The siting of a city on a river is a contingent thing. Many confluences, promontories, bends and sheltered lagoons have not seen urban growth. Have not seen human settlement even. Or if they have, then, within a flicker of historical time, such settlements have vanished to leave post-hole markings in mud and stone, scattered shards of dun pottery and obscure coins that flummox scholars. Such sites become the playgrounds of earnest archeologists, while being continuously preyed upon by the ceaseless silting and unsilting of the river itself.
Not far from the walled city there is one such site that holds its name in the modern road that runs behind it, Dunnalong Road. The site, in Irish, is Dún na Long, translated to English as the fort of the ships. There are no ships there now. Once a major trading post, it is now a marshy bank where herons stilt-walk among the reeds. Bristly fish come and go in their circumspect lives. It is a place of quiet and calm, separated by no more than three fields from the major road where traffic grumbles up a hill, awkward gear changes and tyre squealing marking the presence of a climbing and over-taking lane. A pantechnicon coughs its asthmatic engine, then harrumphs over the final rise. Boy racers, two by two, descend full-pelt, screeching to slow at the traffic lights beside the petrol station, just where Dunnalong Road begins, before squirming their souped-up two-door sleekers into parkings in front of the Open 24 shop, behind the pumps, to replenish their stores of pop, fags, gum, phone credit, pastilles and dolly mixtures.
But by the river there are only the sounds of the gentle suck-suck of the water at the banks and the secrets whispered lightly among the reeds. There is little evidence now of the castle built by the O'Neill clan in the 17thcentury. There is little evidence of the renewed fortifications put in place by Sir Henry Dowcra, who's soldiers drove out the O'Neills and their families. No amount of red brick fragments, clay pipes, lead shot and shards of pottery will bring these people back, though they had docks, a brew house, horse-stalls, a market-place, houses and emplacements for cannon.
The river takes as it gives. The pushing and shoving that goes on between men and women in acts of business, love and war amount to no more than the debris found in a ditch or the burnings in an ash-pit.