THE AULD TRIANGLE -
The Royal Canal has been disused and derelict for over half a century and it has now been painstakingly restored. Dick Warner is going to travel on it by barge from from the Liffey to the Shannon. It was 1992 when he first did something like this - travelling from the Liffey to the Shannon on the Grand Canal. Between then and now economic boom and bust has totally transformed Dublin's docklands.
Why is he doing this? Because the passing years have failed to quench his thirst for exploration. Unexplored territory doesn't exist any more - but it's not necessary for exploration. And so he joins his boat, which is called Rambler, and is owned and crewed by members of the Connon family - John Junior, Evan and Johnnie Senior.
There is another purpose to this journey. Rambler started life, in 1878, as a steam tug on the Royal Canal. The closure of the canal effectively marooned her because the other route west, the Grand Canal, has smaller locks and she won't fit into them. But now, at last, she has a chance to escape and to meet up with her long-lost sister, Chang Sha, and the other heritage boats on the Shannon. Dick and Rambler are searching for missing relatives.
It's going to be a difficult journey. Rambler is very large and not very manoeuvrable - and she demonstrates this right from the start crashing into the wall of sea lock on her first day. Rambler needs water over a metre in depth to stay afloat. And the first day takes over half a day to travel just one kilometre. This canal was built for horse-drawn boats. Unfortunately we haven't got a horse - but to make it as far as Croke Park we have to resort to a modern day equivalent.
Dick meets Ulick O'Connor on the banks of the Royal Canal at Mountjoy Prison and Ulick recounts humorous anecdotes and stories from Brendan Behan's colourful life and explains the significance of the 'Auld Triangle' that still hangs in the main hall of Mountjoy prison.
In Drumcondra, Dick takes his electric bike for a spin and goes in search for the last resting place of another cyclist, and of the woman who was the love of his life and was engaged to him when he was killed.He visits Glasnevin cemetery. There were five hundred thousand mourners at the funeral of Michael Collins and every day, since 1922, fresh flowers appear on his grave at the entrance to the cemetery. He doesn't mention yet why he's so interested in the love affair between Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan. But, as they say, all will be revealed (in Episode 5).
The series features stunning archive footage from the Irish Film Archive 'Douglas Heard Collection'. In the 1950s Douglas Heard and his wife Ruth, filmed their journey on their boat the Hark travelling from the Liffey to the Shannon over a long weekend. After two full days barging - Rambler hasn't even left Dublin.
On day two Rambler passes a famous bridge. Originally called Broome bridge but renamed Hamilton Bridge after a genius called William Rowan Hamilton who scratched a mathematical equation on it in 1843 while out walking with his wife. Hamilton was a mathematician, physicist, astronomer and linguist. He was so bright that Trinity College Dublin appointed him Professor of Astronomy at the age of twenty-two. One of the perks of the job was living in Dunsink Observatory, close to the canal in Castleknock.
Dunsink Time is official Irish time, just as Greenwich Mean Time is official British time. In early Victorian times Ireland was a world leader in science and the making of scientific instruments, like the Grubb telescope Dick visits in Dunsink. Hamilton used to walk into Trinity College from Dunsink along the canal bank. A flash of insight that founded quaternion mathematics occurred during this walk and he carved the equation into the bridge with his pen knife in case he forgot it. Quaternion mathematics involves calculations in four dimension rather than two and is incredibly used today to launch rockets and computer programming.
In Ashtown, Dick meets his old friend Ken Whelan and goes fly fishing in Finglas - on the banks of the Tolka River. Rambler makes it safely over the spectacular M50/N3 interchange and finally starts to leave the cityscape and urban landscape behind.
Episode One is airing October 2nd 2011 on RTE1 at 8.30pm