Friday, May 20, 2016

A Ha'porth of Tar

Mary Clarke

I'm still with the 200th birthday of the Ha'penny Bridge over Dublin's River Liffey.

In a previous post I covered the first of the two events organised by the City Council. This is the second event - a series of short talks in City Hall dealing with different aspects of the bridge. These will be published in a forthcoming book from Four Courts Press later in the year.

The session kicked off with an introductory overview of the history of the bridge from City Archivist, Mary Clarke.

The bridge replaced an earlier ferry in 1816. The fare/toll was the same, a ha'penny, but business boomed across the bridge, so to speak, and much money was made. In 1919 the toll was abolished after the bridge had paid for itself many times over. Now it is crossed by about thirty thousand people each day.

The bridge was conceived during the mayoralty of John Claudius Beresford, who Mary mentioned was considered the black sheep of the family due to some of his cruel and insensitive acts. I'm sure Mary must have confirmed that with his descendants earlier in the day.

Eibhlin Roche

Next we had Eibhlin Roche, from the Guinness Archive, recalling memories of the Guinness barges that plied the river well into my time.

It was always great fun to watch them going under the bridges at high tide when they had to fold down the funnel. This produced a great puff of smoke as the barge went in under the bridge. I suppose we were really watching to see would they remember to fold the funnel in time. To our disappointment, they always did.

Logan Sisley

Logan Sisley, from the Hugh Lane Gallery, beside where I went to school, brought me up with a start.

He was talking about the controversy over the location of the gallery which Hugh Lane insisted be built for the priceless collection of paintings he proposed leaving to Ireland.

The relevance to this session is that the Ha'penny Bridge was one of the locations which was very strongly pushed. It would have been designed by Edward Lutyens and would have seen the end of the Ha'penny Bridge.

There were many places suggested as a location for the gallery, but what actually drew me up short was Logan's cartoon by Gordon Brewster of his conception of how it would have looked on top of Nelson's Pillar.

I have an interest in Gordon and had not seen the cartoon before. It's a sort of interesting piece of trivia that Gordon's only known extant painting is actually in the current Hugh Lane Gallery in Parnell Square, though not on display,

Seán Harrington

Seán Harrington was talking about design aspects of the Ha'penny Bridge and how these inspired him in undertaking the design and construction aspects of the adjacent Millennium Bridge, for which he won the competition, and subsequently the Rosie Hackett Bridge further downstream, which he also designed.

The man was talking poetry, and to an enraptured audience.

Then he produced his wee model to demonstrate the technique for flattening the curve of the bridge while maintaining safety. He used the same technique as the designers of the Ha'penny Bridge but improved on it for both the Millennium and Rosie Hackett bridges.

Patrick Gorman

Patrick Gorman was involved in the refurbishment of the Ha'penny Bridge from the City Council's bridge department. He recounted the various technical challenges facing the Council and his own particularly ingenious solution to one of them.

Over and above his involvement with the actual restoration of the bridge, Patrick was responsible for submitting the project as an entry in the prestigious Europa Nostra heritage competition in 2002. The project was awarded a diploma in the conservation section which Patrick duly picked up in Brussels in May 2003.

I am well aware of the prestige associated with the Europa Nostra awards having been involved in submitting the 2014 entry for the restored Martello Tower in Killiney, which got a special mention from the Jury.

Paul Arnold

Patrick didn't have a conservation architect on the job and at one stage he was told to get one pronto.

That's where Paul Arnold came in. His primary task was to ensure that as much of the original material as possible was preserved in the refurbishment. Following surveys it was determined that most of it could be kept but would need extensive restoration work done on it. Much of this was undertaken by Harland and Wolff in Belfast.

Annette Black

Annette Black was to give a social history of the bridge and her acrostic approach looked promising. Unfortunately I had to leave at that point and didn't get to hear her talk.

I'm sure you can catch up on Annette's contribution when the book comes out.

I have titled this post A Ha'porth of Tar, not just because of the Ha'penny connotations but because it is clear from its durability that the ha'porth of tar was not spared on the Ha'penny Bridge.

Related post: Happy 200th

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