The Ferryman is a song written by Pete St. John about the Liffey Ferry in Dublin.
Once the River Liffey was crossed by barges and boats that connected north and south banks and east and westwards up and down river ferrying passengers, animals and goods. As more bridges were built across the Liffey the ferries moved downstream s; in the past crossing the river from the bridge, it had a cost, like in the Middle Ages a toll was paid for people and goods transported up to the amortization of expenses incurred for the construction of the bridge, for example the Wellington Bridge then Liffey Bridge built in 1836 he kept the turnstiles until 1919 (the bridge is nicknamed Helfpenny bridge “half-penny bridge” because of the cost of the toll). The bridge was also built following protests over the bad state and overcrowding of ferries carrying goods and people across the river.
The first ferry to Dublin was born in 1385 following the collapse of the bridge on the Liffey near the Customs House, in the cost of the ferry was paid also a fee to help finance the construction of a substitute bridge. But with the expansion of the city and the shortage of bridges, a ferry service assigned to the Dublin Corporation was established in the 1665: the service was active one hour before dawn and ended one hour after sunset and only at the beginning of the twentieth century rowing boats were converted into engines.
The last public ferry, from Sir John Rogerson’s Quay to the East Wall Road (Spencer dock), worked until 1984 when the East Link Bridge was opened on October 20th. On that occasion Pete St. John was also present and he listened to the ferryman complaining : “Here I am redundant and I’m only 42, after 20 years befriending the machine “, Pete is a modern Dublin folk singer of the past and could not miss the opportunity to write a song about The Ferryman: the form is that of the intimate conversation of the ferryman to his wife, an appeal to remain united and not be overwhelmed by changes in life. Like so many other songs written by Pete it immediately became a popular song in the Irish folk clubs.
Little boats are gone from the breast of Anna Liffy (1)
The ferryman is stranded on the quay sure the Dublin docks is dying
And a way of life is gone and Molly it was part of you and me
Where the Strawberry beds(2) sweep down to the Liffy
You kissed away the worry from my brow I love you well today
and I’ll love you more tomorrow if you ever love me Molly love me now
T’was the only job I knew it was hard but never lonely
The Liffy ferry made a man of me and it’s gone without a whisper
And forgotted even now and sure it’s over Molly over can’t you see
Well now I’ll tent the yard and I’ll spend me days in talking
And I’ll hear them whisper “Charlie’s on the dole”
But Molly we’re still living and darling we’re still young
And that river never owned me heart and soul
1) Anna Liffyis the personification of the River Liffey
2) gli Strawberry Beds are an area along the Liffey near Chapelizod which has remained relatively natural, Joyce’s favorite spot along the western edge of Phoenix Parks. The Dubliners used to go for their picnics and spend their honeymoon.