The First Proposal
In 1790, a survey was carried out on the land where the first proposal for the Strabane Canal was to be sited. The town was developing gradually as a commercial point. The Duke of Abercorn, at this period of the town`s history, realised the economic potential of an inland waterway from the port of Londonderry to the area. The idea was implanted.
Consequently, estimated costs were sought, agreements were made signed and sealed, an Act of Parliament was passed, loans were secured, labour was contracted, lock gates were ordered in 1795 and eventually the Strabane Canal was opened in 1796. Thereafter trade flourished and prosperity for some ensued.
The Earl of Abercorn was able to obtain the necessary acreage for the canal line as he was the landlord to the many tenant farmers in the vicinity.
However, he may well have got into financial difficulties some years later with the overall expenditure, as he was forced to increase the rents substantially on the farmers in the Manor of Strabane. As the letter shows these rises were to be extremely high.( Note the increase according to acre, rood and perch). In 1807 these changes were implemented officially and legally through the Lifford Assizes. Montgomery, as a member of the Grand Jury, was an influential speaker of interested landowners and obviously condoned the rises.
Further means of remuneration were included on the canal such as a toll charge placed on all traffic and cargo. The canal brought commercial enterprise to the town and outlying districts.
Regretfully, the tide turned through the years. Neglect and communication advancement resulted in the downfall of the waterway. It was no longer a viable proposition and soon became non-existent.
In its glory days and because of the success it gave to business, a second proposal was presented to extend the line from Londonderry to Lough Erne. This seemed another excellent idea at the time, sadly without success.
A short explanation of the third proposal follows in the survey notes.