Highwayman’s bridge is being repaired

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Cllr Cathal Crow pointing to the memorial plaque on Barrly-Thomous Bridge.

A BRIDGE with an historic past on the outskirts of Limerick city is getting a new lease of life.

Cllr. Cathal Crowe has welcomed the commencement of essential repairs works on an old stone bridge that straddles a mountain stream on the parish boundary between Cratloe and Meelick.

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Last weekend, contractors working for Clare County Council installed scaffolding to facilitate repair works on Barrly-Thomous Bridge.

This single-arched stone bridge, constructed in 1837 has been in a perilous state for a number of months. Throughout the month of February, heavily laden trucks carrying cut timber from a nearby forestry plantation loosened some of the bridge’s stonework.

Cllr Crowe says that the trucks “exacerbated a problem that is likely to already have started owing to the lack of maintenance the bridge received over its 182 years of existence.”

The councillor feared that with the structural integrity of the bridge’s parapet compromised there was a risk of vehicles plunging to the valley floor 30 feet below.

“I have a great grá for Barrly-Thomous Bridge. It is only a stone’s throw from my family’s ancestral home at Woodcock Hill and my uncle’s farm bounds on bridge itself,” said Cllr Crowe, who has been highlight the need for works for several years.

“I am chairman of the Woodcock Hill Enhancement Committee which, in 2016, installed a plaque on the parapet of Barrly-Thomous Bridge commemorating its illustrious folklore.

“In the years before the bridge was built a highwayman, named Morrissey, sat on a flat stone at the fording point of the stream and attacked stagecoaches as they negotiated the water and rocks.

“Armed with a blunderbuss, Morrissey often relieved his victims of fortunes – which he supposedly shared with his poor neighbours. He was, in effect, a ‘Robin Hood’ of his day.

“On his deathbed, he told family and neighbours that his stash of valuables was buried beneath an oak tree in Cratloe Woods with the ace of spades carved on it. The lure of instant wealth sent many people from near and far on a prospecting frenzy.

“To protect the loot from falling into the ‘wrong hands’, Morrissey’s closest friends are said to have carved the ace of spades onto all tree trunks in the woods. This greatly confused the prospectors and ensured, as folklore would have it, that Morrissey’s treasures were never ever found.”