A View from Dublin Bridge (1816)

Flood waters destroyed King John’s Bridge in 1385. A new bridge was not completed until 1428 and was Dublin’s only bridge until 1670. The present bridge was opened in 1818.

The pealing of the eight bells of Christchurch marks the turn of the year to 1816 and makes your rest here on the Old Bridge a pleasant one indeed. A story comes to mind, from the days when bells rang from the chapel of ease here on the bridge near where Mr. Walter Ball, Mayor of Dublin in 1580, resided. He had decried the faith of his mother, Margaret, for how could he, the Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes - Queen Elizabeth’s man in Dublin - tolerate his mother having Mass said in her house? Despite threats she would persist and it fell to him to have her paraded in a cart through the city at the mercy of the rabble and their rotten fruit. She languished in prison until her death.

Other tales come to mind: Of 1641, when bloody and fire singed soldiers of the king crossed the bridge to lay waste the villages of Santry and Finglas - a warning to any intending rebels; Of 1649 when Cromwell and his ten thousand troops fanned out from the bridge with their calling cards of death.

And tales of romance: Of Sir John Talbot, rebel in arms with Silken Thomas in 1534, frantically crossing and recrossing this very bridge one wild and rain soaked night. He sought sight of sail of Archbishop Alen’s ship, for spirited aboard was his love Ellen Dudley, her father dead by the sword of the rebels and she now sailing into English hands. He sought a boat, offering ten pieces of gold to any who would put him aboard the ship.  With the wind whipping the river into an angry tumult, the boatmen declined. He mounted his horse and turned for the seashore at Artane. There, at the mercy of God and Neptune, was the ship, the guns sounding the distress as it was driven upon the land. With his own hands Sir John rescued Ellen and they galloped across the night soaked countryside, to the bridge and safety within the city walls. Despite their political differences they pledged themselves to each other.

‘Tis hard to leave rebellion out of any tale from Ireland and Silken Thomas’ rebellion was doomed to failure like many before it. To the east you spy sails beyond Carlisle Bridge, where the heart of the city now lies.  It’s hard to ever imagine revolution on fashionable Sackville Street or rebels storming the General Post Office as Silken Thomas did the Castle. You move on. Soon this Old Bridge will be no more, there are times when it seems in such a perilous state that citizens will not risk the crossing. Mr Knowles has plans for a fine new bridge indeed.

by Annette Black, Wicklow
Published on 29th August 2013