Our first exploration of Dublin’s city centre led us north from Trinity College towards the banks of the River Liffey.
The Liffey is the river that bisects the city of Dublin, broadly dividing it into the northside and the southside. Historically, the northside was a more working class area, whereas the southside was the more middle-class and upper-middle-class area, though this division is not very clear and things have changed over the years.
We started near the Talbot Memorial Bridge. This road bridge had been completed in 1978 and is named after Matt Talbot, a temperance campaigner from Dublin’s Northside. A statue of him is at the south end of the bridge:
The streamlined red boat with the glass roof in the photo below is called the “Spirit of the Docklands” and it arrived in Dublin in June 2005. It is a tour service operated by Liffey Voyage. It cruises up and down the Liffey from the Docklands to the city centre and back again. The guided tours, which were created by Dublin historian Pat Liddy who also wrote and narrated the fascinating i-Walks (self-guided ipod walks) for Dublin Tourism, give you a river-eye-level view of the historical sights and landmarks on either side of the river.
Their brochure summarises some of the things you would see:
“Passengers will get an insight into the history of Dublin City and of the River Liffey in particular, from the first arrival of the Vikings 1000 years ago, to the rapid development of the city during the 18th and 19th Centuries to become a major European capital, and of the subsequent decline and more recent redevelopment of Dublin’s Docklands.”
“Passengers will learn the story behind the iconic Ha’penny bridge as well as Gandon’s masterpiece, the majestic Custom House. Passengers will follow the story of Dublins Royal and Grand Canals and see where Oliver Cromwell landed in 1649 and hear how Captain William Bligh surveyed Dublin Bay in 1800. Passengers will hear how much of present day Dublin now sits on reclaimed land, including Trinity College and the Spire in O’Connell Street.”
It sounds brilliant, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do this.
From here we walked east a little bit to cross the very modern-looking Sean O’Casey Bridge (more about its architecture), named after the Dublin playwright Sean O’Casey [1880-1964]). This pedestrian bridge, which was only built in 2005, is constructed in two sections, which swing through 90 degrees in order to allow ships to pass.
You can clearly see the cranes indicating the numerous building sites in the city. I wonder what that odd glass-and-steel building is which is leaning sideways? [See the comments for an explanation!]
We returned west along the north bank until we reached the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay. These figures were designed and cast by the Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie in 1997 in order to mark the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine (1845-1849) (see Wikipedia: Irish Potato Famine). During these desperate years, more than a million people in Ireland starved to death, while more than one-and-a-half million emigrated. Ironically, during the same years, the British government was still exporting food from Ireland to everywhere in the world, neglecting to feed its own people. It’s not surprising that the Great Famine had a profound impact on the psyche of the Irish people.
I thought the six life-size and skeletally thin bronze statues were really well executed; they expressed such grief and loss, deep sorrow and hopeless desperation. I like this juxtaposition between the starving man on the one side of the river, and the modern-looking, pyramid-shaped building on the opposite side of the river. (That building, incidentally, is known as George’s Quay Plaza, and it hosts the headquarters of the Ulster Bank of Ireland.)
I found the dog in particular quite a haunting figure, even more so because of its detail and realism. If I’d encountered it in real life, I would have taken it home and given it a good hearty meal.
And from here we zigzagged back to our cosy home from home.