A Real Thing for the future

Jun 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland


Most people will not believe it, assuming that it is a joke and that there is a punchline to come, but there was once a cable car at Bray Head in Co Wicklow.

Walking the promenade and part of the cliff path to Greystones on an early June evening, the concrete base from which the cables stretched sits mutely beside the car park used by walkers to the Head.  Memories of the car seem not to be plentiful.  Trips to Bray were not such a simple matter in the 1950s and 60s; south Co Dublin was rolling fields and small villages and and to take a train down from the city was a much more serious matter than hopping onto a southbound DART.

Even on the Internet, references to the cable car are few.  One excellent photograph appears, not from a local newspaper or history, but from the Coca Cola Company.

Bray cable car Coca Cola

Dating from 1964, the photograph shows a delivery of Coca Cola being made to a cafe on the head; the view of the seafront has not changed much in 45 years.

Phil Mooney, the historian at Coca Cola, invited captions for the photograph in a competition around Saint Patrick’s Day this year.  The winning caption was inspired by thoughts of a lawsuit arising from the bottles falling from the chair.  The sight of a chair lift carrying a man and dozens of bottles through the sky on an Irish coastline would have provoked much more colourful comment at the time.

Extraordinarily, one website that describes itself as your, “your unlimited travel guide to the world”, asserts the cable car is still running:

To the south of Bray is Bray Head, rising steeply from the sea to a height of nearly 800ft/240m. A footpath known as the Great White Way runs from the south end of the Esplanade, passing a small ruined church (13th C), to the summit of the head (1.5 hours there and back). Halfway up, at the Eagle’s Nest, is a cafe (reached in summer by a chair-lift). From the top there are fine views over the sea and inland.

But back to that redundant concrete base: it marked a confidence and hope in the future.  As odd as it may seem in retrospect, someone had the enterprise and the energy to build something new and completely different and a corporation as notable as Coca Cola thought it something worth attention.

Ireland now needs similar enterprise, similar willingness to do something new and completely different.  As we spiral downwards to an unemployment total of 500,000 people, we need people who will rebuild confidence, people prepared to believe in hope.  We need ideas that attract people like the photographers from Coca Cola, so that in forty years time perhaps it, or some other corporation will feature pictures of things that were happening in 2009.

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  1. I remember that cable car at Bray Head.

  2. Any idea when it stopped running?

  3. A fine post! I love the photo. You hit the nail on the head about the need for enterprise – vibrant, small scale, local enterprise. Lots of them.

  4. There needs to be a big surge in confidence for people to see taking individual risks as a worthwhile enterprise – something that is not being inspired by the drip-drip of bad news from the financial institutions and by the less than transparent dealings with the religious institutions.

  5. I checked the noticeboard in the Bray Head car park last night – it says the chair lift ran successfully until the 1970s. There must be lots of holiday snaps where it features.

  6. It was set up in 1950 by Eamonn Quinn father of Feargal Quinn of Superquinn. I believe it shut down in 1970 when the troubles in the north started and tourism from the UK started to slow/stop.

  7. I recall biking past the base of the chair lift in the summer of 1972. It was out of service. I visited it again in I think the early 1990s. Bases remained. Up at the Eagles Nest: derelict electric boxes, toilet, parts of old chairs, top most cable support–badly rusted. I have a photo of myself (age 5) and my mother on a chair coming up to the top. Photo taken July, 1960. Happy childhood memories.

  8. Incidentally, the photo of the Coca-cola deliveryman is probably staged. The photo of my mother and me was taken as we ascended and the photo depicts our chair pointing towards Dublin, not Bray Head! The deliveryman is actually on a descending chair–no doubt taken so that he would be facing the camera.

  9. Thanks for the information. A friend’s aunt had the cafe at the Eagle’s Nest. I think the chair lift was taken out of service after an accident.

  10. Enjoyed your article. Picture is iconic. The ‘enterprising’ family were the Quinns who ran it from 1950 to 1970 accident free – young Fergal went into the supermarket business afterwards- i.e Superquinn.

    There is always hope and as we speak there are young Irish entrepeneurs in the waiting – the circle will turn.

    Michael Doorley

  11. Thanks for the information, I hope the circle turns soon!

  12. Hallo, I’m 75 and remember the chairlift well.

    A pity there was no wee tram from the lower terminus to Bray railway station. That was my first charlift.

    Much later I discovered chairlits with my skis in Bavaria, Ausria, Switzerland and France. I can’t see why it could not be restored in Bray Head – it would be a great tourist attraction!

    In addition, you could build a funicular or rack-railway up to the top of Kippure, where you could build a super-disco.

    I’m sure that would be a great hit with the Dublin Yuppie-set!!!

    JD Germany

  13. I was born in 1965 and remember going up bray head on this cable chair.being asking friends for years do they remember these chairs but nobody does. Great seeing some pictures even just to prove a point lol. Linda remember being brought into a cafe for tea up there. If I remember right it was a yellow cable car. Great memories, must see can I dig out old photo graphs.

  14. Was the cafe called the Eagle’s Nest, or something like that?

  15. There are some really good photos on Google images including some John Hinde postcards. Fingers crossed that one day someone will restore the chair-lift & café.

  16. I wish to confirm comment above .the chap with the bottles is on the down line,i should know as i was involved in the building of thr ropeway.

  17. the chap with the bottles is on the down line

  18. I went on the cable car in summer 1967

  19. I wonder if people who travelled on it would have been believed if they had told people in England, or other places, that there was a cable car in an Irish seaside town

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