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Cork’s ‘Shakey Bridge’ reopens after €1.7m refurbishment

Pedestrian suspension bridge in Sunday’s Well is the only one of its type in the country

Reopening of Daly’s Bridge (the Shakey Bridge) over the River Lee. Photograph: Brian Lougheed

One of Cork’s most beloved landmarks, “Shakey Bridge”, is set to reopen to the public this weekend after a €1.7 million refurbishment in preparation for its centenary in a few years time.

Cork City Council began work in the autumn of 2019 on the refurbishment of Daly’s Bridge, affectionately known as the Shakey Bridge, to bring the pedestrian suspension bridge up to modern safety standards in preparation for its centenary in 2026.

The only suspension bridge in Cork city, Daly’s Bridge, which has a 50.9 metre-span over the north channel of the River Lee, links Sunday’s Well and Shanakiel on the city’s northside with Fitzgerald’s Park and the Mardyke and provides pedestrian access for many going to University College Cork.

Officially reopening the bridge at a Covid-19 compliant ceremony on Thursday, the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Joe Kavanagh noted Daly’s Bridge is the third heritage bridge in the city to be refurbished in recent years and follows work on St Patrick’s Bridge and St Vincent’s Bridge on North Mall.

“I am delighted to reopen this bridge after works which will ensure it can be crossed and admired by many more generations of Corkonians. Daly’s Bridge is the only suspension bridge in Cork and is unique in Ireland as the only surviving pedestrian suspension bridge of its type and age”.

“Its design, setting and high level of use have granted it a near iconic status amongst Cork people. Its ‘shakey’ quality, which may not have been originally intended, has contributed in no small way to this significance,” he added.

Local historian and member of Cork City Council, Cllr Kieran McCarthy explained that the bridge replaced an old ferry crossing where the ferry rights across the Lee were passed down from the Weber family to the Carlton family and then to the Dooley family who operated the service up 1921.

New bridge

Work commenced on the new bridge in the mid 1920s and the structure, suspended between two steel lattice towers at its northern and southern ends, was built in London by David Rowell & Company of Westminister to a specification by the then Cork City Engineer, Stephen W Farrington.

Daly’s Bridge was completed in 1926 and officially opened on April 9th, 1927 and was officially named after Cork butter merchant, James Daly, who lived at Dalymount on Strawberry Hill in nearby Shanakiel and offered to pay half the cost if it were to be built by Cork Corporation.

Cllr McCarthy, who described the bridge as being “infused in the city’s DNA”, explained that it got its nickname “due to the fact that a large number of people used the bridge to go to GAA matches in the Mardyke. Consequently, the bridge would shake with the masses of people walking across it.”

According to Cork City Council, Daly’s Bridge is included on its Record of Protected Structures and is recorded on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage where it has Artistic, Historical, Social and Technical categories of special interest, and a Regional significance rating.

Cork City Council explained that the refurbishment and conservation works, which were undertaken with funding assistance from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the National Transport Authority, were aimed at repairing serious corrosion and extensive damage to the bridge.

“Works commenced on site in August 2019 and in mid-September 2019, the main bridge structure was dismantled in four sections, as per its original assembly, and transported off-site to the workshop of Mackey Plant Construction Limited in Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

“In the period, late September 2019 to January 2020, each of the four sections was extensively cleaned with all corrosion removed and all defective steelwork was sympathetically repaired with missing elements replaced,” said Cork City Council in its statement.

In February 2020, the four sections were transported to Rossaveal in Co Galway where a protective coating was applied to each section followed by layered repainting and each of the four sections was returned to site and re-erected with the final section bolted into position on March 16th, 2020.

During the same time period on site, the southern ramp was demolished and rebuilt and the four main suspension cables were removed and replaced while both bridge towers were wrapped to prevent debris falling into the river and extensively cleaned with all corrosion removed.

Similar to the main bridge structure, all defective steelwork was sympathetically repaired with missing elements replaced followed by the application of a protective coating to each tower and layered repainting, added Cork City Council in its statement.