Secrets of the Stream

After the sudden heavy rains that August, the little river that meanders through the suburbs from
Deansgrange in Dublin out to Killiney Bay swelled to a torrent along the narrow culvert through the
railway embankment. Tearing its way across the shingle to the sea, it had carved a deep channel
with steep sides at least a metre high.
When the black clouds cleared, the Meghen family, taking their usual walk to the beach, found the
riverbed scoured out by the floods. leaving a layer of rock-hard grey mud. To their amazement they
saw what seemed to be the traces of an old stone track embedded in the clay from long ago. It had
been exposed after layers of stone and gravel were stripped away.
What was it for? And who had built it? One of the boys even found a rusted old horseshoe but it
slipped out of his hand and was carried away by a fast flow of water, never to be seen again.
On further examination they guessed that some of the apparent slabs between the track ruts might
even be constructed of timber due to their brown colour. Perhaps the wooden parts had become
‘petrified’ while buried in the wet clay. They took detailed photographs and measurements to try to
make sense of the track which seemed to curve towards the sharp rocky reef that the tide uncovers
twice a day.
There was not much time to solve the mystery and already the waves were creeping up behind
them. They knew that each new tide would cover up their find again with a heavy layer of stones
and gravel. The New Look river had already become a magnet for the children of the
neighbourhood, who were sailing boats or enjoying stone throwing competitions.
An urgent message was sent to Rob, a local historian who always keeps his boots ready for action.
He noticed that those boots made very little imprint on the stiff clay which was very like the firm
clay at Pottery Road just a couple of miles away, and he knew that similar clay was to be found
along the bottom of the cliffs on nearby Shanganagh Beach. When it dries out it can crack and
give the impression of ‘planks’. It was hard to dig into with a trowel.
Though further along Killiney Bay near Bray there is a submerged forest dating from the end of the
last Ice Age – and he had touched and smelled some of those ‘petrified’ logs from over 6000 years
ago – he could tell that this was not embedded timber.
He had wondered if horses and wagons had been used two centuries ago by the military when the
nearby Martello Tower and gun batteries were under construction but concluded that the indented
ruts were probably made by a donkey and cart. With good detective work he had identified the
donkey hoof imprints where the animal had had to struggle with a heavy load.
It seemed most likely that stones were being carted away from the shingle bank at some stage for
building walls or for use in a lime kiln. A painting from 1877 shows donkey carts hauling seaweed
on this beach where there are still rich beds of kelp.
Everyone was pleased that Rob wrote an expert report for the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council
Heritage Department as all traces of the tracks in the riverbed were totally covered again within
As for the Meghen family…..It would not be long till another August when a Whale was washed
in…but that is another story..