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The River Liffey: History and Heritage

By Christopher Moriarty


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In a global context, the River Liffey may seem small and infantile. Not much more than 100 km in length and less than 10,000 years old, it is dwarfed by other rivers around the globe. However, as the main river of our capital city, it has contributed in no small way to the development of a civilisation. Indeed, for writers such has James Joyce, it has served as a symbol of human life itself.

Christopher Moriarty was literally immersed in the Liffey when he fell into its waters at the age of three. Since then, his fascination with the river has never abated, and he has spent his academic and professional career studying it. In this celebration, he imparts a lifetime of knowledge. Beginning at its source, he explains the geology that shapes the river and in turn influences the agriculture and industry of the valley. As the Liffey descends to the lowlands, he celebrates the wealth of beautiful public parks and gardens, before providing an architectural history of the urban area of the Liffey, explaining how the development of the quays was inspired by the layout of 17th century Paris. When the Liffey meets the sea, it forms the safe haven that led the Norsemen to found the seaport which grew into the vibrant city of Dublin. The history of the docklands is a wonderful tale of local engineering brilliance, and of works that purify waste water, transforming rubbish to electricity. Current developments include a noble scheme for providing walking and cycling trails for the citizens. And in the midst of such heavy industrial undertakings remain the sand flats with their myriads of seabirds and little enclaves like the Shelly Banks, where nature rules supreme.

Sweeping and authoritative but also personal, this wide-ranging study breaks new ground in bringing together every aspect of a single river, from its place in literature to the industrial achievements which provide for the ever-growing population of our nation’s capital.

  • Book Format: Hardback
  • Published: 2018
  • Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
  • Number of pages: 280
  • ISBN: 9781848893542