Pain Brothers - Thomond Bridge

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 Thomond Bridge
Thomond Bridge
Painting of old Thomond Bridge
Painting of old Thomond Bridge



 Thomond Bridge
Painting of The Original Bridge

Thomond Bridge is built at a fording point across the River Shannon. It is Limerick’s oldest bridge, while not well documented the bridge is known to have been erected in the 12th century. While there were no records of a stone bridge, it is very likely that there was a wooden construction in place. The creation and documentation of a stone bridge occurred around the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. Once being the only entrance to Limerick over the Shannon it was for a time a much sought after object of opposing parties in various wars.


 Thomond Bridge
Military Barricade Of Thomond Bridge

The erection of Thomond Bridge was ordered by King John, then Earl Moreton in 1185 to link the Clare side of the River Shannon to King’s Island. At the time, the bridge cost £30 to complete. Some engineers of the last century believed that the original bridge was made of wood though this is debated. Tragically, in 1292 the bridge collapsed killing 80 people. It was replaced by a series of bridges. The structure that stands today replaced a fourteen arch medieval bridge which was made of limestone. [1] The bridge was the site of a failed battle that took place during the Siege of Limerick which took place between August and September 1690.[2]


The bridge that stands today was designed by the Pain Brothers, James Pain and George Richard Pain who are responsible for designing many other buildings in the city such as Limerick City Court House and Limerick Jail. It contains seven limestone arches and half-conical ashlar breakwaters. A plaque, on the roadside of the parapet reads, "This bridge was built A.D. 1840 at the Expense of the Corporation of the Borough of Limerick. This tablet was placed there by order of the town council A.D. 1843. The Right Worshipful Martin Honan Mayor John F. Raleigh Esq. Town Clerk Francis O'Neil Esq. Treasurer James and G.R. Pain Architects." The bridge also features plastic solar-powered light boxes with positive and uplifting messages attached to these street lights which are the most recent addition to the bridge. [3]

 Plan and Elevation of Thomond Bridge
Plan and Elevation of Thomond Bridge by the Pain Brothers

The Pain Brothers

The designing and development of Thomond Bridge can be attributed to the architectural partnership of brothers James and George Richard Pain. The Pain brothers were born in England, James being the older of the two born in 1779, and George Richard in 1793. In their younger years, they both studied with the architect John Nash. Around 1811, the pair moved to Ireland, to oversee the building of Lough Cutra Castle, Co. Galway. The brothers worked on a multitude of projects in Ireland, both together and separately. As a pair they worked on projects such as Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare, (1819-1835), Blackrock Castle, Co. Cork, (1828-9), Baals Bridge, Co. Limerick, (1831), Thomond Bridge, Co. Limerick (1837-1840), and a vast range of other well-known landmarks throughout Ireland.[4] James settled and worked primarily in Limerick, where he embarked on many solo projects, such as restoring St. Mary’s Cathedral, in Limerick, (1820s), and developing schools, like Doon School, (1851), and Pallasgreen School, (1852), both in Co. Limerick. He died on December 13, 1877, aged 97. He was a widower and had no known surviving children at the time of his death. [5] Richard chose to make Cork his main base of work. He embarked on many projects across the county, for example, Manch House (1824), Clonakilty Court House (1826), and Castle Hyde Church (1830). He died at the age of 45, on December 26, 1838. He was survived by his three children, Catherine and James Richard, from his first marriage to Catharine Benn, and Sarah, from his second marriage to Margaret Atkins. [6]

Current Issues

Sadly, Thomond Bridge is a popular suicide location in Limerick. While the exact number of suicides on the river is unknown a growing number of people are taking their lives by entering the river via the bridge. Suicide has emerged as a growing problem in Limerick and the areas surrounding the River Shannon, a number of measures have been put in place by the local community to combat this. Numerous groups have been set up to raise awareness of these suicides and also to prevent further tragedies. These include Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP) and the Lisa’s Light Limerick campaign.

 CSPP volunteers at work
CSPP volunteers at work

Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP)

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night, Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP) units patrol between the New Bridge, Sarsfield Bridge, Thomond Bridge and Baal’s Bridge in Limerick city to prevent and provide support to those in distress and may be contemplating suicide. All CSPP volunteers receive first aid training, throw bag training and must also attend an applied suicide intervention skills workshop to learn how to approach people who may be in distress. Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP) has saved almost 300 lives since setting up three years ago. [7]

 Light Box Showing Uplifting Message
Light Box Showing Uplifting Message

Lisa’s Light Limerick

 Lisa's Light Campaign
Lisa's Light Campaign.

Lisa’s Light Limerick is a campaign which was started by a Limerick youth who was personally affected by suicide. A local teenager, Katie Whelan, got the idea when she had a dream about her cousin, Lisa who took her own life three years ago. Afterwards, the 18-year-old set up an online petition to get the City and County Councils to light up Shannon Bridge, Sarsfield Bridge and Thomond Bridge with solar-powered boxes. The petition received over 5,000 signatures. The aim of the campaign is to give hopeful, life affirming messages to those who may be distressed and contemplating suicide.[8] Lisa’s Light Limerick has placed clear plastic boxes, which are lit up by solar- powered lights, to brighten up the bridges at night. The light boxes light boxes were made free of charge by a local graphic design firm called Alphaset. The boxes were officially lit by Munster rugby player and Limerick native, Keith Earls in a ceremony attended by over 300 people on the 25th of March 2015. [9]


  1. Anon (2015) Architecture of Limerick. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [online] Available at: [Accessed October 21, 2015]
  2. Anon (2014) Siege of Limerick (1691) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [online] Available at: [Accessed October 21, 2015].
  3. Anon, Thomond Bridge, Castle Street, High Road, Limerick, Limerick City: Buildings of Ireland: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [online] Available at: [Accessed October 22, 2015].
  4. David Lee (2003) James and George Pain - Gothic Architects [online] Available at: [Accessed October 28, 2015].
  5. Anon (2014) Dictionary of Irish Architects - PAIN JAMES [online] Available at: [Accessed October 28, 2015].
  6. Anon (2014) Dictionary of Irish Architects - PAIN, GEORGE RICHARD [online] Available at: [Accessed October 28, 2015].
  7. Alan Jacques, 275 saved by suicide patrol unit in Limerick, Limerick Post Newspaper [online] Available at: [Accessed October 22, 2015].
  8. Sarah Coghlan (2015) Lisas Light – Light up Limerick’s Bridges [online] Available at: [Accessed October 21, 2015]
  9. David Raleigh (2015) Bright start as Limerick anti-suicide initiative brings light to dark places [online] Available at: [Accessed October 23, 2015]

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