Horse Bridge

Black and white photo of horse bridge with six arches taken from west bank of river. Boy fishing from the towpath.

The Horsebridge

The Horsebridge in Athy was built in 1796 to allow horse drawn boats to leave the 28th lock on the Barrow-line of the Grand canal and to cross to the east back of the river Barrow and travel down the Barrow Navigation. And vice versa. Originally it had six arches but this allowed for debris to build up easily and block the flow of water, particularly during times of flood. Therefore as part of the Barrow Drainage Scheme(1926 onwards), the number of arches were reduce and enlarged to allow for better flow and reduce the build-up of debris.
I have very fond memories of jumping off this bridge in the summer months as a young fella. On one occasion at the age of sixteen, I launched off it in kayak. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt but I’ll not be doing it again any time soon and certainly wouldn’t recommend it.
Below is a poem I like very much by a local man I enjoyed many a conversation with as a kid. Paddy Walsh RIP was originally from Ring in Waterford but while I only knew him a few years, and he was much older, I enjoyed chatting with him, especially about the river. I particularly liked an old saying of his that he would use to describe some people. It went “he’s as ignorant as a lead horse”.



Love is sweet, where the waters meet,
Beneath the Horse Bridge, near sweet Athy,
Where lovers roam and salmon leap,
And the lark sings merrily, in the clear blue sky.

I have travelled far, I have travelled wide,
And many’s the sight I’ve seen,
But home to me is where the waters meet,
Beneath the Horse Bridge near sweet Athy.

Oh what a pleasure when at your leisure,
To stroll slowly down by the Barrow side,
Oh what a treat when old friends meet,
Beneath the Horse Bridge near sweet Athy.

Curse you emigration, you took away my pride,
You took away my bride to be and left me here to weep,
Where the salmon leap and the waters meet,
Beneath the Horse Bridge, near sweet Athy.

by Paddy Walsh

Click here for a list of all the bridges on the river Barrow

17th November 2022


Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid


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