The Transient Nature of Life

Flowing beautifully and calmly through Mullingar for over 200 years, the Royal Canal is a
great reminder to us of Irish innovation, engineering and good old hard work and graft. No
longer a hive of commercial and business activity on the banks, the waterway is a valuable
source of leisurely recreation for locals off the banks with its nature trails and walks.
The canal conjures up many pleasant memories for my family. My late Grand-Father was a
proud Mullingar man. With his flat cap in situ and his daily three-piece suit, he often fished
on the Canal with his fellow townsfolk. A time of rationing and food scarcity, the canal
would have been a thriving place to fish, chat and get the local gossip. A bottle of Stout and a
pack of Wild Woodbine would have been shared amongst the men. I am sure Dev and
Churchill were the hot topic of discussion back then.
My father was reared not far from the banks of the Royal Canal. He has many fond childhood
memories of long summer evenings spent near the canal. The canal was an open playground
for young curious minds.
Like Tom Sawyer, my father and his childhood friends were never far from adventure or
innocent mischief near this body of water. My father also reminisces of winters running or
walking across the canal when it was entirely frozen over. Mullingar’s version of Russian
Roulette. A care-free childhood without the restraints of hesitation or fear. How we long for
that for the youth nowadays in our anxious society.
My own experiences of the great canal are both past and present. I remember strolling
nonchalantly across the Carey Bridge every day to my secondary school. The canal was an
ever present sub-conscious feature in my teenage angst mind.
Playing football during lunch break, the canal always became an unintended part or obstacle
during our kickabout. Once a volley or hoof went astray, the ball would sometimes go over
the school fence and land in the canal. The job of retrieving the ball was sometimes more
exciting than the game itself. With hormonal impulses and frustration, we would yelp out
orders to the would-be ball boy (or water boy). We even became creative in our endeavours
to fetch the ball from the canal that we created our own nets and rods. I tell ya, you don’t see
that on Match of the Day.
Years later when I did dwell with my Dublin Darling, the canal was a rich boardwalk for
romantic strolls for love’s young dreamers. Holding her gentle hands close, I chatted
excitedly and fervently throughout those walks. I would try to impress her with my faux
knowledge on the canal and on fellow Dubliner Brendan Behan. I can say one thing for
Behan, he was right when he said, “a man is already halfway in love to a woman if she listens
to him”.
Now my beloved wife, we have three adorable kids. Watching the kids on the canal walk,
running with energetic strides and infectious laughter is a sight to behold for us. The
simplicities of life like having a family picnic, feeding the ducks, and watching loved up pairs
of swans are those precious moments that we treasure.
Our only hope is for our kid’s generation to appreciate and respect this majestic waterway
that glides through this unassuming county town. As Robert Frost once said, life goes on and
like life, the Royal Canal will go on and flow eternally forever for others to enjoy.