Tag Archives: RIVER LIFFEY

The Custom House – A Dublin Favourite

James Gandon

James Gandon

The Custom House is one of Dublin’s most important and beautiful buildings,  and the first major work designed by James Gandon. He was also responsible for such iconic buildings as the Four Courts, King’s Inns and the curved    screen and portico for the Irish Houses of Parliament facing College Street.

John Beresford, who was appointed the Commissioner for Revenue in Ireland in 1780, was determined to have the new building further east and away from the Parliament Street – Capel Street axis. This decision met with great resistance from merchants who felt that it would reduce trade and property values. Construction was halted by members of Dublin Corporation and the High Sheriff who led a demonstration of may thousand. Beresford, however, was determined to have the building situated on the newly reclaimed land on the north quays and appointed Thomas Cooley as architect. When he died suddenly, Beresford contacted Gandon who came from London and began work in 1781.

Gandon's drawing desk

Gandon’s drawing desk

Work continued for ten years providing employment for the city’s carpenters and stonemasons, and was officially opened on 7th  November 1791. It cost £200,000, a huge sum at the time. The building is 375 feet in length and 205 feet in depth, and has four fronts, of which the south (facing the Liffey) is entirely of Portland stone, and the others of granite. The exterior is adorned with sculptures and coats-of-arms by Thomas Banks, Agnostino Carlini and Edward Smyth who carved a series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland.

The building was destroyed in May 1921 during the Irish Civil when centuries of records were irrevocably lost. The dome, with the statue of Commerce  atop, was replaced using Ardbraccan limestone that is darker than the original Portland stone. Sadly, most of Gandon’s original interior that was destroyed was impossible to replace, but the building is still one of the city’s favourites.

Custom Hose & Liffey - reflected beauty

Custom Hose & Liffey – reflected beauty


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Girls on Tour

Finding a permanent place to stay in Dublin these days is not easy, and two of its most famous women can attest to that. Both of them appeared in 1988 as part of the Dublin Millennium celebrations, and although they have left their original abodes they are integral to the city’s fabric. Anna Livia and Molly Malone may have been ‘Girls on Tour’ but that situation will be corrected in the future with the completion of the LUAS extension around College Green.

Anna Livia - float on!

Anna Livia – float on!

Anna Livia, the bronze monument created by Eamonn O’Doherty, was commissioned by Michael Smurfit in memory of his father Jefferson Smurfit, and presented to the city. It was situated on O’Connell Street, at the site where the Spire now stands, and soon became known as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.  It was removed in 2001 to make way for the Spire, and now resides in the Croppies Memorial Park (close to the Liffey), a quieter site more suited to her calm, reclining image.  

Molly Malone is still ‘on tour’ having moved from Grafton Street to Suffolk Street in 2014, and will be there until 2017 when the LUAS track is finished. Probably the city’s most famous woman, she is based on a fictional 17th century fishmonger who plied her trade on the streets of Dublin and died young.

The statue, designed by Jeanne Rynhart, was presented to the city by Jury’s Hotel Group, and unveiled by Lord Mayor, Ben Briscoe, on 13th June 1988 – Molly Malone Day – and has since become one the most photographed statues in the city. Typically, Dubliners have christened her ‘The Tart with the Cart’ and ‘The Trollop with the Scallop’ and other more profane names. Her new home outside the Dublin Tourist Office has brought her more attention, and although she no longer pushes her wheelbarrow about, in the minds of Dubliners she is very much ‘Alive, alive, oh!

Molly Malone - 'Alive, alive oh!'

Molly Malone – ‘Alive, alive oh!’


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Liffey Bridges – Part 2

Ha'penny Bridge - first footbridge

Ha’penny Bridge – first footbridge

The unique and charming Ha’penny Bridge was Dublin’s first pedestrian bridge, and it is also one of the world’s oldest cast-iron bridges. Thomas Telford designed his famous Iron Bridge over the River Severn in 1781, and when Dublin City alderman John Beresford proposed a new bridge it was decided to use the technology. The bridge was designed by John Windsor (of Coalbrookdale, Shropshire) and was opened in 1816. It was the only footbridge across the Liffey until the Millennium Bridge opened in 1999.
It was originally called the Wellington Bridge in honour of the Duke of Wellington (born in Dublin 1769), but due to the toll charged it soon became known as the Ha’penny Bridge. It was re-named the Liffey Bridge in 1922, but Dubliners have not, and are unlikely to, change the habit of generations. A recent, major restoration was carried out (re-opened on 21st December 2001) and over 85% of the original cast-iron was retained. This work was recognised when it received a Europa Nostra Award in 2003. Over 30,000 people use it each day.

Grattan Bridge - looking very pretty

Grattan Bridge – looking very pretty

Grattan's Parliament

Grattan’s Parliament

Grattan (or Capel Street) Bridge opened in October 1874 and was a replacement for an early structure. There had been at least two bridges on the same site for two hundred years, but the increase in business and general traffic demanded an improved structure. Bindon Stoney, the Port Engineer, was in charge and he made the bridge flatter to  accommodate the demand of horse-drawn carriages. He increased the width of the footpaths and embellished them with wrought-iron parapets, and added the distinctly,  beautiful lamps. The original bridge was named Essex Bridge, but after Stoney’s work was completed it was renamed Grattan Bridge on 1 January 1875, in honour of the great parliamentarian Henry Grattan (1746-1820). He would definitely have approved, as he was a local boy born only a stone’s throw away in Fishamble Street. It is one the Liffey’s prettiest bridges, and it is no surprise that it is also one of the most photographed.

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Liffey Bridges – a connecting history

We use them to get from one side to the other, but bridges are more than just physical things. Since we began making our way we recognised the need to span voids, and the concept of a bridge and its construction has held the imagination. And as the River Liffey makes its way on a 125 kilometre journey to Dublin Bay two dozen bridges with colourful and interesting histories play a major, if unnoticed and taken-for-granted, role in daily life.

Ha'penny Bridge - a real favourite

Ha’penny Bridge – a real favourite

Bridges have been built over the river long before records began. The earliest crossing points were mere fords and these were subsequently replaced by bridges. Old bridges were damaged, often swept away, and these were then replaced by newer, more stable structures. The oldest one is Anna Livia Bridge at Chapelizod which was completed in 1753. The name was bestowed on it in 1982, the 100th anniversary of the James Joyce’s birth, as this is how he refers to the Liffey in his great work Finnegans Wake.

Within the city limits, the oldest bridge is Mellows Bridge (Queen St to Bridgefoot St) dating from 1768. It was originally called Queen’s Bridge (after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III), but was renamed in 1942 in honour of Liam Mellows.

Grattan (Capel Street) Bridge - perfect symmetry

Grattan (Capel Street) Bridge – perfect symmetry

The recently opened Rosie Hackett Bridge (Marlborough St to Hawkins) is the only one named after a woman, the former trade union activist who played a part in the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Easter Rising. However, Island Bridge (1792) was for 130 years known as Sarah’s Bridge until the name was changed in 1922. Sarah Fane, Countess of Westmorland, was the wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and its beauty was compared to the Rialto in Venice. It was a popular spot with both sightseers and artists.

The James Joyce and Samuel Beckett Bridges, both designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Santiago Calatrava, are white, steel and the most modern of bridges. ‘Sam’ also opens to allow ships to pass, an impressive sight if you get a chance to see it. And, like its older neighbours, doing an important job that Dubliners appreciate, if not always crossing their minds.

Samuel Beckett Bridge - light elegance

Samuel Beckett Bridge – light elegance



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The Liffey – RiverFest 2014

LE Roisin

LE Roisin

The first thing I heard was the music. David Byrne of Talking Heads was singing out loud ‘Take me to the river,’ and around me a number of people joined in, smiling. It  was a good start.

The day was warm and the sun, thankfully, made a long overdue and lengthy appearance. The RiverFest needed it, and the thousands who showed up, certainly enjoyed  themselves. There was something for everyone, and the blue sky above was everything that organizers and attendees wanted. After the recent miserable weather it was great to see so many people in T-shirts and eating ice creams. Summer in Dublin!

I took a few photos of LE Roisin before carefully making my way up the gangplank and joining a small tour group. The sailor who led us around had lots of interesting  stories to tell, and made the experience very enjoyable. It was also interesting to see along The Liffey from the ship’s bridge, a unique view up the river of the Samuel Beckett Bridge and the city beyond.

Samuel Beckett Bridge

Samuel Beckett Bridge

Along the North Wall the crowds were deep and the smells of hot food enticing. Also, there were stalls selling all sorts of marine stuff, including sea captain’s and pirate’s hats – and by the look of things business was pretty brisk. There was a long queue to board the Famine ship Jeanie Johnson – not unlike, I thought, what it must have been like all those years ago. The difference, however, was the laughter.

Jeanie Johnson - basking in the sunshine

Jeanie Johnson – basking in the sunshine

The was much face painting in progress; tumblers doing all sorts of contortions (looked painful!); singers singing sea shanties; and others stepping on board for a trip around Dublin Bay. On my way back over the bridge a number of young swimmers were jumping/diving off the edge, making a great splash! All in all, the RiverFest is great fun, and under a clear blue sky – a real winner!

Making a splash!

Making a splash!

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To the sea

To the sea - the walk ahead

To the sea – the walk ahead

The air was warm, the breeze gentle, and the tang of the salty air invigorating. It felt that summer had definitely arrived, as I slung my camera over my shoulder and headed for the Great South Wall.

It was my first visit here since the autumn when the day was bright and the breeze blustery. Today, thankfully, was totally inviting, and my arrival in mid-morning meant that there were only a few walkers enjoying the beautiful weather. And, of course, the unique scene and images of Dublin.

The building of the Great South Wall began in 1715 when it was authorised by the Dublin City assembly. It was built in response to the problems caused by silting at the mouth of the River Liffey, which prevented large ships from landing. Most of the wall is constructed from large granite blocks brought from the quarries in Dalkey, and it was, for a time, the world’s longest sea-wall. Building took many years, and the red-painted Poolbeg Lighthouse at the tip of the wall was constructed in 1820.

Poolbeg Lighthouse - looking great

Poolbeg Lighthouse – looking great

The view from the lighthouse – 360 degrees – of Dublin, is fascinating, especially for those who have never stood there before. You are in the middle of the bay, almost equi-distant from Howth and Killiney, with only ships travelling in and out of Dublin Port for company. It is a new way of looking at the city, and one not to be missed, especially on a bright, sunny day. 

Fantastic sky over Clontarf  (pic taken from Great South Wall)

Fantastic sky over Clontarf (pic taken from Great South Wall)

At the start of the wall is the Pigeon House, which was named after John Pigeon who ran a small hotel (built between 1793-95) that catered for travellers who had to be ferried to and from their ships. Sadly, it has nothing to do with the myriad of pigeons about the place! However, there are plenty of birds and animals to be seen as the GSW is now a Special Protection Area (SPA), and the adjacent Irishtown Nature Park is popular.

Being out on the water, and you do feel that you are floating on Dublin Bay, is a wonderful feeling and something that this hidden gem always delivers.

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