The River Glin
Written by Emma Willis managing partner at Branch Out.
As Branch Out are conducting a study this year on the river Glin, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the history and journey of river. Let me share what I found with you! There certainly isn’t an abundant offering of information out there, …but after a bit or reading (and not just on Google!) and a little hiking,… what an interesting history and journey evolved!
It starts as a shallow furrow lined with nettles, not yet a stream much less a river, in a valley called Kelly’s Glen which lies between Kilmashogue and Tibradden mountain. Then without warning the spring brings to life a slight but palpable waterway. The current is slow, the water is clear and ankle deep and it’s here the Glin river begins its journey. According to local legend during the ‘Battle of Kilmashogue’ in 919 AD, where Irish chieftains defeated Danish Vikings, the High King Niall Glin (Niall Glúndub) was killed. So possibly where the river name originates?
In 1748 this chalybeate (mineral spring containing iron salts), was discovered and its waters became known for their health-giving properties. The “spa” never became overly popular due to its distance from the city and the difficult terrain surrounding it. However, there is a ruin known as Calbecks castle beside the spring that was thought to have accommodated visitors wishing to experience the water’s benefits.
The Glin flows from the valley through Larch Hill estate and further down the mountain it joins another river, the Owendoher (aka the ‘Little Dodder’). In the 1800’s these rivers were a scene of much activity and industry. In 1840 there were thirteen mills powered by the Glin and the Owendoher. They each employed between 20 and 120 people making paper, silk, wool, and flour! Some of the mills ruins are still visible today and act as a reminder of the industry that depended on these rivers at one time.
Perhaps you have heard of the Dodder river, perhaps not. It is one of Dublin’s best-known rivers and it rises in the Dublin Mountains and flows down through the suburbs of Tallaght, Rathfarnham, Donnybrook and Ballsbridge before joining the Liffey Estuary at Ringsend.
There are a number of tributaries draining into the river Dodder, the largest being the Owendoher river. The Owendoher itself rises in two main branches up in the Dublin mountains. The larger branch flows from the Glendoo valley and meets a second branch. These two branches come together and the Owendoher then flows north to Rathfarnham, but not before its joined by another river the Whitechurch stream. Confused? Don’t be….
It’s the Whitechurch stream I would like you to focus on. You see, it is part of the Glin river. In fact, on some maps the Glin is referred to as the Whitechurch stream or even the Kilmashogue river! So there you have it, the river Glin flows and develops into the Whitechurch stream. This stream flows through some beautiful areas of south Dublin with some wonderful Dublin history (St Endas Pearse Brothers Park for example). Whitechurch stream then meets and joins the Owendoher river at the upper end of Rathfarnham village, meets the Dodder further south, eventually joins the river Liffey and heads out to the Irish Sea ! (I probably could have made this journey easier for you,..I apologise,…but I had to take the journey in my mind, therefore, so did you!
And so this is what I found from a little research; an enchanting beginning, an industrious history and an intriguing journey to one of the river Dodders largest tributaries! So next time you’re either standing by a river admiring it or conducting a study, be sure to be present, but also for a moment, let your mind wonder. Think about how and where it began, the stories it could tell you and where it ends.