Back in 1989 me and some school friends entered the Aer Lingus Young Scientists exhibition with a project on the rivers and streams of south Dublin. There wasn’t a huge amount of science involved, but we did learn a lot about the water that flows under our feet. Water is central to the existence of Dublin as a city, and sometimes it seems like we hide it and forget about it.
The name, Dublin, comes from the Irish Dubh Linn, which means black pool. The original black pool, thought to be beside where Dublin Castle is today, was where the water from the Poddle River flowed into the salt water of the Liffey estuary. The blackness might have been what we take for dirt in the modern Liffey: all the dissolved minerals in the water coming out of solution as it mixes with the salt water.
The Poddle and the city watercourse were an important park of the medieval city. Water was diverted from the Dodder near Tallaght into the Poddle, and then from there to different parts of the city. In modern times we went and buried all of these, or at least concreted them in to culverts, and people gradually forgot about the Swan, the Steine and others.
The Camac is at the heart of Inchicore. The Inis (island) of core (sheep) must have been an island in the river. The infamous Golden Bridge would have been a bridge across the Camac. The industry that this part of the city was always a key part of was based around the Camac, with mills all the way down from Clondalkin to Kilmainham. However, nowadays you have to look hard to realise that there is a river here at all.
Turvey Park off Emmet Road celebrates the river nicely, as some locals have cleaned up the park lately. The river is there, albeit strait-jacketed between concrete walls.
You have to walk through the shrubs and down the hill to see the river from the Grattan Crescent park and playground. You might not know it was there at all, despite the fact that the park was once a pond feeding the mill race for the Metropolitan mills nearby.
Last Spring a group of us put on our waders and pulled some of the rubbish out of the river here.
But the secret is at it deepest at the actual Golden Bridge on the Emmet Road: here a 6 foot stone wall opposite the Eurospar shields the river from our eyes and pretends that there is nothing there.
It is time to tear down this wall and replace it with a railing so that the river can be seen, and celebrated! Why stop there? Widen the parapet of the bridge on both sides so that some public seating and planting can be incorporated, so that we can sit and enjoy water flowing by.
And loving the Camac even more: why can’t we have a bridge across the river linking the Grattan Crescent playground to Camac close? This would make the trip for one side of Inchicore to the other more relaxing, as you could avoid the big road junction at the Black Lion, but would also make a safe walking route for the children of Vincent Street and surroundings as well as for the new Emmet Road development.
The Santry river has received a bit of love from the council, particularly in Raheny Village where you can look down at it over a railing. Let’s bring some of that to the west of the city!
We need to celebrate all of our rivers, and have them front and centre in our city. The sound of a babbling brook can be as good as a walk in the woods. Restoring nature benefits us all!