Saturday, July 23, 2011

and more Royal Canal

Not too far beyond Coolnahay (in boating time) lies Mullingar, a sizeable Midland town whose populace is unfamiliar with passing boats. The canal loops around the backs, passing under bridges from which people gazed in astonishment and, in some cases, pure bewilderment. Boaters are warned not to spend the night here, but we planned to pause for shopping.

There are two harbours marked on the chart - one before Scanlan's Bridge and one after. It was obvious where to stop. It was lunchtime, the sun was finally shining, and there was an area like a croquet lawn surrounded by high stone walls and a big gate. There was also a service block and we were in need of showers. We can do this on the boat, but it's much easier to use the facilities provided. We had only three units left on the smart card. A shower is two. But I'd seen two fellows making two washes out of two units in Carrick so reckoned we could do the same.

A while later we were clean, fed and in need of shopping. A quick move to the other side of the bridge. There was a gate on our enclosure with a button to get out and smart card to get in but it was padlocked. There was another small enclosure - surrounded by railings - on the other side of the wall with no padlock, but the other side of the bridge was closer to town. Joe went in search of shops and came back pushing a trolley from Dunnes.

A couple of days later we made it as far as Maynooth where we picked up a mac and not because it was raining. We'd approached along the wall of St Patrick's College, Ireland's National Seminary and Pontifical University. I love the sound of a pontifical university. No need to write essays. You can just pontificate all day long. It's unfortunate (and maybe fitting) that the word meaning 'of or befitting a pontiff; papal' also means 'pompously dogmatic' (Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Turning sharply into the harbour Winter Solstice decided she would go in a different direction, first towards a small island, then towards some evil-looking timber spikes. It was just as we were completely blocking the navigation that the only boat we'd passed in days came towards us. It was a hire boat. They were completely nonplussed.

After some severe steering (and words) we managed to wrestle Winter Solstice against the wall. Joe poked about with the boat hook in the general direction of the port prop. He caught on something and tugged. We thought it was a wet suit moment, but no! Here was the eventual result. The raincoat.

It was on our way back that the wet suit was got out, on the outskirts of Mullingar. We limped into Piper's Harbour - I think that's what it's called - the Piper's bit is certainly correct. The log is on the boat so I can't check at the moment. This was the original Mullingar harbour, and is so called because musicians used to play to the passengers coming in from Dublin. We tied up with the help of a passing stranger and Joe did his usual poking around with the boat hook. No luck this time. So here's the result. Spot the difference:


A fertilizer bag around the starboard prop and string and fishing line around the port.

We stopped at Riverstown on the way back where they have a rather splendid signal box.

The platform is still there, albeit somewhat broken up. There's a campaign going to get the station open again. We followed the railway line all the way into Maynooth and became rather fond of the trains, even though they could be startling right next to your head first thing in the morning.

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