“WE’RE over the moon about it,” Racey Byrne, chairman of the Carlow/Graiguecullen Sub Aqua Club, said about Webster’s Lock. “This will be one of a kind – the only one in Ireland.”
Webster’s Lock is undergoing a dramatic change and will, within months, feature the finest facilities for a diving school in the country. Part of the transformation is the installation of a massive water tank. Measuring 14ft by 10ft with a height of nine feet, the tank will feature a glass wall on one side so that trainee divers can see what’s happening in the water.
There will be shower and catering facilities, a compression zone and storage space for boats and equipment.
It’s taken over three years of campaigning and negotiations to get the project off the ground, the idea having first been mooted by cllr Des Hurley. Cllr Hurley’s family are long associated with the River Barrow and he’s inherited his love of the river from his father and grandfather.
“This has been a long, hard campaign but we got there with the help and guidance of Brian O’Donovan, the town engineer,” a delighted cllr Hurley said. “It’s so great to see that the work has started.”
The facilities are much needed because currently they have no permanent place to train during the winter, but have been allowed to use the pool in the Seven Oaks Hotel. Approximately €400,000 is being poured into the transformation of the old lock house, with the finances coming from a range of parties, including the club itself, the county enterprise board, Carlow Town Council and County Carlow Development Partnership.
The overhaul of the lock house is the first phase in an ambitious project that will, eventually, incorporate the lighting-up of the lock itself for training purposes. A set-down area for barges, as well as the installation of a boardwalk around the island on the river are also planned.
It’s a dream come true for members of the club, which was formed 35 years ago. There are 51 members of the club, 20 of whom are fully qualified, with another 16 in the process of being trained.
If there is an emergency, the Garda Sub Aqua Team is the first to check out the situation, after which they call in local reinforcements. Since the club’s foundation, 34 bodies have been taken from the river.
“We’re there purely to assist the gardaí,” Racey said. “If you don’t respect the water, it’s dangerous. If you do respect it, it’s perfectly safe.”
In recent years, a number of qualified club divers have emigrated, some of whom are getting professional diving work abroad. Because of this, and ahead of the opening date of Webster’s Lock early next year, there’s a membership drive now on at the club. “We can train people for leisure or in advanced diving techniques, depending on what they want,” said Racey.
For more information, contact Racey on 087 9323782.