Travel Writing by Cory Hanson

Down the Dodder


Down the Dodder by Dublin’s own Dr. Christopher Moriarty is now available in multiple ebook formats from volunteer environmental action group Dodder Action. First published in 1991 and updated in 1998, this love letter to one of Ireland’s most important rivers has sadly long been out of print and something of a collector’s item. Until now.

To celebrate the river and its continued (responsible) development as a community resource for all, Dodder Action is releasing a special ebook-only edition of Down the Dodder with all of the original maps and photos, the 1998 update, and a new introduction. The book is available with a one-year Dodder Action membership for €10.00 directly from their website.

Down the Dodder ebook cover

As the editor responsible for turning this 90s paperback into a clean ebook, I got to know this book intimately…in the bibliographical sense. I learned things about my local river that I would never have guessed: A stretch is said to be haunted by the phantom carriage of Archdeacon William Bulkley pulled by six headless horses, portending a quick death to any who witness it. I had rumors I’d heard of the river confirmed and denied: So there really were carp in the Herbert Park fountains before they were fished out by an opportunistic local restaurateur! I discovered new legends and whoppers of the ages to pass on to tourists and locals alike: The valley of Glenasmole near the source of the river has a strong claim to have been connected to Irish legends Fionn Mac Cool, his son Oisín, and the legendary Tír na nÓg, the land of Irish faeries.

Please enjoy the following excerpt from my new foreword to the book, and I’ll see you on the river!

I grew up on the Iowa banks of the Mississippi, so I am no stranger to the myth and magic that can flow with the waters of a river, fuelling industry, imagination, and life as it goes. Yet I found I still had much to learn about what a river—of any size or shape—can contribute to the history and character of a community when I first met the Dodder.

On my very first day in Dublin, still bleary-eyed from my overnight flight, I walked from my temporary accommodation across London Bridge for my first glance at the river I would soon come to love. I remember distinctly the look of the walled urban Dodder at low tide: exposed rocks, weeds, and scraps of metal littering the bottom. Still, I was drawn to it. Coming from landlocked Iowa, a river so affected by the tides was new and novel to me, and I made a mental note to check the local tide tables and return when the sea had again come home to these lower stretches of the river.

Later in the day, and hopelessly lost in the unfamiliar streets of Dublin, I crossed what I would later learn was Ball’s Bridge for another look at the Dodder, away from the vagaries of the sea. At the time, I didn’t even suspect that the calm riffle beneath the bridge was the same river I had seen—or not seen, as the tides had decided—hours earlier. With wonder I watched a wader-clad fly fisher casting his carefully tied lure to a promising undercut below the bridge; his rod swinging in the metronomic arc that is the trademark skill of his hobby. A fly fisher working his deceptions on an urban stream in the heart of an international capital was almost unimaginable to me—how many trout anglers might one see working the Delaware in Washington, D.C., or the Thames in the shadow of the Tower of London? Yet there he was, likely on a lunch break from a glitzy Ballsbridge office job, hoping for a rise.

That evening, I found my way back to London Bridge to see the tidal river at full strength. Large, lumbering fish lazily cruised the waters beneath the bridge—fish that I would later learn (from this book) were grey mullet. I knew then that, no matter where in Dublin I lived, this river of rapidly changing moods would be at least some small part of my Irish life.

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