Every year in early January, reeds and bulrushes are cut along the Grand Canal at Tullamore near Boland’s Lock and Digby Bridges, making the water’s edge easier to see.
Plants are dense and tall during the summer, with water only a foot deep in places. Before Wednesday afternoon, in its darkest moments, some women who walk it daily may sometimes feel uncomfortable.
But this time of year it is clear. Fields, ditches, sometimes entrances and clumps of trees form one side of a straight path that is perfect for walking or running. Or, at least it was until Wednesday afternoon.
When I reach just past Boland Lock and before I reach Digby Bridge, I know I am about halfway through my daily walk. A 30 minute walk from my house across the bridge.
Many use Bolands Lock as a turning point, preferring a shorter walk, so there are usually fewer runners and runners ahead of it, but it is still a well-trafficked route.
It’s a rough road that I’ve walked hundreds, if not thousands, of times easier than the rough road on the other side of the canal. I never felt unsafe there.
On Wednesday afternoon I walked the canal way around the same time Ashling Murphy was killed, but I was on a quieter route on the west side of town, less popular with local walkers who preferred the locked side of Boland.
Over the years my mom, a more enthusiastic and experienced walker, has cautioned me to take the Bolands Lock Walk because there are more people out there, so it’s safer for a woman to walk alone.
He also cautioned me not to wear earbuds to listen to music, but to be aware of my surroundings. To be honest, this advice was more about hearing about overtaking cyclists than about anything frightening.
During the early stages of the pandemic, the path became even more popular with locals, with Bolands Lock often crowded – but within social distancing rules – with some eager for some fresh air, just a sense of freedom .
The road is relatively new. In my youth, it was a grassy track, muddy in winter. But it has been developed, which is now spread in thousands on both sides of the city. Eventually, it is expected to open all the way to Dublin.
Digby Bridge is the age-old, high-walled, stone-built and last bridge that can carry traffic up to 10 km from Ballycommon. Last year a car park was opened to encourage more pedestrians.
Next to the bridge, a wooden entrance prevents cars from turning into the walkway, providing safety for pedestrians. Walkers only need to think about avoiding runners and cyclists. Or we did until Wednesday afternoon.
Across the canal in Puttaguan is the Sacred Heart School where Ashling Murphy attended from 2011 to 2017. Today, its students often rest or walk along the canal during breaks. Or they did until Wednesday afternoon.
don’t let violence win
On Thursday a regular walker encouraged me to walk with him on my usual route. “We cannot let violence win. We have to come back to use that amazing feature. If we don’t, he wins.
“It’s our city, our way, we should be able to use it safely, whenever we want,” she said, adding that anyone in town knew that Aisling Murphy’s killer was still a threat.
Once again women are second in anticipating their actions, making decisions based on fear of safety. Will our sense of resentment triumph over our caution as mothers? What example are we setting our daughters if we surrender and censor ourselves?
In our small town where there is now a sense of fear among the women, there is also a sense of resentment that a young woman should have faced such a horrific death in broad daylight, running to a safe place.
There is also a sense of infringement, that a much-loved facility – once an important trade link inextricably linked to the city’s history, a vital artery to today’s Tullamore – is now tainted and forever. will be brutally tainted.
How long do local women feel safe? Yes, we will walk between Boland Lock and Digby Bridge. Will we feel safe? Not likely, not for the time being, but Tullamore will rise, and he will do so in honor of Ashling Murphy.