Along the Fathom Line

I’m still numbered among the few who travel the Fathom Line to Omeath weekly for diesel.  The saving is down to ~10% but I love the route and it gives me some quality time with Naomi.

I explain to her that the excise duty was raised in the Southern budget and perhaps the saving might be wiped out.  ‘Maybe the garage man won’t pass it all on.  If he keeps his diesel cheaper, he will sell more – and that’s what he wants.”  Quite astute, I think, for a six-year-old.  And this proved to be the case!

I explain to her that when I was her age, a railway used to run along the other side of the road from the ship canal, taking people to Omeath and Carlingford/Greenore.  I stop to show her the route of the old track.  I never travelled the route by rail, for it closed down when I was her age.  But it all got me thinking of Sean Crawford’s story of a ‘Journey down a Canal’.

“Our motorboat had lain up in Newry’s Albert Basin all winter so one bright spring morning we sailed her back to the sea.

Feadan is the Irish word for a water-course.  Possibly that is the origin of Fathom Line.  Long years ago the Clanrye River filled the whole valley from Warrenpoint to Newry but in order to narrow its flow and confine it to a channel about a hundred feet wide, a Rampart was constructed about a mile below St Mary’s Cemetery.  The walk up to Newry along the waterside is known as the Green Bank.  (Today the term applies to all the reclaimed land between the rampart and the Warrenpoint Road [editor’s note]). 

Horse races were formerly held in what are still called (by some) The Marshes and the course was considered one of the best in Ireland as the steep banks on each side afforded supurb views to spectators.  Agricultural shows were held there in my own time.  At one time Newry had an excellent Rowing Club with the clubhouse being located in that area. 

This view was to our port side.  On our starboard side as we sailed seaward, down Fathom … but not far .. there once stood a fortress erected by Shane O’Neill.  [Its location is marked on an old map you can view in Carlingford’s Heritage Centre, though nothing remains at the site {editor’s note}].   History records that .. ‘at this time … (the reign of Edward VI  i.e. c. 1555) … Sir Nicholas Bagnal, Knight Marshall of Ireland upon coming to these parts found the lordships of Newry and Mourne altogether waste and Shane O’Neill dwelling within a mile of Newry at a castle called Fedom, suffering none to travel northward.’ 

… more of Journey later …

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