Great Coal Rush 1951

In 1951 the Newry Canal was cleaned up when the Harbour Commission wanted to increase the tonnage coming into Newry.  The silt in the canal and basin made this impossible. So in early 51 the dredging started ….

….  down at the locks and gradually moved up until in October it reached the Albert Basin.

Different methods were used to do the job but in that month the Commission brought in a boat that was specially adapted to dredge the canal and save a lot of time and money.  It did neither but it made a lot of people in the town happy.  Why? Because of the coal.

Newry at that time was a great importer of coal and because of the large buckets used by the Dockers to unload the coal boats it was inevitable that some of the coal would fall into the canal.  In fact a lot of coal fell into the canal.  So when the bottom of the Albert Basin was been dredged – up came the coal.

Word spread like wildfire about the coal and before long men from all over the town descended in droves on to the middle bank, picking up the coal and carting it home.

They came in cars, bicycles and lorries looking for the black gold.

We lived in Castle Street at the time and we went to the dig’ with old prams, and some not so old, filled them with the coal, raced home, dumped our cargo and raced back.  We did this in relays, so as not to lose our place.  As soon as one crew returned, the other took off with their spoils.

In a matter of days our coal sheds were filled to the brim. 

It had its downside too, of course.  Among the coal were plenty of stones but after a few hiccups we learned to distinguish coal from stone.

The coal strike’  lasted until the dredger had completed its task.

I cannot remember when that was but I do know the residents of Castle Street did not go cold that winter.

 … Good Friday of ago …

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