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Youghal Bridge – A Brief History

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the official opening of Youghal Bridge on 23rd January 1963 here is a short history of Youghal Bridge.

On the 23rd of May 1828,

“An Act for the Erection of a Bridge across the River Blackwater, at or near Foxhole and the Town of Youghal in the County of Cork to the opposite Side in the County of Waterford and for making the necessary Approaches thereto”

was passed. The Act established a Bridge Commission to manage the construction and to maintain and operate the bridge from the tolls raised. This timber bridge was designed by Alexander Nimmo, built by George Nimmo and was completed in 1832.

In 1863, the Commissioners had an inspection of the bridge carried out by Charles Tarrant, County Surveyor of Waterford and Frederick Deverill, County Surveyor of the East Riding of Cork. The County Surveyors reported that the timber works were decayed and rotten and the bridge was in need of major repairs. The surveyors supported repairing the bridge over building a new bridge. Despite repairs being carried out at this time, further action was required by the 1870s. In May 1877, Charles Tarrant was again appointed to report on the condition of the bridge, this time under the direction of the Lord Lieutenant for the purposes of building a new iron bridge.

In 1878, the Grand Jury of Waterford produced a statement to the Office of Public Works listing the surviving Bridge Commissioners. The Statement further indicated that the bridge shares issued to fund the building of the bridge never produced a payment to any investor and the last lessee, a Mr. John Ronayne, Ardsallagh, surrendered or abandoned his lease by 1st May 1877.

In light of the lack of any profit from the tolls on the bridge and in consequence of the stated importance of the bridge to the counties of Cork and Waterford it was agreed to build a new bridge under the direction and control of the counties of Cork and Waterford. A specification was drawn produced for a wrought iron bridge located on the site of the old timber bridge.

While the River Blackwater was a barrier to road traffic between the counties of Cork and Waterford it was a very important artery for shipping traffic from along the river to the sea. To facilitate river traffic the bridge was built to open and let river traffic pass through.

The ironwork of the new bridge became badly corroded over time. By 1928 the condition of the bridge had deteriorated to such an extent that the local authorities of Cork and Waterford were forced to limit the weight of vehicles that could cross the bridge. In 1938 the Waterford County Surveyor, John Bowen, wrote to the Department of Local Government and Public Health listing the defects of the proposed road traffic legislation in relation to the limitations of Youghal Bridge and stating that all buses and heavy vehicles would have to be prohibited from using the bridge “forthwith”.

In June 1939, following a report from the County Surveyor, Waterford Commissioner, Simon J. Moynihan, ordered a series of barriers be placed across Youghal Bridge to regulate traffic crossing the bridge. Buses stopped on the Waterford side of the bridge and passengers had to walk across the bridge to the Cork side to catch another bus and travel onwards to Cork and vice versa.

Great inconvenience was caused to passsengers, bus drivers, trucks and commercial delivery vans due to these restrictions. On occasion, much to the annoyance of the local authorities, people chanced crossing the bridge – endangering themselves and others. In 1950 the County Engineer, David Sheedy, wrote to the GardaĆ­ in Middleton, Co. Cork to complain about the lenient sentence of a 10 shilling fine passed on a lorry driver who crossed the bridge.

The local authorities of Cork and Waterford requested funding and support for the building of a new bridge. A joint conference between Cork and Waterford County Councils was held at Youghal on 10th July 1953. In October 1953, a Local Inquiry was held and following this inquiry and the recommendations of the Inspector, the Minister for Local Government, Mr. Patrick Smith, TD, agreed that a new concrete bridge should be built. A grant fromt the National Development Fund was sought and approved and in 1956 the Minister made the order for the work to proceed on building a new Youghal Bridge at the new site of Ardsallagh.

Cork County Council was charged with executing the work with Waterford County Council making a contribution of three-sixteenths of the cost of the work. Plans and draft contract documents were laid before Waterford County Council on 25th November 1957. Braithwaite Foundations and Construction Ltd. and J&G Murphy Ltd. were appointed to build the new Youghal Bridge.

Costs once construction had begun increased by 56% due to the discovery that the rock profile was considerably lower than initial borings had suggested. The final, much higher, costs went to arbitration and were not agreed until 1970. In the meantime, construction continued and the bridge itself was completed and officially opened on 23rd January 1963.

The official opening was performed by Mr. Donough O’Malley, TD, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, acting on behalf of Mr. Neil Blaney, TD, Minister for Local Government and Public Health. Mr. Blaney wrote on the 26th January 1963, to convey his apologies that due to “…a sudden attack of influenza…” he was prevented from attending the opening of Youghal Bridge. His letter stated

“This important bridge, linking the Counties and County Boroughs of Cork and Waterford on one of the most important national arteries will facilitate communications of all kind between the areas in question and I have no doubt will constitute an important economic asset to the south in the years to come”.

This has certainly proven to be the case in the first 50 years of its history.