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September 15, 2017 / hbrowne4

The Phibsboro Canal by Katie Meegan


Yellow, blue, grey on green.

There are six of them now. Tents pitched along the canal. In the shadows of the oaks trees. Jolly yet ominous.

It’s difficult not to stare while you’re strolling along the canal. So out of place, yet so at home, among the herons and the reeds.

Always walk on the right side of the water. There’s less trees to obstruct the light. Less trees for shelter and for darkness. Children on scooters, proud parents pushing prams, dog walkers and sweaty joggers. They all enjoy the tranquillity of the right side of the canal. We shoot furvert glances, across the muddy water, into the shadows of the oaks. Plastic bags of litter, broken bottles accompany the canvas Quasimodo, where they squat, malevolent and watching. Quicken your pace, hasten with your head turned away.

Brendan Behan, of the Borstal Boys, sits on the Dorset St side of the canal. Cast in iron and memory, his frozen pigeons stilled in cocky mid-flight.  Mr Behan sits with his great shoulders, half-staring to the rude traffic of Drumcondra. One eye always on the other canal.

And the ould triangle

Went jingle-jangle

All along the banks of the royal canal

Dare you walk on the other side of the canal? Water crashing between the loughs turn from scenic feature to obstacle, the wooden bridges more escape routes than charming gratuities Look away from the shadowy monsters in the closets, like children scared of the dark. Only, monsters aren’t real.

Look at us, we’re people too.


That ould triangle, it’s still going jingle jangle, it hasn’t stopped ringing in 75 years. Mr Behan he sits still. As the lost souls of the Phibsboro canal still sit. The cast iron champion of the downtrodden, who now provides a cold place to sit and to watch.

What can he say? To the lost souls. That ould triangle did never stop with that jingle bloody jangle, all along the banks of the royal canal. History flowing in a closed loop while the water flows on. When Behan’s men and woman and children, huddled under their ould canvas triangles.

The lost and thirsty souls of the Phibsboro canal, drawn to the water, drawn to the trees, drawn to the weight of history that’s flowing on.

Don’t walk on the green side of the canal.

Come, sit with us a while.


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