Achill Railway; The early years

The time the railway was completed, tourism began to take off in the West of Ireland. With the new improved infrastructure of rail and roads, tourist began to make their way west. Before that it was only the odd intrepid traveler that wandered to remote Island. In the 1870’s newspapers and magazines began to recommend Achill and similar places such as Connemara and the Cliffs of Moher as tourist destinations, talking about them as them as they were new discoveries, which in a way these places were at the time.

The above was written in 1877, when tourist books on Ireland were beginning to be printed, enticing visitors to places such as Connemara and Clare and the lesser known regions of Donegal and Achill. The areas mentioned would be known collectively as the Wild Atlantic Way.

The above accounts were taken from the Handbook of the Midland, Great Western Railway Guide to Connemara and the West of Ireland.

Sources

http://www.failteireland.ie/Footer/What-We-Do/Our-History.aspxID

recommending Achill Pall Mall Gazette 04 October 18772

Handbook of the Midland Great Western Railway Guide to Connemara and the West of Ireland.

Achill Railway; In the Beginning and at the End

It is more than eighty years since the closure of the Achill Railway. It was in it’s time a great asset to the island, greatly improving, the flow of goods and people to and from the Island. But ironically the improvement made to roads in the early twentieth century, lessened the demand for rail travel to the area.

Officially open for business on May 13th of 1895, although the first train to make the forty mile journey from Westport, traveled the previous year. Its maiden journey was not celebrated. It carried the bodies of the victims of the Clew Bay Disaster, the first of the two tragedies that book-ended the route. The second 43 years later, carried the victims of the Kirkintilloch Disaster. Again the track was opened specially for the tragic occasion, another coffin train. The prophecy by Brian Rua O’Cearbhain, the 17th century seer, complete.

In spite of the tragedies that overshadowed its short existance, the Achill railway, contained all the elements of romance that rail travel carries. The scenery from Westport to Achill rivals any in the world. The vista from the forty or so miles of track, displayed mountains, valleys, lakes, seascapes and beaches, not to mention the quaint little villages with their human and animal inhabitants, scattered along the route.

When it first opened for business in 1895, the Sligo Champion 08 June 1895, reported that; “Already the Achill railway line is being largely patronised. There is a large amount of strangers present on the island.” Island life had changed for good, and was on the brink of changing even further, with the build up of tourists and day trippers that, began to make the 1 hour 40 minute journey.

The Achill line carried in and out people that would help “put Achill on the map”. Many public figures, the good and the great of those times, traveled the line that terminated at the end of the main land adjacent to the Michael Davitt bridge that joined it and the island at Achill Sound.

Sources

http://www.mayonews.ie/sports/20746-a-story-of-triumph-and-tragedy

https://www.eu-train.net/connect/story/stories/achill_railway.htm

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0086H, Page 02_001 

Freeman’s Journal 22 January 1898

11 December 1907 – Irish Independent – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Belfast News-Letter 18 April 1906

An Irish portrait; London, New York, B. T. Batsford [1951]

More Cases of Flu

In January 1919, while the fist Dail was being formed and the Anglo Irish War was beginning. Life as continued as normal in most parts of the country. On Achill it was impossible to tell that great changes were unfolding in the country. Most people in Ireland, including Achill were too busy dealing with their immediate environment to contemplate what was taking place nationally.

After the Great War unemployment was high, but a new type of welfare was introduced, but that didn’t stretch too far if there was a number of mouths to feed. To make to make matters worse, the dreaded flu was still ravaging the land. Achill was not exempt, and in the first few weeks of the new year there were new cases. Had Emily been there at the time she would have been caring for the victims. But she was still in Dublin, nursing victims there and hoping to stave off the loss of her house for all long as possible.

Sources

Roscommon Messenger 18 January 1919

https://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/new-unemployment-benefit-sees-massive-take-up-in-ireland

“All in a Flash.”

On Janruary 21st 1919, while the first Dail were meeting at the Manison House another event was unfolding outside a little village in County Tipperary. The village, Soloheadbeg, the event was the fist shots of the War of Independence.

23 January 1919 – Freeman’s Journal – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

The article above appeared in the Freeman’s Journal two days afterwards. The headline “All in a Flash”, sums up how the war began. It would continue for two and a half years, ending in a truce on July 11th 1921.

“The War of Independence in Ireland which encompassed the years 1919 to1921 was a conflict involving the forces of the Irish Republic – Sinn Fein and its allied organisations, the IRA, Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna – on one side…On the other side was the British Government in Ireland based in Dublin Castle.”

Sean Hogan

National Director, Fire and Emergency Management, Custom House.

Gillis Liz, May 25 Burning of The Custom House 1921, Kilmainham Tales TEO

For the war’s two and a half years duration Emily lived mostly in Dublin. Although in its early stages most activity took place in Munster. In early part of the year as the Spanish flu still raged, Emily’s time was taken up on the wards. Later on in the year she had more time to take up on her causes, which led to her involvement.


Sources

23 January 1919 – Freeman’s Journal – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Gillis Liz, May 25 Burning of The Custom House 1921, Kilmainham Tales TEO

First Dail 100 years ago

One Hundred years ago today:

Dail Eireann assembled at the Mansion House on January 21st 1919, issued it Declaration of Independence, and formally andlegally established the Republic of Ireland, electing Cathal Brugha as its first President, De Valera and Griffith, although members of the Dail, were in jail, but Brugha and Collins had escaped the round-up.

Remembered by Seamus G. O’Cellaigh

The proceedings, which will open with the election of a person to fill a post equivalent to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons, will e conducted partly in the Irish language, and are expected to last about 2 hours, after which an adjournment will take place and a date to be fixed. A committee will arrange Irish titles for the different offices afterwards. the Feisiri Dail Eireann (or F.D.E.), as the Republican members are in future to be known, who are to be present numbers only 29 (the majority being interned or in prison).


Dublin Evening Telegraph, 22 January 1919

Members of the First Dail

Members of the First Dail

A limited amount of tickets were issued for the first sitting, and were made available for journalists and the general public. Emily may have applied for a ticket however it is unlikely that she was present.

Sources

Dublin Evening Telegraph, 22 January 1919

Wicklow People, Saturday December 22nd 1955

Photo of Mansion House courtesy of Ciaran Parkes