Letter to the Editor: The saving of Babe’s Bridge
(Editor, Meath Chronicle)
Dear sir - I read with interest the article in your Countywide pages about Babe's Bridge in Navan. I inspected the bridge over the weekend and would concur with the sentiments expressed therein about the condition of the bridge. Urgent underpinning of the northern abutment and cleaning of the main channel at the location are urgently needed.
Babe's is the oldest authenticated stone arch bridge in Ireland, not alone Meath. The earliest reference is 1216 in the register of the Abbey of St Thomas, which suggests that it was in operation at that time. It would be referred to as a King John (pre-1216). The profile of the bridge is very similar to Le Pont Bohardy in France. Indeed the bridge and Mary Magdalene in Duleek are the only two stone arch Irish bridges featured in Les grande ponds du monde European section, a book written by the famous bridge historian Marcel Prade. It is also included in the Irish Stone Bridges by Peter O'Keeffe and Tom Simington. Indeed Peter brought the bridge to the notice of the public in the mid 1980s.
Following reprentations by Peter and the late Frank O'Brien, a holding repair was funded by the OPW with the labour supplied by MEathg County Council and completed in 1986. Clearly funding needs to be sourced now if the bridge arch is to be saved.
Credit must be given to the late Elizabeth Hickey of Skryne and the Meath Archeological Society in respect of the authenticity references.
I would add that County Meath has two other serious contenders for the oldest stone arch bridge in Ireland, the Duleek bridge and Mabes on the Kells/Moynalty Road. I personally favour the latter.
I hope the above helps the case for remedial funding.
Frank Burke, Trim Road, Navan.