Turtle Bunbury

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Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.


Connection: Pearse Street to Ringsend Road.

Commissioner: Dublin City Council.

Architect: Paul Arnold Architects.

Engineer: Mott McDonald Pettit.

Contractor: SIAC Construction.

Completed: September 2007.

The modern fixed span MacMahon bridge is the fifth bridge to have been constructed over the Grand Canal Docks in just over 200 years. For much of that time, this has been the unofficial border crossing between the communities of Ringsend and Westland Row. ‘'Going over the brudge' was how we used to call it’, recalls former docker Bart Nowlan.

The first bridge was a wooden bascule or lifting bridge, the Brunswick Bascule, constructed with the original Docks project in 1791, deemed to be ‘the best [that] the science of the day provided’. In 1857, this was replaced by an iron swing bridge, named the Victoria Bridge after the Queen. A new Victoria Bridge opened in 1901 and provided a direct link for electric trams to run from Nelson's Pillar through to Sandymount via Ringsend. In 1927, a schooner called Cymric was waiting for this bridge to raise so it could move to the inner basin when a gust of wind suddenly thrust its jig-boom into a passing tram. Nobody seems to have been injured.

The fourth bridge opened by President Eamon de Valera in 1963 and named MacMahon Bridge after General Seán MacMahon (1894 – 1955) who served alongside de Valera at Bolands Mill in the Easter Rising. MacMahon led B-Company of the 3rd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army from 1916 to 1921. He was later Chief of Staff to the Free State Army from 1922 - 1924. The name 'Victoria Bridge' was discreetly transferred to the new railway bridge that ran across the south end of the Grand Canal Basin beyond the Waterways Visitor Centre. This now carries CIE's southbound services and the DART.

This 1963 creation was a steel single leaf bascule bridge, not unlike the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridges on the North Quays. Although nominally a lifting bridge, it was welded shut after heated complaints from local residents about the noise of buses and trucks rattling across. In 2005, Dublin City Council commissioned a new MacMahon Bridge, Designed by Paul Arnold Architects and completed in 2007, it consists of a cantilevered structure over the existing Quay Walls, ensuring the full 90m length causeway provides adequate width for two traffic lanes and two bus lanes. Its outer elliptical stainless steel, glass-clad arches has have been known to double as diving boards for some of the fearless youngsters of the parish.


(1) With the introduction of route numbering from 1918, routes radiating from the city centre were numbered going clockwise, starting with the eastbound routes. Short workings between Nelson Pillar and Ringsend received number 1, with trams working to Sandymount Green being numbered 2, and trams working the entire line to Sandymount Tower receiving route number 3. The exact route was from Nelson Pillar to Sandymount Tower was via D'Olier Street, Great Brunswick (later Pearse) Street, Ringsend Road, Irishtown, Tritonville Road and Sandymount Road, also serving the DUTC power station at Ringsend. In May 1940, the tram ceased to run. The present day bus route to Sandymount Tower retains the number 3.

(2) The name 'Victoria Bridge' was discreetly transferred to the new railway bridge that runs across the south end of the Grand Canal Basin beyond the Waterways Visitor Centre. This carries CIE's southbound services and the DART rapid transit system which runs around Dublin Bay. From the basin it looks more like a tunnel.


In 1906, an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault sent a violent shockwave into San Francisco and brought the city crashing down. Amongst the many casualties of that disaster was the San Francisco tram, then considered the best in the world. The ill-wind blew to Dublin whose tram system, electrified since 1901, duly succeeded San Francisco as the most highly rated on the planet. In that same year, William Martin Murphy, Dublin’s fantastically wealthy press baron and tram magnate, oversaw the completion of two steel generating stations by the Grand Canal Docks. Known as the Tramway Twins, these stations were financed by Murphy’s Dublin United Tramway Company and capped by two 60 foot high steel chimneys. [where exactly were they?] Murphy later gained notoriety leading Dublin’s employers against James Larkin’s trade unions in the lead up to the 1913 Lock-out, during which he closed the Clontarf and Shelbourne Road tram sheds. The steel chimneys became redundant with the Shannon Scheme of 1932 and were demolished in 1943 by Hammond Lane.




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