The story behind rock's history with Ireland's Ha'Penny Bridge and the guitars that honor it.
By Mike Duffy
Since its opening in 1816, the historic Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin, Ireland, has carried millions of pedestrians across the River Liffey to carry on with their daily activities.
And it might be a little-known fact, but several members of music royalty were among that group.
Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy famously stood on the bridge while filming the video for the 1982 single “This Old Town.”
And there is no doubt that legendary Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher traversed the Ha’Penny’s planks one time or another while growing up in his home country.
Two years ago, the Ha’Penny Bridge was immortalized by Fender Custom Shop Master Builder John Cruz in the form of the one-of-a-kind Irish Roots Telecaster Relic and Irish Roots Stratocaster Relic using the actual reclaimed wood from the original structure.
The elliptical walkway was refurbished in 2001, a process carried out in part by Harland and Wolff, the company that actually built the Titanic. The company that bought the salvage wood sold much of it in the form of plaques and other pieces to bar owners around the world.
Some of it was also sourced by Mike Born, Fender’s director of wood technology.
“Mike always gets the best pieces of wood to use, and he came to the Custom Shop saying that he had a guy with some wood from the bridge,” said Cruz, who was working on the limited-edition signature Stratocaster of virtuoso Irish guitarist Gary Moore at the time. “Considering the Gary Moore guitar was happening then, it was a true Irish connection.”
“I think they may have been talking about doing some amps with the wood, but I pushed to make some guitars. Then the question was how many pieces we could get, but we snapped up enough for two.”
The Irish Roots Stratocaster (L) and Telecaster Relic.
Upon seeing the wood, Cruz was immediately smitten.
“It was pretty beat up, but it had tons of character,” he recalled. “I wanted to keep all the nails and screws intact.
“We had to grind some of them down a little. You don’t want anyone to have to get a tetanus shot. But once we joined the wood and cut out the bodies, some of the wood looked new again, so I had to use a lot of oils and dirt to make it look like the rest of the wood.”
What makes the Ha’Penny Telecaster and Ha’Penny Stratocaster even more unique is the addition of authentic British halfpennies that would have been used in Ireland as a toll on the bridge in that era.
Embedded just below the bridges of the Tele and Strat, one halfpenny is dated 1916 and another 1917.
Both guitars were on display for the first time ever at the 2017 NAMM Show in Anaheim, Calif., and Cruz was pleased with the response of those who got to see these masterpieces in person.
“If it makes me want one — and I want them both for my collection — I think they turned out pretty great,” he said. “I’ve seen people hold it and play it, and the feedback has been pretty exciting. It just pays homage to the history of that bridge. So many feet crossed it … legends in the world of music. It was just an amazing project to work on.”