railroad trestle in Drogheda

the railroad trestle in Drogheda crosses the mouth of the Boyne River, a “great feat of 19th century engineering” as Louth Hospitality Ltd would like you to know. completed in 1855, it is 1,400ft long an comprises 18 arches with 60ft spans. as elsewhere in Europe, rail travel is rather big in Ireland (though I’d argue that Bus Eireann does an even better job of connecting locations; the train is just faster) and the completion of this railroad bridge made rail travel north from Dublin much easier. until the viaduct was built, passengers had to disembark in Drogheda and travel six miles (on their own) to meet up with the train again on the other side of the Boyne.

the importance of viaducts like this came into sharp relief while I was traveling. in the second week of my travels, the viaduct at Malahide (just north of Dublin) collapsed into the sea just after a train passed over it. the driver of the train noticed the problem and alerted appropriate authorities, who suspended operations before the bridge actually collapsed or resulted in real disaster. small consolation to those on board the train that nearly ended up in the sea, and even smaller for the regular commuters that use the line. officials were predicting that service on the line, which runs from Dublin to Belfast and transports some 20,000 passengers a day, would be disrupted for three months. around 90 trains pass over that bridge, some freight, but many carrying passengers.

when Katerina was getting ready to leave Drogheda, she was advised against taking the train from Drogheda to Dublin, as the bridge collapse at Malahide complicated things. (instead, take the bus to Dublin and the train across to Galway.)

here’s the Independent’s article on the bridge collapse (the title is the best bit: ‘My legs turned to jelly as I saw the bridge collapse’)


Ireland is known for it’s craic, and the music in particular. nearly every pub we entered advertised music at least some nights of the week, and people from all over the world flock to observe and, nearly as often, to participate. I met quite a few people who’d come to Ireland to try busking, in search of a break from “real life,” or looking to make life out of it while it lasted. two of the people I met in Drogheda illustrated these two points (not necessarily “extremes,” but they certainly looked at the experience differently). one, Katerina, was new to the prospect of busking, while the other, Owen, had been at it for quite a bit longer.

Katerina arrived the day after I did, bypassing Dublin. she grew up in a small town, had never spent any time away from home, and at twenty-two, decided she’d like a change. she’d gotten sick of her job working in a bank in Norway, saved up some money, bought a plane ticket to Ireland and quit. she didn’t have any connections, or even an instrument, but she could sing quite well and had a flexibility in disposition that seemed to bode well for the vagaries of busking. she stayed in Drogheda couple of days before deciding to move on. before she left, Norm (the guy running the hostel), called up a friend of his in Galway, where she was headed, and helped her find a lead on a job.

Owen, on the other hand, had been in Drogheda quite some time. he’d been staying at the Green Door previously, but had recently moved to another B&B down the road, where he played some nights in the restaurant downstairs, in exchange for a room and a bit of money. he’d grown up in Australia, but his family was Irish and he’d spent a great deal of time in Ireland growing up. during some days, he’d take his guitar down to Dublin and play along Grafton Street, or wherever. he went down to Dublin the same day as I and arrived just in time for the first downpour; consequently, he didn’t make much more than the bus fare to get to Dublin and back.

if any of you out there are musically inclined and looking to make a career or life change, busking in Ireland might not be a bad way to go about it.

Saint Oliver Plunkett

one of the attractions of Drogheda is a relic held by Saint Peter’s Church. after spending many years abroad during the Cromwellian era, Oliver Plunkett returned to Ireland in March of 1670 and began establishing Jesuit schools. this did not go over well with the English and he was forced into hiding, only traveling in disguise. in the end, he was captured and sent to England for trial (since they couldn’t get him properly convicted while in Ireland), where he spent time at Newgate Prison before his execution. he was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn (now Marble Arch) in 1681. he was buried in two boxes and, eventually, his head made its way to Drogheda and Saint Peter’s Church (in 1921). he was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1920 and canonized in 1975. following strong a recommendation I decided to go and take a look at the shrine, but chose not to take a picture. i’m not a big fan of visiting churches in the first place, much less those that have relics and shrines, but how often do you get a chance to see something like that, especially in the states when recorded history doesn’t go back that far? a four hundred year old head is an interesting thing to see… if you’re interested in knowing what Saint Oliver Plunkett’s looks like, they’ve got a picture of it here.

Bettystown Beach

on my last full day in Ireland, in addition to browsing in three bookshops (one used, two new) and buying three books (Waterstone’s was having a three-for sale, how could I resist?!), and not seeing Saint Oliver Plunkett’s head a second time, I took the bus out to the beach at Bettystown. it being a) the first week in September, b) after kids had returned to school and c) rather chilly, there was hardly anyone on the beach. as in Florida (and unlike San Diego), you could drive out onto the beach. since there weren’t many people on the beach, more than a few of the compact little cars went tearing up and down, thorugh the pools of water that had gathered along depressions the sand as the tide receeded, sending water spraying fifteen and twenty feet in the air. who knows, maybe they do that even in the height of tourist season?

in any case, the quiet made for a good stroll and time for mulling all of my experiences in Ireland. I even sat for awhile and read the campy book I borrowed, getting my butt rather damp in the process from the still-damp sand. not as damp as if I’d sat on the rippled surface seen in the second pic (that’d just be silly), but mildly uncomfortable all the same. the damp didn’t help my core temp, either, and I was thoroughly glad to get a cup of tea in a cafe around the corner from where the bus was to pick me up. good thing I asked in the cafe where the stop was — no sign, just an understanding that anyone loitering around in front of the laundramat at the appropriate time would luck out and the bus would stop. in most small towns there was a small post with a little Bus Eireann sign at the top, but for whatever reason, this particular location (in the middle of Bettystown, the closest stop to the beach!) had no signage.