What's in a name?
Farmleigh Bridge, rustic, rusted and a little forgotten as it is, proudly holds sundry other titles. Some call it Guinness’ or Lord Iveagh’s Bridge, for the owner of the Farmleigh Estate and for whom it was built in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Dubliner, Edward Cecil Guinness or Lord Iveagh as he became, and the then owner of the world’s largest brewery, was renowned for his generosity and social conscience at a time when hard graft for low wages was the lot of those lucky enough to have a job and Dublin ranked among the slum capitals of the world. Decent housing, enlightened welfare and social programmes for his employees, and generous donations to hospitals were features of his philanthropy. Today, Dublin still gains from his legacy - listen to the peal of the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral or visit Farmleigh House to admire his taste in art and furnishings.
For others, the bridge is synonymous with summer days among the strawberry beds once laid out along the north bank of the River Liffey here. Honeymooners, day trippers and the quietly simmering James Joyce lazed beside the river, watching cotton wool clouds through the latticework of the Strawberry Beds Bridge. When hungry, they feasted on the berries cupped in lettuce leaves and sold by cottagers who set up stalls by the roadside.
Less well known, though equally romantic, is the name the Silver Bridge, inspired, no doubt, by the ironwork of the bridge. When shiny and new, the bridge and the river must have seemed as one, brilliant in the summer sun and moodily grey on a winter’s day. Today, surrounded by meadowland, it’s easy to see from whence the name Farmleigh came. Even in its first guise as the gentleman’s residence of Charles Trench and then John Childley Coote, some acres of the estate were reserved for tillage and others for meadow - the farm and leigh where generations of farm hands put their back to the wheel.
It was Farmleigh House that Edward Cecil Guinness bought in 1872 and Farmleigh Bridge which crosses the Liffey in a heavenly corner of Dublin.