Saturday 16 November 2019

Memory streams and the Liffey

• Walking down the quays for the Tall Ships festival, the sight of a new bridge being constructed for Luas Broombridge transported me back to the 1980s as I bobbed along the river in an old Liffey ferry with my father and his team as they surveyed the bridges of the Liffey in a collaborative project between AnCo (the forerunner of FAS) and the Liberties Association. I still remember the thrill of passing under the bridges and thinking how wonderful it was to see your own city from the vantage point of its famous waterway.

My father (now 82 years old) was delighted when I reminded him of this and we reminisced for the afternoon as he recalled the painstaking work that went into recording the information, particularly with the vagaries of the tide causing us to run aground on occasion!

Although he is 82, he is still as bright as a button, naming off the 15 bridges that spanned the Liffey from Islandbridge to Eastlink in the 1980s. He also bemoaned the expanded Essex Bridge of the 1870s when compared to the original, ranking it as one of the "ugliest bridges to disfigure our lovely Liffey" and adding that "the doubtful honour of renaming Essex Bridge in his name was conferred upon our illustrious statesman Henry Grattan".

As we celebrate our current Olympic heroes (and in particular our heroine), he was amused as I reminded him that the famous Jack B Yeats painting 'The Liffey Swim' was a silver medal winner at the 1924 Olympics.

Looking through the resulting publication compiled by the Liffey Bridges Survey Team, I was impressed by many facts about the Liffey Bridges, but perhaps most striking (and not a little bizarre) was the proposal to replace the Ha'penny Bridge with an art gallery designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens at the behest of Sir Hugh Lane! The refusal of the city fathers of the day to accede to this request is cited as the main reason why Lane originally donated all of his paintings to London.

Thankfully, many of the paintings were returned and can be viewed at the Hugh Lane (Dublin City Gallery) in Parnell Square, but it certainly would have been a novelty to see them in a gallery bestriding Anna Livia Plurabella.

Mark Lawler
Liberties Heritage Association Carmans Hall, D8

Irish Independent

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