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Ireland’s Royal Canal, 1789-2009

By: Ian Bath , Ruth Delany

Publication Date: November 2009


This is a revised, more lavish edition of the volume published by The Lilliput Press in 1992, containing four new chapters. Ireland’s Royal Canal 1789-2009 is the fruit of many years of research by Ruth Delany into the records of the canal company and other sources.

Beginning with her log of the last journey through the canal in 1955, the book traces the intriguing story of how one of Ireland’s principal waterways, the Royal Canal, came into being; of the problems associated with its construction, chronicling its rivalry with the Grand Canal, and its active working years from 1818 to 1845 – a troubled period of Irish history.

The onset of the railway era and the Midland Great Western Railway take-over hastened the inevitable decline of trading on the canal, and rapid deterioration at the turn of the century led to its eventual closure. This might have been the end but for the campaign begun in 1974 for the canal’s restoration, in which the Office of Public Works, the author, Ian Bath, Eddie Slane and others played their part.

This is no dry rehearsal of facts and figures: Ruth Delany conveys a vivid sense of business life and a series of fascinating vignettes of social and economic hardship in pre-Famine Ireland. She tells too of the individuals behind the canal – those who planned, constructed and administered it, others whose lives it affected, and finally those whose vision and energy saved a unique part of the country’s heritage for the benefit of future generations.

The book is amply illustrated by photographs, drawings, engravings, posters and maps, and includes dramatic aerial views taken when the canal was at its lowest ebb in 1973. Useful appendixes detail directors, company finances and tonnage carried down the years.

‘Delightful, colourful and well-researched[…] a literary gem that gives the reader an informed and emotive insight into the events that marked the long life of the Royal Canal.’ – The Longford Leader


RUTH DELANY was founder-member of the Inland Waterways Association in 1954, and its editor of guidebooks to the Grand and Royal Canals. Her publications include Canals of the South of Ireland (1966), By Shannon Shores (1987) and The Shannon Navigation (2008).

IAN BATH has been a member of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland since the 1970s and a past vice-president. In 1974 he founded the Royal Canal Amenity Group and in 1988 was appointed its honorary life president. He is co-editor, with Ruth Delany, of the Guide to the Royal Canal of Ireland, a fifth edition of which is in preparation.



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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 156 × 234 mm
Publication Date

November 2009


Hardback, 152pp