K.
Progress is slow but we have been greatly assisted by the LAWPRO organisation and in particular by Catherine Seale, our Community Water Officer for Galway and South Roscommon who helped us secure some financial support from LAWPRO; and by Mark Horton, All-Ireland Director for Rivers Trusts. We have also made a substantial submission to Galway’s 2020 European Capital of Culture team to make the restoration of our waterways a major component of the Capital of Culture programme.
Philip James, Galway Waterways Foundation
Check out www.galwaywaterways.ie for lots of information, photographs, and future plans.