Nostalgia: Marking 50 years since the opening of one of Cork's busiest bridges

Nostalgia: Marking 50 years since the opening of one of Cork's busiest bridges

Official opening of the new Parnell Bridge, Cork by Lord Mayor Peter Barry, front. Others included are Pierce Wyse, Stephen Barrett, Gerald Goldberg and John Bermingham. 

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of one of Cork's busiest bridges - Parnell Bridge. 

The quarter-of-a-million pound structure was officially opened on May 24, 1971, at midday by the then Lord Mayor of Cork, Peter Barry. 

Three years prior an older Parnell Bridge was closed over safety concerns that the structure could not hold the ever-increasing traffic through Cork city.

The old Parnell Bridge and an almost deserted Parnell Place pictured from Cork City Hall in March 1953.
The old Parnell Bridge and an almost deserted Parnell Place pictured from Cork City Hall in March 1953.

The old swivel bridge was demolished and replaced by a new three lane structure.

Large crowds lined the quays at both sides of the river to watch the grand opening.

The new bridge was blessed in Irish and in English by the Very Rev Dr JJ O'Sullivan. 

The official opening took the form of the cutting of a tape which stretched across the centre of the bridge by the Lord Mayor who was then accompanied by fellow members of the then Cork Corporation in their robes of office who walked the length of the bridge. 

Official opening of the new Parnell Bridge by Lord Mayor Peter Barry.
Official opening of the new Parnell Bridge by Lord Mayor Peter Barry.

Traffic was allowed on the new bridge immediately after the official opening ceremony. 

Weather conditions were favourable for the exciting occasion, as the front page of The Echo that evening reported.

"Addressing the crowd in warm sunshine, the Lord Mayor recalled that John Fitzgerald known as the Bard of the Lee used to say: 'There are as many bridges in Cork as there are in Venice'.

"While this is an exaggeration it was a fact that there were many more bridges in Cork than in other cities of comparable size. 

Construction work on the new Parnell Bridge.
Construction work on the new Parnell Bridge.

"Cork, as everybody knew, was originally built on Corcach Mór na Mumhan - the great marsh of Munster - and gradually over the centuries the marsh was filled in and bridged over so that it became necessary to connect all the islands by bridges."

The Lord Mayor said that he believed the new structure was "far superior" to the previous bridge. 

The new Parnell Bridge in Cork under construction in November 1970.
The new Parnell Bridge in Cork under construction in November 1970.

"This magnificent new structure is, to my mind, far superior to the one it is replacing because it allows those using the bridge two fine views - of the City Hall in one direction and of the Savings Bank and Provincial Bank in the other," he said.

The first bridge opened at the site was Anglesea Bridge, also known as the 'Metal Bridge'.

Prior to Anglesea Bridge, traffic going south had to pass over Parliament Bridge and go up the South Terrace.

The new Parnell Bridge, Cork nearing completion. 
The new Parnell Bridge, Cork nearing completion. 

"It is interesting to note that one of the reasons put forward for the building of a bridge here was that it would prevent the bowsprits of the ships damaging the parapet of Parliament Bridge," The Echo article from May 24 noted. 

Built in the 1830s the Corporation decided to replace Anglesea Bridge in 1875 as the existing structure could not cope with the volume of traffic using it by then.

The swing bridge, the original Parnell Bridge, was designed by T Claxton Fiddler and was opened to the public in 1882 and named in honour of Charles Stewart Parnell. 

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