Strange as it may seem this old bridge has a fond place in my memory. As a young boy with my friends I used to walk out along the Armagh Road to this place. We used to paddle our feet in the cold waters of the river and sometimes delight in hearing the rumble of a train passing overhead.
Nearby there was a beautiful glade of trees, most of them easy to climb and by tying a rope to the uppermost branches we could swing out over the river. Sometimes we would venture up on to the railway track. We knew that we weren’t supposed to do this, but you know what kids are like. We would then dare each other to walk the full length of the Good Shepherd’s railway tunnel and back again.
Later on, after the railway had closed down and as a young teenager, I still used to ramble out this way whilst taking my dog for a walk. But this time I could journey along the disused railway track. The old bridge still attracted the children as a play area. I remember once a group of kids had one end of a knotted rope tied to a bush with the other end hanging over the parapet of the bridge and dangling down to touch the water below. They were trying to climb down the rope to reach the river.
I just had to have a try at this stunt. It looked so much like fun. The kids let me have a go and I must say that I was the only one that day who could climb right down the rope to reach the river below and then return climbing back up the rope again. And I’m quite proud of that, whatever you think!
As I stood there standing on a large flat rock in the middle of that gurgling river, with the sound of a bee humming nearby and observing how the dappled sunlight was sparkling through the green leaves, I was moodily reminiscing on days past. I felt sorry for the old bridge that played such a part in my youth, a bridge that was saved from its Armageddon and cruel fate only by the thickness of a line of ink from the draughtsman’s pen. I reflected to myself that the only thing consistent here is the bridge, and of course the river itself, but the river unlike the bridge is free: free to wander, free to sing its burbling song and free to carry on flowing until it makes its connection with the Newry Canal further downstream.
After passing under the railway bridge the Bessbrook River carries on flowing through the little glade of trees that I mentioned earlier, before passing under the main Newry to Armagh road via a ruggedly handsome twin arched stone bridge.
The little waterway then snakes its way through half a mile or so of green fields before going under another road, the Tandragee Road this time, at Carnbane. The river then turns to the right, through ninety degrees and runs south paralleling the Newry Canal and the tow path. The Canal is to one side of the tow path and the Bessbrook River to the other side. This happy independent arrangement of parallel flowing waterways continues for another half mile until the Bessbrook River swings round to the left under the tow path via another beautiful two arched stone bridge before finally merging with the Newry Canal.
This is another place that is dearly held from my childhood memories, but that is another story, another ramble for another time.