Cycling the plank on the Liffey

The Times We Lived In – Published: May 13th, 1986. Photograph by Dermot O’Shea

It’s the time of year when people like to enter our inland waterways, from all sorts of angles. You may recall last week’s photo of a boy jumping into Ringsend Basin: this week’s image is, perhaps, even more outlandish.

The Liffey is a stern prospect. Most of us regard the idea of a dip in its oily green waters with the same sort of horror which greeted Prince Philip’s suggestion, on a royal visit to Dublin in 2011, that it might be involved in the production of a pint of Guinness.

Sea swimmers immerse themselves in it regularly, as do flotillas of kayakers, canoeists and rowers. But cycling into the Liffey? No. That’s something you do when you’ve had a pint or two too many.

So it would be interesting to know who came up with the wheeze portrayed in today’s photograph, which shows students from Trinity College, Dublin “riding bicycles off O’Connell Bridge into the Liffey to raise money for the Sanctuary Trust charity”. The men are named as Donal Gill and Ger Daly from Ballymahon, Co Longford, and Peter Dillane from Laois.


Our photographer has recorded the plunge with dizzying immediacy. The first jumper has already hit the river. The second is about to enter the choppy water, hands first (perhaps in prayer?) while clearly visible at the top left is the rickety structure which the cyclists had to mount in order to cross the parapet – cycling the plank, rather than walking it.

The third man is barely off his bike, arms and legs still spiralling in “oh no – I’m going to fall!” mode, making it hard to look at him without holding your breath in the vain hope that he might still, somehow, be able to stop.

The folk on the bridge, meanwhile, are cheering him on, their faces a tapestry of admiration, delight and unadulterated horror.

Which is the biggest change since 1986. If it happened now there’d be, not faces, but a phalanx of mobile phones lined up along the bridge, recording – rather than living – the moment.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: A book, "The Times We Lived In", with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.