Bridges Across The River Liffey In Dublin.
We use them every day, getting from one side to the other, while keeping the feet dry and not being marooned by the high tide when you want to get back. Bridges dripping with history and wit, read on.
1 Sean Houston Bridge.
Coming into Dublin from the western side we cross this bridge named now after Sean Houston who was executed after the Easter Rising of 1916. Don’t be surprised to hear it called other names.
Formerly called Sarsfield bridge, honouring a 17th century war hero and the first earl of Lucan, Patrick Sarsfield.
Prior to this it was The King’s Bridge, after King George 1V’s visit to Ireland in 1821. Many Dubliners still refer to this bridge as Kings Bridge.
2 Rory O’More Bridge.
The original wooden bridge was Barrack Bridge, because of its proximity to the Royal Barracks. Built in 1670 it was also called the Bloody Bridge after the ferrymen who lost their lives after attempting to destroy the structure.
In 1859 it was renamed the Victoria and Albert Bridge.
Renamed the Rory O’More in 1930. Another revolutionary from way back, having been involved in the 1641 rebellion. We Irish have long memories you know. This bridge is of beautiful cast iron and links Ellis Street on the north side of the city to Watling Street on the south side taking you up to the Guinness brewery.
3 The Father Matthew Bridge.
Theobald Matthew was an Irish Catholic priest and teetotalist reformer. Known as Father Matthew. With the problem of over indulgence in alcohol in Ireland during the 1800’s he started the Temperance movement. With its success in Ireland it spread it to the UK and then to the USA and Canada. This movement was very much responsible for prohibition being introduced in the 1920’s in North America and Canada.
The Father Matthew bridge is the site of one of the first bridged crossing of the river in 1014, the year of the famous “Battle of Clontarf” when the High King of Ireland Brian Boru defeated a Viking and Irish alliance. Interesting that this bridge is located close to a brewery and a distillery.
4 O’Donovan Rosa Bridge.
Formerly called Ormond Bridge back in 1760 after the Butler family of Kilkenny, later named after the Irish revolutionary Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. An Irish Fenian, a member of the House of Parliament in London. He went to the United States in the late 1800’s and became involved in the Irish revolutionary movement there. He was a pioneer in physical force utilizing dynamite in attacking the British Empire. Dying in the USA in 1915 his remains were brought back to Ireland and buried in the Republican plot in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin. Patrick Pearce, the leader of the 1916 Easter rebellion give a moving oration at his graveside.
In 1760 a pub, that was named Mrs Archer”s tavern, plummeted into the murky waters below as well as part of the bridge. There was no loss of life, however numerous quantities of drinks sank, causing more distress than would a bereavement.
5 Grattan Bridge.
Very seldom referred to as such, Gratton was a parliamentarian back in the late 1700’s. Known to Dubliners as Capel Street bridge or Essex Bridge. Essex being associated with Elizabeth 1. A statue of King George1 was a feature of the bridge way back, removed in 1753, it now resides in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham. The bridge joins Capel Street to Parliament Street with the 18th century portico and copper dome of City Hall. Off Parliament Street are a labyrinth of passageways, alleys and cobblestone walkways, now a tourist attraction day and night, the “Temple Bar District”.
In yesteryear when young ladies, dressed up in their finery, for a Ball or Banquet, being held at City Hall, were being driven across this bridge many were the targets of kidnapping. Young men who had little prospect of marring above their status sought fit to kidnap an heiress. Books have been written on this topic.
6 The Millennium Bridge.
A recent addition for the pedestrian traffic. Opened a few days before the dawning of the third millennium. Built in Co. Carlow, a hundred kilometres from it’s would be resting place. It was quite an achievement to have it transported on a single truck and then slotted into place by a single crane. Irish people being a little cynical had a wager as to how much of the bridge would be out on the streets or if it would be in the river. What do you know? It fitted. The architect even designed a commemorative plaque that doubles up as a manhole cover. Nifty or what!
7 The Ha’penny Bridge.
Dublin’s oldest pedestrian bridge got its name simply because the toll to cross it was a half penny with turnstiles at each either side. William Walsh had a ferry going across the river until the bridge was built, he got a lease for 100 years afterwards. Inheritance is a wonderful carrot for your offsprings. Daddy was very well taken care of. It’s estimated that 30,000 pedestrians cross the bridge every day. The toll ended in 1919. It’s said that at the time of putting in the bridge the citizens of Dublin had a year to decide if they liked it. If not it would be removed at no cost to the city of Dublin. The official name of the bridge was Wellington Bridge. Named after the Dublin born Duke, that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, twice Prime Minister of Britain. After our Independence it’s fondly called “The Ha’pennyBridge”.
8 O’Connell Bridge.
The centre of the city. Built in the late 1700”s, then known as Carlisle bridge. It’s a road bridge linking O’Connell Street to D’Olier Street. By far the busiest junction in the city. The area is a hive of activity, Street art, musicians and now and again students and others have a Liffey swim, causing a little commotion. The river is tidal so the depth of water has to be correct.
For the millennium the city fathers placed a clock in the river at the bridge to count down the time to the ringing in of 2000. Did it work, No, and nobody knows what became of the said clock.
In 2004, a pair of pranksters installed a plaque to a fictional Father Pat Noise, this remained unnoticed until 2006, it is still there today.
No it’s not a square, in fact it’s the only traffic bridge in Europe wider than it is long.
9 The Rosie Hackett Bridge.
This bridge was added on in 2014 to facilitate the crossing of the river by the Luas tram line. Rosie Hackett was involved in the rebellion of 1916 and was also a trade union activist. Women were very much involved in the struggle for Irish freedom and welfare rights, after our independence women had equal voting rights as men from 1922.
10 The Matt Talbot Memorial Bridge.
We have mentioned Father Matthew, now we are at the other end of the scale. Matt as he is fondly referred to in song and story in Dublin had what we call, a weakness when it came to the demon drink. He got work in a brewery at the tender age of twelve (12). At the age of sixteen (16) he was declared a alcoholic, at 28 he decided to abstain from drink and turned to God, attending mass each morning at 5am. He would sleep on a plank of wood, that is if he could sleep, wearing heavy chains and knotted ropes, daily. He became heavily involved in the Catholic Church, dying at the age of 69 he had remained sober for 41 years.
11 The Sean O’Casey Bridge.
Another pedestrian bridge, this time in the newly developed area of Dublin dock lands. With the tram lines running to Dublin Port this bridge is the short cut for the offices that have sprung up along the quays (river side). This area was a barren wasteland for a number of years. Due to the advent of Roll-on Roll-off trucks in the busy port. Prior to this cargo was ferried in and manually lifted off ships. On the quayside, sheds and stores chartered for the needs of workers and freight. Live cattle were exported to Britain, storage had to be available for animals and feeding in the area. That ended and so the docks became derelict. In the words of the playwright Sean O’Casey, this is a “Tale of Two Cities” the wasteland has become a thriving metropolis of activity.
The bridge, sometimes called the “Quiver in the River”, due to the apparent bounce in its structure.
12 The Samuel Beckett Bridge.
This is a transformation from the bridges we have seen. Designed by Calatrava, a Spanish architect. If you look closely it looks like a Harp, on its side. This is the Irish national symbol. This is a swing bridge, built in Holland, shipped over and sailed up the Liffey. Much to the annoyance of many an Irish manufacturer and worker didn’t it sit right on top of the swivel pivot that was erected and closed perfectly into place on the other side.
When travelling along the river it’s a splendid spectacle regardless of the time of day or night.
With the development on both sides of the river its a welcome link keeping heavy traffic out of the city centre.