Water Baby

Flood Movie

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This video clip was shot at Bray Golf Links on 26th August, 1986. It is taken from 'A Portrait of Bray', which is available from Bray Heritage Centre. We acknowledge its use with thanks.

The River Dargle had burst its banks the previous night about a mile upriver from the links at around 8pm. A raging torrent had then swept through over 500 homes in Little Bray, between that break point and the sea.

It was their fourth major flood in 100 years.

At the height of this flood, four volunteer rescuers had been thrown from their boat in Castle Street. Their propeller had caught on the roof of a parked car in the floods below.

Men and boat were swept from Castle Street through Dwyer Park towards the side entrance to the golf links. The flood waters were following, old people in the area say, the old course of the Dargle River.

With the strength born of desperation, the men managed - miraculously - to cling to the railings of the gardens in Dwyer Park to stop their headlong rush towards the vast reservoir the golf links becomes in times of flooding. They clambered along the walls of the gardens, and eventually made their way uphill - towards Ravenswell Convent and safety.

Their boat was swept into the golf links from where, the following day, Civil Defence personnel recovered it. It is that incident that is recorded in this film.

The flood waters by then had been receding from 4am.

In the opening scenes, Civil Defence personnel are entering the golf links - a hugely important part of the flood plain - from Ravenswell Road, located between the links and the Dargle River. They are attempting to enter as close to where the boat was finally deposited as possible.

The reason for their caution can be seen as they wade waist-high along the outer perimeter of the golf links in the now calm water to take the boat up their jeep on Ravenswell Road.

Shortly afterwards, the camera pans across this road, from the hedge enclosing the golf links to the river wall, smashed by the force of the flood water.

Water pours into the golf links from two sides when it floods here. From the south, it takes the water that the channel can no longer contain directly from the river, as high tides meet swollen river in violent, uncontainable clash.

But it also takes the flood water from the west, having inevitably broken its banks further upstream, as it did in 1905, 1931, and 1965, as well as in '86. This is caused by heavy rain swelling the waters of the granite floored river as it pours down from the Wicklow mountains, until neither the channel bed nor the higher reaches of the flood plain can contain it. So it follows its old escape route to the sea...

Here in the golf links it is contained until tides and river subside, finally allowing the flood waters back to their home.

The power and ferocity of the river in flood, on its way to this 'reservoir', can be seen when the camera focuses on Dwyer Park, where the road surface was rolled up like a carpet by the force of the water. It was through this little housing estate that men and boat were swept in a murderous current, before managing to grab the iron railings.

It was through this estate also that James Plunkett was swept in the 1905 flood. His body was recovered the next day from the golf links.

  Map of Flood Basin along Dargle River in Bray, Co. Wicklow

Map of
Flood Basin

(click here to enlarge)


People like the men in the boat featured in this film - and like the other four Civil Defence volunteers who had almost been swept through a plate glass window in Castle Street the same night by the force of the flood - saved hundreds of local people, many elderly, many living in one-storey houses, as flood waters reached almost 2m in parts of Little Bray in both 1965 and in 1986.

Incredibly, the area covered by the great panorama of flood water shown at the end of this video has now been zoned Town Centre by Bray Town councillors, allowing the highest density building possible to be developed on the flood plain. If this zoning is allowed to stand, it will not only displace the 'reservoir' for future floods on a river that experts say will break loose again every 25 to 30 years - it will also completely cut off the flood water’s traditional escape route from the homes and streets of Little Bray that have suffered so disastrously in the past.

Following Bray Town Council's adoption of this zoning by eight to four (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour councillors voted it through against Green Party and Sinn Fein objections), plans were immediately submitted by Pizarro Developments. The graphic alongside shows their proposal for the land shown in the last scene of this video.

How high then will the flood waters rise in Little Bray next time...?

  Proposed Development on Dargle Flood Plain in Bray, Co. Wicklow


(click here to enlarge)


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