By Liam Heneghan
For Oisín Heneghan, an exemplary contemporary Oisín.
The River Dodder, a significant stretch of water that arises at Kippure in the valley of Glenasmole, Co. Wicklow, travels twenty-six kilometers through the Dublin suburbs before joining its more significant cousin, the River Liffey, at Ringsend. Together these rivers, along with other lesser streams and brooks, move Dublin’s detritus out to sea. On its way, the Dodder passes through Templeogue Village, where I grew up, a town which the suburban expansion of Dublin caught up to and washed over in the 1950’s as the city surged in the opposite direction towards Tallaght, and on towards Wicklow, leaving behind alluvial deposits in the form of barely distinguishable estates of semi-detached houses banked up against the cottages, churches, and the forgotten antiquities of much earlier times. Some mornings queuing for a bus into the city center the sweet smell of pig-shite would catch in the throat, emanating from the little piggery down near the river, down where the village seems a little older, more primordial.
A seemingly benign and even-tempered river, the Dodder recouped some of its old boisterousness on the 25th of August 1986, when Hurricane Charley (called Charlie in Dublin) dumped several inches of rain into the catchment. It was the night of my younger brother Padraic’s twenty-first birthday and our family, along with many others from the village, stood close to the bridge over the Dodder that connected us to the rest of South Dublin, watching the water rise close to the roof of the new bridge. The Dodder has never been kind to its bridges. Whole trees were swept along that night. And over the years the river has carried many an unwary traveler to their watery end during such unexpected swells.
Those turbulent waters that we viewed that night traveled the same course as did the waters where, legend has it, St Patrick Christianized one of the last great Irish pagans, Oisín the bard.