On Saturday 19 September 2016, we took a special journey with former Dublin Dockworkers – on the last voyage of the old No.11 Ferry on the River Liffey. This was a journey they would have taken daily as part of their working lives, bringing Dockers to recently-docked ships around the Port, to load and unload precious cargo – the food, fuel and other goods that kept the city and the country running. Most hadn’t been on the ferry for between 30-40 years.
Mairéad Cullen joined us in September on the ferry trip. Afterwards, she was inspired to paint two paintings, ‘Docker’s Taxi’ and ‘Berthed’ that will now be exhibited in Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane from the 4 July as part of Dublin Port’s “Port Perspectives Engagement Programme”.
Mairéad shares her memories of the ferry and her family’s connection to the docks:
“Back in the day, the ‘Docker’s Taxi’ was the main ferry crossing over the River Liffey. It ferried dockers to the north and south side of the river for their day’s work on the ships. For a thrupence, and later a tanner, it also transported ordinary people who worked in factories on either side of the river. Each journey, with about 30 or so passengers, lasted around three to five minutes.
My family, living on the northside at the time, were frequent passengers on the ferry. My father, known as Glimmer, was a docker, while two of my older sisters and an older brother used the ferry to get to and from work on the southside. According to family lore, one of these sisters even met her husband-to-be on the ‘Docker’s Taxi’!
“As for me, I hadn’t been on the ferry for at least 45 years. Decommissioned in 1984, I never thought I’d have the opportunity again. So, I was delighted when I received an invitation from Declan Byrne (who, with Jimmy Carty RIP, founded the Dublin Dockworkers Preservation Society) to be a passenger on the ferry in its first trip over the river since it was taken out of service. The trip itself was facilitated by Dublin City Council as part of the Dublin’s Culture Connects: Around the Table project.
Such was my excitement that, on the day, before boarding the taxi, I had a ferryman fill an empty bottle with water from the River Liffey as a keepsake. I was also sure to take some photographs before anyone boarded the ferry; in fact, it was the water collected from the river and these photographs that inspired my artwork, ‘The Docker’s Taxi’.
Once aboard the ferry, the other passengers and I donned our life jackets before departing the quay side. Open to the elements (although it was a beautiful day), I continued to take photographs to capture the sights of the day. Again, one of these photographs was the focus of a piece of my artwork, ‘Berthed’.
“While on the open river, John Hawkins, a docker, in his boat ‘Monica B’, took many photographs of the ferry before coming alongside to provide two paper cups of coffee to the ferryman. It is said that a picture paints a thousand words. With that, my artworks ‘The Docker’s Taxi’ and ‘Berthed capture what was a wonderful trip down memory lane. I was delighted to have had the opportunity to experience the ferry again, especially as it had featured so heavily in my life and the daily life of my family.”
The exhibition featuring Mairéad’s two paintings will be on display in the Hugh Lane Gallery until July 16th. The ferry trip with the Dublin Dockers was an event organised as part of the Around the Table project, tracing the passage of food from the docks to the markets and from our streets to our tables.0