Butt Bridge

In Brief

"Butt bridge," in 1904, was an unglamorous but practical steel swivel bridge across the Liffey, a little east (downstream) of the O'Connell Street bridge (then called the Carlisle bridge). When its rotatable deck pivoted parallel to the quays, it allowed ships to pass up to that central point in the city.

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In Ulysses the Butt Bridge functions almost solely as a reference point for fixtures in Eumaeus. In Aeolus Mr. O'Madden Burke speaks of "Fitzharris. He has that cabman's shelter, they say, down there at Butt bridge." In Cyclops Alf Bergan mentions "poor little Gumley that's minding stones, for the corporation there near Butt bridge." As Eumaeus opens Bloom looks around for a place to get a nonalcoholic drink and hits upon "the cabman's shelter, as it was called, hardly a stonesthrow away near Butt bridge." Soon Stephen recognizes Gumley, an acquaintance of his father's, minding the stones. And, slightly later in the same chapter, Bloom gazes at "a bucketdredger" that is "moored alongside Customhouse quay," like the two ships in the photograph at right.

The bridge was built in 1879, the year that Isaac Butt, a leader of the Home Rule movement, died. It was replaced in the 1930s by a more elegant, but fixed, span.

JH 2011
Photograph, taken from the roof of the Custom House, of Butt Bridge in the foreground, looking west to the Carlisle Bridge in the background. The bridge is closed, and ships are moored on both sides. The Loopline bridge is not visible, so the picture must have been taken before 1891. Source: www.irishtimes.com, courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.