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An Irish Life ~ The River Liffey

River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland.
River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland.

The River Liffey

~ Dublin, Ireland

Through he heart of Dublin runs the River Liffey. “Liffey” means “An Life” in Irish. Connecting to the Liffey is the River Dodder, River Poddle, and River Camac. From the Liffey comes most of Dublin’s water supply as well as most of its water recreational activities. It was first named “An Ruirthech” which meant “the fast runner”. “Liphe” was the name of the plain that it ran through, but was later simply absorbed as the River’s name itself going from “Abhainn na Life” to its anglicized version as the “River Liffey”. The River begins in the Liffey Head Bog that rests between the Kippure and Tonduff in the Wicklow Mountains being fed by main springs and streamlets. It flows approximately 78 miles through Dublin, Wicklow, and Kildare counties until it pours out into the Irish Sea where Dublin Bay is located. Networked from the Liffey is a series of smaller streams, rivers, and Canals – these are known as the Ballylow Brook, Brittas River, Athdown Brook, Shankill River, Woodend Brook, Lemonstown Stream, Kilculen Stream, Pinkeen Stream, Painestown River, Rye Water, Griffeen River, Phoenix Park streams, Glenaulin Stream, Creosote Stream, River Camac, Colman’s Brook, Bradoge River, River Poddle, Stein River, River Dodder, River Tolka, and the King’s River.

River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland
River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland

Three hydroelectric reservoirs feed off the Liffey at Poulaphouca, Golden Falls, and Leixlip. The Liffey was the main entranceway into taking of Ireland by the Vikings, used for trade and raids. It is connected to the River Shannon via the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal. Sixty percent of the Liffey’s flow goes for drinking water and utilized by industry, and makes it way back into the Liffey after purification in wastewater treatment plants. The river is also very popular for recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, canoeing, boating, and viewing. The first stone bridge built to cross the Liffey was the “Bridge of Dublin” where the current Fr. Matthew Bridge is now located and was built in 1428 by the Dominicans. It held four arches with numerous buildings such as a bakehouse, an inn, a chapel, and other shops that overall replaced the Dubhghalls wooden bridge that once existed on the same spot. When the 17th century came along, four new bridges were added from 1670-1684 such as the Barrack/Bloody Bridge (Rory O’ More Bridge), Essex or Grattan Bridge, Ormond or O’Donovan Rosssa Bridge, and the Arran bridge. The Oldest was the Mellows or Queens Bridge (1764) along the site of the Arran Bridge that had been destroyed by floods in 1763. The first Iron bridge to be constructed was the Ha’penny Bridge in 1816. The Samuel Beckett Bridge was constructed in 2009 as a suspension bridge with a swivel to allow river traffic through. Along the Northern Bank (west to east) are the Bridgewater, Wolfe Tone, Sarsfield, Ellis, Arran, Inns, Ormond Upper, Ormond Lower, Bachelors Walk, Eden, Custom House, and North Wall Quays. From the Southern bank, (west to east) are the Victoria, Usher’s Island, Usher’s, Merchants, Wood, Essex, Wellington, Crampton, Aston, Burgh, George’s, City, sir John Rogerson’s, and Great Britain Quays.

River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland.
River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland.

    Bibliography/References:
  • Byrne, F.J. 1973 “Irish Kings and High Kings”. Dublin, Ireland.
  • Phillips, M.; Hamilton, A. 2003 “Project History of Dublin’s River Liffey Bridges: Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers”. Bridge Engineering 156: Issue BE4.
  • Wikipedia: The Free Online Encyclopedia. “The River Liffey”. Website visited April 2012.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Liffey.

Jeannie Johnson Tall Sailing Ship & Museum; River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland.
Jeannie Johnson Tall Sailing Ship & Museum; River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland.

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