The History of the Shannon-Erne

The opening of the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal in 1860 linked the waterways of the north with those of the south making passage between Belfast, Dublin, Limerick and Waterford possible. However the waterway was short-lived and it rapidly declined.

1780 image


The firrst attempt to construct the canal was made along the Woodford River, from Belturbet to Ballyconnell. All work stopped in 1792 due to financial difficulties
1838-1847 image


In 1838, engineer William Mulvany, was instructed by the Commissitoners of Public Works to find a route to link the Shannon and the Erne and also help solve the drainage problems. In 1847 works started, but under engineer John MacMahon.
1860s image


The Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal opened in 1860 at a cost of £228,000 (€30 million in today’s money). Over the next ten years only eight boats paid to use the navigation although it is thought that others used it without paying.
1880s image


The canal remained officially opened but low level railway bridges were placed across the canal at this stage. John Grey Vesy Porter, a trustee of the navigation, described the canal as "one of the most shameful pieces of mismanagement in any country".
1948 image


Navigation trustees ceased to function. From then onwards very little happened on the canal apart from essential drainage works.
1988-1989 image


In 1988 a feasibility study on restoring the canal was carried out and in 1989 the Irish Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, announced that the North and South governments would adopt the restoration of the canal as a flagship North/South project.
1990 image


Restoration works began in 1990. The navigation was choked with weeds, the lockgates had rotted away and many of the embankments had collapsed. The project involved the reconstruction or restoration of 31 bridges, 16 locks, 12 weirs and seven slipways.
1994 image


The newly refurbished canal was opened to traffic again. The former Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal was renamed the Shannon-Erne Waterway. The official opening took place at Corraquil Lock, Teemore, Co. Fermanagh on 23rd May 1994.
1999 image


Responsibility for the Shannon-Erne Waterway 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.