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Stories behind historic local bridges told in new TV series

January 26th, 2022 5:45 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Ballydehob’s Twelve Arch Bridge was built in just 14 months. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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A NEW six-part series on RTÉ One will feature Ballydehob’s Twelve Arch Bridge and the magnificent bridge at the Mizen.

Noel Coakley, Ballydehob correspondent for The Southern Star, was interviewed by the production team for Droichid Na nÉireann, which will be broadcast at 7.30pm next Monday.

Noel said the series examines the history, architecture, landscape, and the people involved in the building of these iconic bridges.

‘To me, the surprise is how speedily these projects were completed,’ said Noel, who explained that the Twelve Arch Bridge in Ballydehob was completed within 14 months.

‘The structure – which is made of concrete but faced with stone – was built in the late 1880s for the West Cork Carbery Tramway and Light Railway to avoid the steep incline in and out of Ballydehob.

It opened with the running of the first tram on September 6th 1886 and continued in use until the last tram on January 27th 1947.

‘Although the tramway consistently lost money, and was closed in ’47,’ said Noel, who is a noted local historian, ‘it has left us the treasure that is the Twelve Arch Bridge.’

It is perhaps one of the most photographed structures in all of West Cork and remains a constant source of fascination for locals and visitors alike.

Meanwhile, after defying gravity for 99 years, since it was built in 1909, work began on replacing the arched footbridge linking the Mizen Lighthouse to the mainland.

The replica €1.8m bridge – that was jointly funded by Fáilte Ireland, the Commissioners of Irish Lights and Cork County Council – opened on St Patrick’s Day in 2011.

Throughout its 100-year history, the bridge – which was the first of its kind in the country – had been subjected to extreme weather conditions and, over time, the steel arches had become corroded by sea salt.

The decision to build a new bridge in its centenary year not only ensured the survival of this national landmark, it also safeguarded the future of the Mizen Head Signal Station Centre, a popular tourism attraction.

Both the Ballydehob and Mizen segments for the new TV series were at the end of May, so that could lead to a local tourism boost this spring and summer.

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