What's in a name?
Anna Livia Bridge - the name - officially came into being on Bloomsday, June 16th 1982, the centenary of the birth of James Joyce. Water - wave tossed and briney - carried Joyce away from Ireland on his self-imposed journey of exile and it was Anna Livia’s soft, brackish waters which carried him back. His riverside musings as a young man, here on the banks of the Liffey at Chapelizod, would one day flow from his pen in the character of Anna Livia Plurabelle. Anna Livia is a spirit, a goddess of rebirth and renewal, her long flowing hair is the river as it tumbles down from the heathery boglands of the Wicklow Hills, gathers life through the plainlands of Kildare and flows with serene maturity through Chapelizod before entering the sea at Dublin. Joyce reached deep into the annals of Irish history to source his matriarchal heroine who is older than Dublin itself. Variants of her name from the Irish Abhainn Liphthe to the prosaic Avenlif, exist in records from early in the first millennium.
‘O tell me all about Anna Livia!
I want to hear all about Anna Livia.’
(Finnegans Wake 196.1-216.5)
Fate entwined Joyce with the beautiful and melodic Anna Livia for she is special among fellow river spirits: not weary as the bearded Old Father Thames, nor malevolent as Boiuna of the Amazon or voiceless like the Seine once she departs from the sacred pool of the goddess Sequana. More worldly concerns brought about Joyce’s visits to Chapelizod, which feature not only in Finnegans Wake but also in Dubliners. His father had business connections with the Chapelizod Distillery - once a thriving concern, its downfall heralding the bankruptcy of Joyce senior. This chapter of Joyce’s story ends where it began: with the river and the Anna Livia Bridge, re-christened by Dublin City Council in celebration of Joyce and Chapelizod.
The name Chapelizod promises intrigue and romance - which it duly delivers from the historic mists of the first millennium. As the legend goes, La Belle Izod was the daughter of rebel King Anguish of Ireland who, in the web of loyalties and fealties of the 5th century, paid homage to King Arthur of the Round Table and was the overlord of King Mark of Cornwall. King Anguish, angered by Mark’s defiant refusal to pay his tribute dispatched Sir Morhaut, Arthurian knight, champion jouster, slayer of dragons and saviour of damsels in distress, to Cornwall. The villainous King Mark decreed the matter would be settled in combat, pitching Sir Tristram against the more worldly Morhaut. The day long battled ended when Tristram’s sword spliced Morhaut’s helmet and became embedded in his skull. Morhaut staggered back to Ireland to die. His sister, Isolde, wife of Anguish kept the offending piece of sword as a relic. Tristram, slowly succumbing to his festering battle wound, came to Anguish’s court, famous for its healing and was ministered to by Izod. Her mother, however, on admiring the distinctive serpent handle of his sword, noticed a missing piece. Immediately, from a soft lined casket, she produced the relic, which fitted neatly into the damaged sword. Tristram was banished. In the course of time it was decided that La Belle Izod should marry King Mark and to Sir Tristram, now restored to Anguish’s favour having taken his side in a dispute with King Arthur, fell the task of escorting her to Cornwall. In a fateful move, he and Izod unknowingly drank a love potion and though he loyally delivered her to Mark, the two became lovers. Through the twists and turns of forbidden love, estrangement followed. Yet, as he lay mortally wounded in combat, he sent for Izod and she, arriving too late, threw herself onto his dead body and died with her lips on his. Legend has it that her grieving father erected a chapel in her memory in the village that now bears her name - Chapelizod.
William Dodson was a familiar sight around Chapelizod in the 1660s as he watched over the building of the new stone bridge, slipped in and out of the King’s House as it underwent refurbishment and kept a wary eye on the erection of the Phoenix Park wall - some of his many projects. Somehow, having fought against the Royalists in the English Civil War, Lieutenant Colonel Dodson had ingratiated himself with the inner circle of Charles ll and seemed particularly favoured by James Butler, Duke of Ormonde during his second term as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland beginning in 1661. Dodson boasted an impressive portfolio - drainage projects in the Netherlands, Germany and the English Fens. In 1662 he received a modest payment of £200 for his work on walling in the Phoenix Park, or King’s Park as it was also known, and by 1669 he had pocketed an astounding sum in excess of 6,000 guineas for the same wall. The intrepid Dodson also ran a sweet little sideline as farmer of beer and ale in Ireland, a medieval term for Excise Commissioner, a job then outsourced to private individuals. His wall and his world soon came tumbling down. His crime had not so much been to milk the public purse - that was expected - but the breaches in the wall had allowed the deer to escape, which threatened the hunting and that could not be tolerated. His accounts were examined. A new contractor was appointed to repair, rebuild and complete the wall. The ‘pretended’ expense of the works at the King’s House at Chapelizod was judged to have been great with little to show for it. Perhaps it was his great respect for water and the powers it carried, but on examining the bridge the Commission of Enquiry found that it, at least, was ‘sufficiently done’. Dodson’s Bridge at Chapelizod, in style if not totally in substance, is still evident in Chapelizod today.