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Definition: Liffey from Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

River, E Ireland; rises among the Wicklow Mts. in co. Wicklow, curves NW and NE into Dublin Bay (an inlet of the Irish Sea) at Dublin; 50 mi. (81 km.) long.


Summary Article: Liffey from Brewer's Dictionary of Irish Phrase and Fable

The river on which DUBLIN was built. It rises in upland bog near the road between the Sally Gap and Glencree in Co. Wicklow, flows north and northeast through Co. Kildare, then passes through Chapelizod on the outskirts of Dublin, becoming tidal at Islandbridge, and enters the sea at Dublin Bay. The basin of the Liffey has the lowest rainfall in Ireland, and it is being steadily urbanized as housing needs drive the city of Dublin ever further west.

The origin of the river's name is unclear, but the ANNALS OF THE FOUR MASTERS record its occurrence in the name of a king of Ireland, Cairbre Liffeachair, who reigned in AD 268 and was apparently fostered near the river. The name ANNA LIFFEY or Anna Livia, beloved by Dubliners and frequently found in song and story (as well as in the opening of Joyce's FINNEGANS WAKE), derives from the combination of Liffey with variations of the word abha, the Irish for river. ‘Anna Liffey’ was also used in off cial documents in recent centuries.

'Twas down by Anna Liffey my love and I did stray.

There in the good old slushy mud the seagulls sport and play.

We got a whiff of fish and ships and Mary softly sighed,

‘Yerra John, come on, for a one and one, down by the Liffey side.’

PEADAR KEARNEY: ‘Down by the Liffey Side’

The earliest quays on the Liffey, including WOOD QUAY, were built by the Vikings. At present, 16 bridges cross the Liffey in Dublin, including two footbridges, the second of which - Blackhall Place Bridge, upriver from the HALFPENNY BRIDGE - was completed in 2003. Many bridges have had more than one name, some of these having been changed since independence. For instance, King's Bridge became Seán Heuston Bridge (see HEUSTON STATION) in 1941, having been SARSFIELD Bridge since 1922, although there is no evidence that anyone called it this; Richmond Bridge was changed to O'DONOVAN ROSSA Bridge in 1922; Queen's Bridge was changed to Queen Maeve Bridge (see MEDB) in 1922 and to Liam MELLOWS Bridge in 1942. Carlisle Bridge became O'CONNELL Bridge when it was reconstructed in 1880, and Essex Bridge became GRATTAN Bridge when it was rebuilt in 1875. There was a regular ferry service on the Liffey, from Ringsend to where the POINT depot is situated, from the late 14th century until 1984, when the East Link Bridge was opened.

See also FLOOZIE IN THE JACUZZI.

Copyright © Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2009

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