The History of the Lower Bann

Efforts to improve the navigation, drainage and mill-power on the Lower Bann were undertaken in the 1840s but it wasn't until the latter end of the 19th century that they succeeded in alleviating the problems on the river.

1738 image


The Bishop of Down and Connor petitioned the Irish Parliament to do something about the great shoal of rock at Portna near Kilrea to alleviate the annual flooding. Although Parliament responded no actual work was done and the problem remained.
1842 image


In 1842, a special Act was passed enabling the Board of Public Works to carry out schemes to improve navigation, drainage and mill power in the Lough Neagh Basin. Engineer John MacMahon carried out a survey and drew up plans. Work began in 1847.
1847 image


Five locks were constructed by John MacMahon to allow navigation along the river. The locks were at Toome, Portna, Movanagher, Carnroe and the Cutts. The Cutts gets it name as a large shoal of rock had to be cut and blasted from solid bedrock.
1929 image


A proposal to build a hydro-electric scheme across the Lower Bann in 1925 came to nothing and in 1929 the Ministry of Finance took over the responsibility for the navigation and drainage from the Lower Bann Navigation Trust who had managed it from 1847.
1930s image


Three weirs were replaced by three sets of sluice gates in the early 1930s in an effort to regulate the water flow on the river and control the water level of Lough Neagh improving both drainage and navigation.
1939-1945 image


During World War 2 the Lower Bann was used by military forces to transport munitions and supplies to and from bases around Lough Neagh. Royal Engineers conducted training exercises which included the building of bridges across the Bann.
1960s image


The Lower Bann was threatened with closure as a navigation but this did not happen due to a campaign by the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association, a branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.
2000 image


Responsibility for the Lower Bann was transferred to Waterways Ireland, one of the six North/South Bodies established in 1999 under the British Irish Agreement for the management and maintenance of inland navigable waterways