Over The Bridge

Pictured: Lar and Boy at Ringsend bridge. Photo by Paul Carton.

Pictured: Lar and Boy at Ringsend bridge. Photo by Paul Carton.

A unique Ringsend trait is its commitment to its community values. This can be seen when one of its own passes away, and in way of respect for the dead the procession begins by carrying the coffin over the bridge for the funeral to proceed to St. Patrick’s Church.

The tradition of bringing loved ones over the bridge when they die goes back, as far as we can tell, nearly 100 years. When one of its new members are born their parents bring them over the Ringsend Bridge into the community and so when they pass away they need to go over that bridge one final time, a positive outlook in that it’s their soul’s admission to the next world.

In order for this ritual to keep alive, there needs to be two pallbearers to know how to organise the ritual who are strong, reliable and respectful to the ceremony. Our research goes back to a man named Noel Read. He had returned from the war in 1923 and enlisted his son Stephen ‘Chunks’ Read to help.

Chunks was the man who enlisted one of the current pallbearers John ‘Boy’ Murphy.

Murphy said: “I was attending a funeral of a relative when Chunks approached me. I figured the reason he was asking me to carry the coffin was due to my relations with the deceased.” Boy was only 19 at the time and has been a pallbearer carrying the coffin of those, or whose family had requested it, ever since.

Chunks was a Protestant man and when he passed away, the current pallbearers carried him over the bridge one more time, and then to his respective church by hearse.

Murphy and Dunne who had the utmost respect for Chunks, spoke of him being of magnificent build. “You could never meet a more inoffensive man,” said Murphy.

At present, Boy Murphy and Lar Dunne are the two pallbearers for the community. They were both defenders for St. Pats C.Y during their glory days. Murphy could play right or left full-back due to his quick pace, alongside Dunne the captained centre-half, and deservedly to this day still maintain important positions for the parish.

Murphy went on to take over The Wombles football team and instantly gave them a more apt name, Bridge United. He also provided them with a clubhouse. Bridge United now play in the AUL Division 1 Sunday league. To this day their duty with St. Pats CY still keeps them in good health. “If I know there is a funeral the next day, I will eat right and go to bed early,” said Dunne.

Murphy originally began his working life as a box-maker at 16. The boxes were used by the nearby bottling plant. On his first day he was trained in to use the machine and make the boxes and made such a good impression there to end up landing him a solid job at the bottling plant.

However, Murphy said that the temperature at his new post was hard to endure, recalling one day needing refreshment and hopping over the wall to the local to have a quick jar, six pints later finding it difficult to get back over the wall. After two years, he went on to work at the Docks, and settled in his new settings enjoying the fresh, cool air.

Now retired, the two men are still kept busy with the ‘over the bridge’ tradition. “It requires teamwork between me and John with one up front and one at back,” said Dunne, when asked about their method of coordinating the climb and descent of the bridge. “It’s sometimes 6-a-week and it has been two a day on occasion,” he added.

Speaking with the men, you can tell that these men feel honoured to be bestowed with such responsibility for the community. Dunne recalled a time when an ex-resident, who had started a family life in the US, told her bewildered family that when she passed away she wanted to be brought back to Ireland to be carried over the bridge, and when she did pass away her family honoured her request, with both Dunne and Murphy carrying her coffin over the bridge.

“There was one occasion,” as Murphy recalls, “that we were asked to bring the deceased over the bridge but also down the road to that person’s own church, but found ourselves in an 8-man-team instead of the usual 6-man-team with no leg room for manoeuvre, and so the coffin needed to be brought by hearse.

As the ‘over the bridge’ ritual is performed in Ringsend, traffic comes to a halt and the community comes to pause as its members pay respect and watch one of their own be carried over the bridge one last time.

By Paul Carton