These quays, around the Talbot Memorial Bridge, teemed with life through the nineteenth century - rusty coal ships and bright passenger sailing ships were anchored three deep, men and boys hauled ropes with bare hands, cranes and gantries clanked into action, women gossiped at their stalls, cattle were herded through the crowds, children played hoopla and pipe sucking old men watched the world go by. Timber yards, flour mills, ships chandlers, hotels, seedy boarding houses and ferry company offices faced each other across the Liffey - here where the city never slept.
Life was tough, the stench of poverty was everywhere and as the century wore on the middle classes deserted for the suburbs. Then the working port moved to the deep water Alexandra Basin and as the twentieth century unfolded the coal and timber yards fell quieter and dilapidation and neglect crept in. Without even a bridge across the Liffey this became an all but forgotten quarter. But by the early 1970s traffic volumes using the existing bridges were of considerable concern, rising by 50% in a ten year period and in the greater Dublin area the number of cars had risen over three fold since the 1950s. Capacity had to be increased.
Widening Butt Bridge was considered but rejected as too technically difficult. A certain amount could be achieved through traffic management, wider junctions and traffic light coordination and in the long term planners envisaged an eight lane highway streaking above the Liffey.
Dublin Corporation decided a new bridge was warranted - the city had not had a new build bridge in nearly a century. Given the working title of Memorial Road Bridge, construction began in April 1976 providing much needed employment. Choosing concrete as the main bridge material also directly benefitted the Irish economy as it was easily sourced at home. The project met some unexpected delay when difficulties with keeping the cofferdams dry required divers, working only with their hands, to seal them off using clinker ash and underwater concrete - only then could the bridge piers be built.
Naming the bridge caused a little stir of controversy. Would it be Memorial or Peace Bridge? Others argued for the Jim Larkin or Matt Talbot Bridge. Or would it simply be the Custom House Bridge? The Talbot Memorial Bridge opened on St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1978.