Some bridges of Ireland and of Offaly

We are so delighted to see Offaly feature in this week’s episode of Droichid na hÉireann. Lochlann Ó’Mearáin will visit one of Europe’s oldest surviving suspension bridges at Birr Castle before stopping off at Shannonbridge to learn all about the historical importance of the bridge in the villag

All this and more on Monday the 31st of January at 7:30pm on RTÉ One. #visitoffaly #offalyhistory #droichidnahÉireann #RTÉOne

 Having looked at the programme check out the bridges of Offaly. You can download Fred Hamond’s study of the bridge of Offaly from the Heritage Section of the Offaly County Council website.

More on Monday night

Fred Hamond writes in the first of his two books:

Bridge builders

4.1 From the early 1600s until the late 1800s, the Grand Jury financed most of Offaly’s road bridges. In 1898, responsibility was transferred to Offaly County Council. In the more recent past, the National Roads Authority has assumed responsibility for bridges along the national primary routes.

4.2 In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Grand Canal Company erected numerous bridges in connection with the cutting of a canal from Dublin to Shannon Harbour via Tullamore. Bridges are also associated with the Edenderry and Kilbeggan branches of the Grand Canal. The Shannon Commissioners also erected a number of bridges during improvements to the navigability of the River Shannon in the 1830s. 4.3 In the 1850s, major drainage schemes throughout the county led to the construction of many bridges by the Board of Public Works. A second phase of drainage and bridge construction was undertaken by the Office of Public Works in the 1950s.

4.4 Various railway companies also erected bridges in the later 1800s, notably the Great Southern & Western Railway with lines from Portarlington to Athlone (1854-59), from Ballybrophy to Limerick (1863), and a branch to Banagher (1884). The Midland Great Western Railway opened a branch to Clara in 1863 and to Edenderry in 1877. There were also two minor companies: the Roscrea & Parsonstown Railway (1858) and Parsonstown & Portumna Bridge Railway (1868). Iarnród Éireann is now responsible for all railway bridges along the lines still in use and has recently been engaged in the replacement of level crossings with bridges

. 4.5 Since the 1950s, Bord na Mona has been extracting peat from bogs in the northern half of the county. This necessitated the construction of mineral railways for the transfer to the peat to power stations and briquette factories, and the erection of bridges over rivers and under roads.

 4.6 Several of Offaly’s many demesnes also have significant bridges, notably at Birr, Kinnitty Castle and Charleville. Birr boasts the earliest surviving wire suspension bridge in Ireland (c.1825). Ardara Bridge, near Cadamstown, is the oldest surviving bridge in the county and possibly dates from the 15th century. 5. Heritage assessment and protectio

In Tullamore alone there are so many: that at Bridge Street may date from the early 1700s. Then there is one at Church Road known as Pound Bridge that may date to 1795. Clara Road is a canal bridge called after an owner of land at Tinnycross  – Cox just at that at Whitehall is after Charles William Bury. Who has not heard of Digby bridge in recent weeks. In Birr there is the suspension bridge in the demesne and Oxmantown Bridge of 1817.

Anyway, take a look at the series on Monday 31 Jan. and read your Hamond.

Birr Castle and the suspension bridge to the right

The old Kilbeggan bridge in the distance over the Grand Canal at Tullamore, about 1910. Well before the new bridges of 2013.

In a new six-part series for RTÉ One, Droichid Na hÉireann tells the story and history of Ireland’s beloved bridges. Presented by actor Lochlann Ó Mearáin, the series explores the history, architecture, landscape and above all the people behind these extraordinary bridges and the pivotal role they have played in historic events and in modern day society. 

From road to railway bridges, viaducts to footbridges, these man-made structures have long been an integral part of our country’s infrastructure. But beyond their primary function, how much do we really know about these structures? 

Travelling across the length and breadth of the country, Lochlann explores century old stone bridges to modern contemporary designs from natural geological formations to great engineering feats, to reveal their hidden history and impact, far greater than just bricks and mortar.  

He rediscovers the remarkable tales behind our bridges through a wealth of fascinating human stories told through expert commentary and local storytelling.

On his breath-taking visual journey through some of Ireland’s most beautiful landscapes, Lochlann ventures to the hills of Donegal to Poisoned Glen under the shadow of Mount Errigal, visits the beloved Shakey Bridge in Cork City, walks across Ireland’s longest rope bridge in Kells Bay and explores one of Europe’s first examples of a suspension rope bridge in Birr Castle.  In the walled city of Derry he visits a structure that bridged communities together, he listens to a unique musical performance at Bellacorrick Musical Bridge in Mayo and travels to Connemara to visit the iconic Quiet Man Bridge. While in the midlands he explores one of Europe’s finest examples of a suspension bridge in Birr Castle and travels to the Drogheda to visit a Victorian bridge supposedly built on foundations of cotton wool. 

Droichid na hÉireann explores the rich architectural and historical heritage of Ireland’s most fascinating and visually spectacular bridges

A new attraction on Offaly’s Shannon boundary

Uncivil engineers at Meelick weir relief bridge


Episode 1: Dublin

In the first leg of his expedition around Ireland, Lochlann O’ Mearáin explores some of Dublin’s iconic bridges.  Starting of in the leafy suburbs in the Strawberry Beds, Lochlann visits Farmleigh Bridge and learns about the inventiveness of the Guinness Family. He ventures to Lucan to discover what wildlife live under the shadow of Lucan bridge.  He travels to Clontarf to learn more about Dublin Bay and biosphere. Back in the bustling city, along the River Liffey, he takes a trip to the elegant and iconic Ha’Penny Bridge. He visits the striking and contemporary harp shaped Samuel Beckett Bridge and takes to the water to marvel at the design of Spencer Dock Bridge. 


Episode 2: Mayo/Galway

From the soft and craggy bog lands of Mayo to the vibrant City of Tribes, Lochlann ventures West this week. He will discover the history behind the construction of Newport Railway Viaduct, listen to a unique musical performance in Bellacorrick and learn about the famine at Bunlahinch Clapper Bridge. Lochlann travels to wild and beautiful Connemara to visit Carricklegaun Bridge in Leitir Mor and follows in the footsteps of American actor John Wayne as he visits the iconic Quiet Man Bridge in Oughterard before finishing his travels in the heart of Galway city at O Brien’s Bridge.   


Episode 3: Clare/Kerry/Limerick

Starting off at the most westerly point of County Clare on the Loop Head Peninsula, Lochlann learns about the geological formation and power of the Atlantic Ocean at the Bridges of Ross.  He makes a short trip to the village of Bunratty where he discovers the significance of the renowned Durty Nelly’s pub and Studdert Bridge. He learns about the Treaty Stone at Thomond Bridge in Limerick City and heads to the Kingdom County to marvel at Lios Póil Viaduct and visit Ireland’s longest rope bridge in the sub-tropical gardens of Kells Bay.   


Episode 4: Cork/ Waterford

This week Lochlann heads to Ireland’s most southerly point to view the spectacular Mizen Head Footbridge and then heads to the Rebel County to learn how the Shakey Bridge acquired its name.  Over the River Finisk, Lochlann visits the Hindu-Gothic Bridge at Dromana. Hopping on his bicycle he gets a taste of the Waterford Greenway whilst crossing over the Ballyvoyle Viaduct and finishes his epic adventure at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge, the longest bridge on the island of Ireland. 

The suspension bridge in Birr demesne. Courtesy of Paul Moore


Episode 5: Offaly, Westmeath, Meath, Louth

On this week’s episode, Lochlann will reveal some of the most breath-taking bridges in the heart of Ireland. Starting off by viewing one of Europe’s oldest surviving suspension bridges in Offaly, he will sail along the River Shannon to gaze upon The Athlone Railway Bridge before walking across the Joe Dolan Memorial Bridge. Finishing his travels on the River Boyne where he marvels at the great engineering feat of the Boyne Viaduct and discovers if there is any truth behind the viaduct being built on a foundation of cotton wool. 

Shannon bridge about 1897. A beautiful Lawrence composition from the bumper published volume.


Episode 6: Donegal/Derry 

This week Lochlann heads north to picturesque Donegal. He will try his hand at the traditional game of handball at Bundoran Bridge, take a look at the history behind the disappearance of the Donegal railway line and catch up with musician Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh under the shadow of Mount Errigal. He will then travel to the walled city of Derry where he will sail along the River Foyle to learn about how one modern structure has built bridges between two communities. 

We hope to have a full blog on Shannonbridge of the 1750s very soon and also the ‘oldest bridge in Ireland’ at Clonmacnoise. After that we have Banagher of 1690 and that of 1843. We have also to do the suspension bridges at Kinnitty and Birr and, of course, that at Cadamstown. We need more contributors please.