For centuries people have looked across from North Antrim to the Mull of Kintyre and the poor sailors among them have wished that there was some way of getting across without having to endure the trauma of being violently sea-sick. There may have been some relief for such individuals when, as recorded by in the Annals of the Four Masters, the Sea of Moyle was frozen over in 695 AD and people were able to cross with horses and carts from Ballycastle to the Mull of Kintyre.
No doubt there were many dreams of replicating this situation by some means or other down through the centuries but they were to continue to be mere fantasies.
Father Kevin McHugh’s interesting article on page 21 describes L. L. Macassey’s proposals for a tunnel across the North Channel between Cushendun and the Mull of Kintyre about one hundred years ago which proved too costly and uneconomic in view of the small volume of traffic which could be expected to take advantage of such a tunnel.
Another scheme proposed the building of a land junction from Torr Head in County Antrim to Dees Point on the Mull of Kintyre. I was first made aware of this scheme when I was given a plan of it by Miss Peggy McLister, S.R.N., S.C.M., a native of Torr, who was keen to learn more about it. The map or chart is headed “An Isthmus to exclude the Gulf-stream, and reclaim 1,000,000 acres of submerged land in the Irish Sea and loughs”. The proposal was to build the bar across the ‘North Passage’, and to cut two ship-canals through Kintyre. The proposed land junction is shown as twelve and a half miles in length and varies in depth from two hundred feet in the in-shore waters to four hundred feet at its deepest point.
The currents on the northern side of the bar are recorded as flowing at six knots per hour except in the area close to Kintyre where they are simply shown as very strong currents. Though the bar was never built it is possible that one of the canals suggested was the Crinan Canal which was first mooted in May 1793 when an Act of Parliament gave authority for building a link between Loch Fyne and Loch Crinan. Six hundred men were employed on the scheme and using only picks and shovels, wheelbarrows and sledge-hammers they cut a twelve feet deep passage all the way to Crinan. It was opened on July 18th 1801 and by 1808 it had accumulated debts of £140,000. The canal had to be re-built and it re-opened on 20th November 1817. If the cost of building of the Crinan Canal was an example of the cost involved in such an exercise it is hardly surprising that the bar across the North Channel was never attempted.
The desire for a “Scottish connection” still exists as this report from “the Newsletter” of 19th June 1990 shows:
Ulster Unionist M.P. John Taylor has made a futile “bridge that gap” plea to a Government minister. He had asked if the Secretary of State for Scotland would consider the possibility of a bridge between the Mull of Kintyre and Torr Head, Co. Antrim. He was told that the minister would not begin a feasibility study.
Mr. Taylor said the idea was “imaginative” and should be considered by the European Commission.
PAMPHLET WITH CHART &c.WITH DETAILS OF ESTIMATED COST, AND PROPOSALS FOR BUILDING THE ‘BAR’ ACROSS THE ‘NORTH PASSAGE’, AND CUTTING TWO SHIP – CANALS THROUGH CANTYRE. TO EXCLUDE THE ‘GULF-STREAM’ AND RECLAIM 1,000,000 ACRES OF SUBMERGED LAND IN THE IRISH SEA & LOUGHS.
(reads: PROPOSED LAND JUNCTION OF GT BRITAIN & IRELAND
DISTANCE 12.5 MILES ACROSS.)