Date: 20th -22nd May 2022
Location: the Union Canal
2022 marks 200 years since the Union Canal was completed. To celebrate, a huge flotilla is planned for the weekend 20th-22nd May, and everyone is invited to take part – both on the water and on the banks.
“Flotilla 200” will commence from both ends of the canal, with boats mustering at Lochrin Basin in Edinburgh and at the Falkirk Wheel, before setting out along the canal in each direction. They will converge on the Saturday afternoon at Manse Road Basin in Linlithgow, one of the original stabling and staging posts, where there will be an early evening celebration including BBQ & musical entertainment. There are various muster points along the way, giving everyone an opportunity to get involved in the festival atmosphere on the banks, as well as allowing you to join the flotilla on the water if you wish to at a point closest to you.
Best Dressed Boat. Decorate your boat to reflect the 200 Theme or events from the last 200 years. There will be numerous prizes/categories with the awards being presented at The Linlithgow Muster on the evening of 21st May.
Run, walk or cycle. Activity is not only on the water. Why not walk, run or cycle along side the flotilla (either individually or within your group or organisation).
Fancy dress. Have fun celebrating the 200th anniversary with us by dressing up in fancy dress to reflect the 200th Anniversary, or indeed anything else you like.
No boat ~ No problem. Jump on board your stand up paddle board, kayak, or any other form of water transport. The more the merrier.
For more information on muster times and locations, and to register your boat, please visit www.flotilla200.live where you can also download a free booklet with full details of the weekend.
Originally built for transport as the industrial development of Scotland took off, the canal is a masterpiece of engineering which had a relatively short life as industrial infrastructure, as railways and roads started to take over in the decades after it was completed. It has been through periods of disuse and neglect, before being revitalised, mainly through volunteer activity, to the wonderful leisure facility that we enjoy today. It’s good to pause and look into the history of the hard labour that went into cutting the earth in the first place - many years before powerful machines could help.
Canal diggers – navigators – or “navvies” as they became known, in central Scotland were Irish immigrants and Highlanders lured by the prospect of steady work. They worked on canal projects all over Scotland, following the work from project to project. The Union Canal, 31.5 miles long between Edinburgh and Falkirk, was dug in just 4 years between 1818 and 1822. No accommodation was provided for the workers by the canal proprietors; they had to find lodgings and make do however they could. At either end of the canal in Edinburgh and Falkirk it wasn't too difficult to find lodgings, but in between there was little or no accommodation to be found, and the families had to accompany the wage-earner. A newspaper at the time reported:
“Along the banks of the Union Canal certain edifices have been erected which strike the traveller with no little astonishment. These are huts erected by Irish labourers upon some few vacant spots of ground belonging to the canal proprietors and are pointed out to strangers on the passage boats as great curiosities. Each, of course, is more wretched than than another, and presents a picture of squalid poverty which is new to the people on this side of the Channel. One of them, with the exception, perhaps, of a few sticks, is composed entirely of rotten straw; its dimensions would not suffice for a pig-stye.”
Published in Konect May 2022
Flotilla200 is organised by Scottish Waterways for All, working in partnership with Scottish Canals and numerous other organisations. Information taken from www.flotilla200.live and www.scottishcanals.co.uk. Photos provided by and used with permission of Scottish Waterways for All.