Trips on the MV Maid of Allen offer the chance to travel by barge on the Grand Canal from Sallins in Kildare.

The days of barge travel in Ireland are not in the past. Hilary Allen bought and refurbished the MV Maid of Allen.

It was pretty basic when we got it, it had done trips before but in a very limited fashion, it wasn't refurbished inside to any great degree.

Throughout the summer of 1987 the MV Maid of Allen will be taking groups out on the Sallins stretch of waterway in County Kildare. This stretch of the Grand Canal is in good condition and its care and maintenance is carried out by Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ).

It’s just a question of keeping it in repair keeping the banks staunched and keeping the lock gates in good order.

The MV Maid of Allen offers two trips. The first is a two mile trip out to the Morell Aqueduct. The second goes to Digby Bridge where the barge crosses the Leinster Aqueduct where the Grand Canal passes over the River Liffey.

Skipper of the MV Maid of Allen is Paddy Kane from Robertstown, County Kildare. He has connections with the Grand Canal going back 100 years. Paddy Kane had his own trade boat as did his father and grandfather before him.

While a barge may seem solid and slow moving, a skipper’s job is not all plain sailing,

There is inherent dangers built into it, and you have to be very much aware of them all the time, but when you’re aware of them they don’t happen.

Paddy Kane recalls a bad experience he had in February 1933 when a huge storm left him stranded for three weeks on the Grand Canal. The water iced over 12 inches thick and he estimates there was 8-10 foot of snow on the roads.

There was no communication with the outside world at all, even though we weren’t too far from Dublin.

In those days barges were horse drawn. When food supplies ran out Paddy Kane and the crew resorted to cooking the horse’s oats.

An 'Evening Extra’ report broadcast on 24 June 1987. The reporter is Helen O'Rahilly.