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The Liffey

from Three Rivers by Hardeep Singh Kohli

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Originally Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in July 2009

The final river in Hardeep Singh Kohli’s three-part series on how major rivers are being regenerated for the 21st century focuses on the Liffey. It’s a river that is beloved of Irish writers, particularly James Joyce, as it winds its way through the beauties of the Irish countryside into the heart of Dublin.

The Liffey rises in the Wicklow Mountains just over ten miles from Dublin, but it takes its time to get there. A meandering course of 80 miles sees it eventually turn back towards the sea and become Dublin’s watery thoroughfare, splitting the city into north and south. Hardeep Singh Kohli starts in his wellies in the bog where the river begins and then follows its course, as it winds through contrasting landscapes and different geology, all of which influence the quality and colour of the water.

Unlike the two other rivers of this series, the Clyde and the Mersey, Dubliners relied on the Liffey for their water, so it has always remained relatively clean. Hardeep stops at Blessington Lakes, where the Liffey was damned to provide a huge reservoir, but where also hydroelectric power was created. Here and elsewhere along its course there is brown trout to fish for, and wildlife to spot, and at Newbridge he joins writer Dick Warner to spot the kingfishers.

As it arrives in Dublin and passes under the 14 bridges that unite the city, the literary connections increase. James Joyce describes it in Finnegan’s Wake, and Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels in sight of it. It is famed for the Guinness Barges that brought the dark liquid to Dublin and beyond, and Hardeep travels to the docks which still see considerable commerce, as the Liffey opens on to the Irish Sea.


from Three Rivers, released November 19, 2010
Presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli
Edited & Executive Produced by Neil Gardner
Assistant Produced by Shauna Todd
Produced by Richard Bannerman

(c) 2009, A Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd Release


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