Turtle Bunbury

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THE DOCKLANDS - RINGSEND & POOLBEG

From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageby Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).

RINGSEND - THE POWER HOUSE

THE POWER HOUSE

The Pigeon House Road today runs east of Ringsend Park and Sean Moore Park through a strangely romantic industrial belt. Much of this peninsula has only been reclaimed in the past forty years. The topography looks not unlike the inside of a wireless with the occasional pink wallflower, yellow dandelion or burst of white bindweed to represent nature. Giant cylinders, electricity depots and brash fences rise up from the earth. Baby blue NTL cranes heave giant Maersk Sealand and Triton containers onto rusty freight ships that rub alongside merchant ships, yachts and schooners. ESB and Bord Gáis workers alight from misty morning buses and walk to work in Poolbeg. The industrial origins stretch back to 1899 when Dublin Corporation secured the Pigeonhouse Fort from the army and began work on a new building for ‘extending and improving the electrical lighting of the city’. The scheme was designed to supply ‘100,000 lamps of eight-candle power’ while 412 new arc lights were to be installed on the streets. In 1903, the Corporation transferred its electricity generating operation from Fleet Street to the Pigeonhouse. Over the next ten years, demand grew from 763kW to 5,150kW. In 1927, the Electricity Supply Board was established and the Corporation ceased generating electricity. During the Emergency years 1939 – 1945, Pigeonhouse and the Ardnacrusha hydro-electric power station on the Shannon attempted to supply the whole country. However, the quality of the coal arriving at Pigeonhouse wharf was apparently so poor that grass could be seen growing upon the nuggets. In 1949, the ESB built a new oil-fired generating station on the North Wall. Pigeonhouse Station was nonetheless developed to reach an installed capacity of 95,000kW in 1952. In 1955, the ESB built another new station in Ringsend, powered by either coal or oil.

NO TOAST FOR ME

An early symbol of troubles ahead came in September 1906 when the Improvements Committee of Dublin Corporation brought a large number of guests on a short cruise down the Liffey on board the Corporation steamer Shamrock to view the new drainage works at the Pigeonhouse. Among those on board were a number of Sinn Feiners, headed up by Alderman Thomas Kelly. On boarding the steamer at Custom House Quay, Kelly went to the stern where the traditional red flag of the merchants’ ship was flying, with the Union Jack quartered upon it. Using a large clasp knife, he cut the strings and threw the flag into the river. The incident created ‘a very painful sensation’ while Mr Kelly explained that he had cut down the flag because it was an insult to his nationality. Alderman Kelly was still present for the lunch, along with the Lord Mayor, the Attorney General and the Lord Lieutenant’s Under Secretary. When a toast was raised to ‘The King’, Kelly and his friends shouted ‘We won’t drink to it’ and stormed out. A stunned Times correspondent wrote of the incident under the heading ‘Disloyalty in Dublin’.

POOLBEG GENERATING STATION

In the 1960s a new red-brick power station was built in the lands of Pigeonhouse precinct. Officially called Poolbeg Generating Station, it is today widely known as the Pigeon House. It is also one of the icons of the Dublin skyline on account of its thermal station chimneys, rising like barber shop poles from the water. These are among the tallest structures in Ireland and are visible from most of Dublin city. Number 1 chimney is 207.48m (680ft 9in) high. Number 2 chimney is 207.8m (681ft 9in) high. Fuelled by either oil or natural gas, the first two 120MW units of the Poolbeg plant officially opened 1971. These units both have turbo-alternators manufactured by Brown Boveri and 'drum type' boilers by Fives Penhoet, France. A third 271MW unit was added in 1978, with a turbo-alternator manufactured by Alsthom, France and a 'once through' type Boiler by M.A.N Germany. The Pigeonhouse itself was decommissioned in 1976. Today magpies, kestrels, sparrow-hawks and racing pigeons swoop from the roof of the old hotel and through the grimy windowless power station.

THE NEW QUAYS

During the late 20th century, the Port and Docks Board built a further three new Liffey-side quays in the precinct west of Poolbeg station. South Quay was designed to handle container traffic. South Bank Quay was for roll on / roll off traffic. Coal Quay was for the importation of coal. At the western boundary of the precinct, the Ringsend Station of 1955 has a coal conveyor gantry that spans across Pigeonhouse Road. The Poolbeg station’s oil storage tank extends the original Green Patch eastwards to meet the remnant of the Shelly Banks strand that still separates it from the White Bank.

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