A View from Queen’s Bridge (1768)

In 1768 Vallancy’s Queen’s Bridge opened to the public. The view from the bridge had much changed.

From the crest of the newly built bridge follow the line of Arran Quay, Anna Liffey now sturdily embanked.  Neat rows of buildings gaze down upon her. There is here an industrial and institutional hue: this is the backside of the city as it marches relentlessly eastward. See the Bridewell for the ‘moral government’ of thieves and vagabonds (the treadmill being reserved for the most hardened type).

The charity collectors on the bridge rattle wooden boxes under your nose. They have schools now within a stone’s throw, if you’re willing to learn your bible - and places to offer up the babies the poor must reject.  The rebellious mumble that it’s all in the cause of cannon fodder for the empire.

A spanking new coach rattles by, fresh from the coachworks on Stable Lane - the closed type, to keep its occupants safe from the highway man. Traders and citizens rush to and fro - to the Smithfield and Liberty markets, the Linen Hall and the elegant shops of Parliament Street.

The Royal Barracks poses a splendid sight, stretching one thousand feet, parallel to the northern river bank.

Oxmantown Green sports some nice houses indeed, but the Duke never did build his house there. Most of the fashionable type followed their raised noses to the east of the city, populating the newly built mansions of Merrion Square and Sackville Street.

Moira House on Usher’s Island blazes with hundreds of candles, the bees wax type they bring in from abroad. For their grand soirees and balls the carriages line the Queen’s Bridge. They say there is mother of pearl inlaid in the window frames of the ballroom.

The lights of the old bridge glimmer through the dusk and the washerwomen, the dung collectors and the boy chimney sweeps scuttle over the bridge.

You move on. ‘Tis easy to fall prey to a thief, in this city, they’d have your eye for a handkerchief.

by Annette Black, Wicklow
Published on 25th August 2013