What's in a name?
Stories of remarkable men in different times, in Dublin and in far flung places, are commemorated in the name Talbot Memorial Bridge.
Matthew Talbot was one of Dublin’s poor. Born in 1856, he was both a worker and a drunkard by the age of 12 - a fate that was all too common among his family and fellow inner city Dubliners. That he pawned his shabby shoes, short changed his long suffering mother, drifted between jobs and conned friends and acquaintances - all for the sake of yet another drink - is too unremarkable a story for Matt to have made it into the history books. Nothing was expected of his life other than he would die as he had lived - drunk and in abject poverty.
Yet within a year of his death in 1925 he became an inspiration to millions across the world. For Matt took the pledge - a promise to abstain from alcohol - in 1884 and turned to God. He overcame tortuous temptation with prayer, attending Mass each morning at 5am. He died on the street, the depth of his devotion becoming obvious when the heavy chains and knotted ropes, embedded into his flesh, were removed by mortuary workers.
He had lived as an anonymous ascete but in death became venerated for his saintly life. Though Matt had kept his feet on terra firma, for many young lads of the north and south docklands a life at sea beckoned - from the days of being press ganged to fight in the service of the British, to joining the merchant navy to sail the seven seas, or working on the ferries criss-crossing the Irish Sea. Thousands said ‘good-bye’ never to return again, meeting their fate in some distant land or finding their final resting place beneath waves which would never wash an Irish shore.
During the Second World War, in particular, Irish seamen knowingly risked their lives to bring essential supplies home to Ireland, a neutral country. From a small fleet, 16 ships were lost to unprovoked attacks - by aircraft, mines and torpedoes - and 136 men died. The Talbot Memorial Bridge is a monument to these ordinary and, at once, extraordinary Dubliners and Irishmen.