Green & Silver

  • Fifth edition: Canal Bookshop, 2015
  • Fourth edition: Shackleton Publishing, Ireland, 2011
  • Third edition: Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, 1993
  • Second edition: Allen & Unwin, 1968
  • First published by Allen & Unwin in 1949
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Green and Silver paints a wonderful and evocative picture, not only of the Irish waterways as they were, but of a now vanished way of life just after the end of the Second world War.

First published in 1949, Green and Silver describes a journey through the inland waterways of Ireland. The author takes us over the mighty Shannon, from the upper limit of navigation at the little village of Battlebridge, near Leitrim down to Lough Derg of the islands and storms. With him, we travel on the Grand Canal across the curlew-haunted solitudes of the great Bog of Allen down to Dublin’s Ringsend Docks, returning to Shannon via the majestic Royal Canal.

Rolt in his inimitable style paints a picture of an Ireland that has all but disappeared and is very different to the Ireland of today. The Royal Canal closed to traffic just a few short years after his journey and fell into a state of neglect and decay. However, as a result of the Trojan efforts of some very dedicated people, the Royal Canal reopened to navigation in late 2010. The reopened section of canal is now named 'The Green and Silver Route' in a generous acknowledgement to this inspiring work of LTC Rolt.

Once again it is possible to follow in the wake of Rolt, and while the towns and villages of his day have changed greatly, the waterways have remained the same. While not everybody will have the time and the resources to enjoy the pleasure of slow boat travel along these incredibly beautiful waterways, reading Green and Silver, with its descriptive prose, is an excellent substitute. It is the classic book of the Irish waterways and will appeal to the armchair traveller, boater, social historian and anyone with an interest in the history of our Irish canals.

"Just as Tom Rolt's book Narrow Boat was to become a classic across the water and lead to new interest in English Waterways, so Green and Silver became a classic and was an important element in the campaign launched by the small group who founded the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland in 1954 to save the Shannon navigation from strangulation by low bridges... It captures for all time the waterways as they were then, at their very lowest ebb, and his enchantment at what he experienced shines through strongly."
Ruth Delany, in her foreword to the 1993 edition

In his foreword to the fifth edition, the author's son Tim writes:

"Tom and Angela found that in Ireland there was always a sense that there was 'time enough'. Indeed a slowed down pace is something the book itself achieves which perhaps lends the narrative its beguilingly otherworldly quality – remote, yet somehow comforting - taking us into a world of light and weather, a world that moves at a comfortable regulated pace, a world where there is time enough to stop and stare.

As Tom put it:

'...our journey from Athlone to Dublin and back to the Shannon could have been accomplished by car in half a day or by air in an hour or so, but this is mere movement, it is not travel. Travel is not susceptible of measurement. A ten-mile walk can store the mind with memories while a hundred-mile car journey can leave it empty.'

This book is a gloriously slow and leisurely store of memories, sights and sounds."

Tom Rolt in a first-class compartment on the West Clare line
"To do justice to such an interior, I should, I felt, be wearing a deerstalker and an ulster."

See article, Rolt Remembered (Gerald Potterton in Irish Waterways, Spring 2010 - PDF file, 2.75MB), for the LTC Rolt Centenary 2010.

See also Robert Harris's blog, Roaring Water Journal, in which he traces the journey described in Green and Silver, accompanied by many 'then and now' photographs.

Green and Silver - new book cover

Green and Silver - original book cover

© copyright Sonia Rolt