By Noel O’Driscoll
ATHY Men’s Shed has launched the first of what it hopes will be several Barrow Cot Boats to return to the River Barrow. The project is a Kildare Nationalist entrant in the regional newspapers Get Involved 2015 competition run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. The 20-strong group are a vibrant and active community group and they have resurrected an age old local craft tradition that had sadly died away. Barrow Cots were the traditional mode of transport on the waterways of South Kildare.
They were beautiful 18 foot long vessels that were expertly hand made by skilled crafts men and boat makers in the locality. With the advent of motor-propelled vehicles they were no longer needed and the sight of gondola type boats with their captains at the helm vanished off the Barrow. Now part of an initiative with local bodies, including Athy Community Enterprise Centre, a project was undertaken to replicate one of these boats and put it back into the water. That aim came to fruition last week as the first boat was put on the town’s waterway.
The boat was launched by Rosanna Nolan and Arthur Keppel of Waterways Ireland at the canal bridge. Its maiden voyage took the Cot down the canal and lasted about 25 minutes. The launch was so successful they could have gone all the way to Monasterevin, said Patricia Barry from the Athy Enterprise Centre. Derek Samblin of Athy Men’s Shed explained how the boat was built. “The new boat was made by a combination of salvaged cedar and hard wood from local sources.
The goal was to replicate a traditional boat using as much reclaimed wood as possible. It was all hand built and hand painted. It was a unique and special project that generated excitement and a high level of involvement.” Another shed member, Pierce Mcloughlin, said the project had brought the men together and had benefitted everybody, “It was a huge challenge for us, but through teamwork, some trial and error, and some genuine dedication and hard work, we got it done.
Working on projects such as this brings the community together, it brings people together, gives them a sense of involvement, challenge and excitement, and completing it has given all of us a huge sense of satisfaction and pride. We hope that this won’t be the last project of this sort for the town,” he said. David Kenny, one of the boat builders, said: “The project was a new and exciting challenge for us here in the shed.
We had no experience of boat building in itself but we do have a group of skilled and creative guys who decided that we could study boat building and teach ourselves how to do it. I’m more than delighted to say that we succeeded”. “It meant comradeship working with chaps I did not really know that well – it was educational, a great experience. It formed a bond with the lads working together, we took each other’s advice and listened to one another’s opinions and this generated respect among us for each other,” said Liam Regan said of the project; The long term vision is to build more boats and create a social and community amenity that can be enjoyed by all in the town. There is also the possibility of creating a social enterprise, a micro economy and a tourism amenity should the project extrapolate out from a single boat.