The idea of the Achill Sound Bridge connecting Achill Island to the Corraun peninsula was being considered in the early 1880s. There wasn't much concern before this time for the inhabitants of the island. As one William Maxwell, remarked, 'many islander has lived and died without every seeing a town'.
People used to cross the channel by ferry, which was not very safe, due to the strong currents and winds. When the tide was low people would cross the channel by foot or horseback, through shallow waters, although there were cases of people and horses being killed due to the fast tidal surge.
A Mr Glover, Mayo County Surveyor had drawn up plans for the bridge, which was approved by Mr J Price, a civil engineer. The official authorization was granted by The Board of Trade in London and in 1883 an administrative body was organised to finance the project and the total cost was priced at £5,000.
In 1886 the construction of the Achill Sound Bridge began, and one year later it was completed. They named the bridge 'The Michael Davitt'. The structure of the bridge had deteriorated badly by the 1930s, and by 1939 the Mayo County Council had decided to replace the middle section of the bridge.
It had been for 'horse and cart', not the motor cars and this was causing the problems to the bridge. The islanders saw the need for a much bigger and wider bridge so it would be able to cope with the increasing amount of traffic.
In 1947 the bridge was knocked and reconstruction commenced. This work on the bridge was held back for several months due to bad weather conditions. The reconstruction recommenced on September 29th 1948, and was finally completed in January 1949.
The Michael Davitt bridge is 21ft 6in in width, 740ft in length and weighs 390 tonnes. The swinging bridge is operated manually. The cost of this project was approximately £20,000. The Michael Davitt Bridge still stands today and it still swings for the passing vessels and the yawls.
By Martina Cafferky