Shannon–Erne Waterway - Decline


Two enquiries held at the time give an insight into the canal. The Crighton Committee of Enquiry was set up in 1878 to investigate the performance of the Board of Works, and following their findings, the Monck commission looked at the issues of a route from Belfast to Limerick. As part of the evidence collected, Pratt related that he had ceased to maintain it after 1865, since there was no traffic, and John Grey Vesey Porter, one of the trustees, described a three-week journey along the canal in a steamer in 1868, which had only been achieved by Pratt moving the water from pound to pound to keep the boat afloat. He declared the whole project to be one of the most shameful pieces of mismanagement in any county. In 1887, the Cavan and Leitrim Railway arrived in the area, and were sufficiently confident that the canal would not be used that they built low bridges over it, preventing navigation. The railway was not a commercial success either, and was another drain on local resources.

The Shuttleworth Commission recommended that the upper lock gates should be repaired in 1906, to prevent further damage to the structures of the waterway, but with no funds available, the navigation trustees concentrated on minor bridge repairs, to keep landowners and local authorities happy, and by 1948 they had ceased to function. Local authorities had to assume responsibility for bridge repairs, and there were ongoing problems with flooding.

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