Unlocking history on the banks of the royal canal

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Last week I busted out of the 2 km Lockdown restriction to walk alongside my local canal. It was nice to absorb the different and peaceful scenery. The Royal Canal flows from the River Liffey in Dublin to Longford in Ireland. In times past, the canals and river corridors of Ireland were traversed by pirates, saints, fishermen, pilgrims and soldiers. St Brendan the Navigator and raiding Viking parties utilised them too. The Lock Keeper’s of the canals have seen it all.


Irish waterways are a great way to explore Ireland. They provide a sense of history, peace and absolution, and are host to a wealth of wildlife in birds, plants and animals.

A railway line runs parallel to the Royal canal close to my home. It’s helped grow the economy of the country. A 20 minute train ride takes me into Dublin city center.

It was a controversial undertaking and constructed after the x-director of The Grand Canal Company stormed out of his board meeting saying he was going to construct another canal. It wasn’t properly surveyed and ran into enormous financial difficulties. It was completed using public funds.

I wonder if this sculptured Lock Keeper knows how to unlock us from coronavirus.


Water and lock keepers remove barriers. This open us to our history and ancestors. My friend Godfrey an Irish travel guide said:

“Back in the 1800’s William Rowan Hamilton a Professor of Mathematics worked out the Quantum Theorem formulas on a piece of stone from the Broom Bridge on the Royal Canal. His wife waited on a bench while he figured it. She might have been bored but he went down in history as the Father of Algebra.”

Here’s the bridge;


A plaque reads:

Here as he walked by
on the 16th of October 1843
Sir William Rowan Hamilton
in a flash of genius discovered
the fundamental formula for
quaternion multiplication
i² = j² = k² = ijk = −1
& cut it on a stone of this bridge.

My friend Anne reminded me of “The Auld Triangle” Irish folk song about an Irishman in prison who misses his girl. It gives a nod to the banks of the Royal Canal. Here’s the link:

It takes courage to be still or slow down during this pandemic. To see the unseen and hear the unheard. I love how it’s brought me face to face with local history.

This is blog 140. It lines up with (Math 140), the study of Math Algebra and the Auld Isosceles Triangle which has an angle that measures 140°.

8 thoughts on “Unlocking history on the banks of the royal canal

  1. A beautifully flowing piece on the beauty, wonder and tranquility of the Royal Canal which as our famous writer Bendan Behan once said goes Jingle Jangle. When first fully opened in 1827 it was for the movement of people and goods from Dublin to the River Shannon. The Canal systems built 1700’s to early/mid 1800’s where the motorways of yesteryear and the barges when pulled by a horse could travel up to 2 miles per hour. Hence the expression ‘horse power. Interesting when they introduced engine powered barges the speed only went up to max 4 miles per hour. The tow paths along the Canals where were the horses used to pull the barges along the canal through rope connection. Canals are man made and are at different levels that is they have locks and lock gates, so a barge can be raised/lowered from one level of water to another. Years ago very much commercial use on the Canals but today leisure/pleasure and Waterways Ireland have restored over 1000km and you can travel throughout Ireland on these wsterways especially since the Shannon Eyrne waterway connector was opened.

    Beautiful worded article by Jeanette and I highly recommend for visitors to her site to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that further and fascinating description and explanation Godfrey. So interesting and thanks for the story behind Mr Hamilton. Many people are unaware of that. I can see why you are such a good official Irish travel advisor/guide.


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