Category Archives: Places

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

1919 Dawns

As 1918 changed to 1919, life for Emily remained the same. The Spanish flu was still rampant throughout the world, and as a nurse she worked flat out nursing its victims. Financially she was no better off . She still hung on to her house on Achill, but only just. However, politically things in Ireland were on the brink of great change, that was something she could smile about.

Dail Eireann assembled at the Mansion House on January 21st, 1919, issued its Declaration of Independence, and formally and legally 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.

The Derry Journal, Wednesday, 21st December, 1955
Mansion House 1919

Sources

The Derry Journal, Wednesday, 21st December, 1955

MS 46 328/2 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007. National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts.

“Christmas in the Historic Years”

In the 1955 The Derry Journal published an article “Christmas in the Historic Years”, by Seumas G. O”Ceallaigh. It documented the festive season in the historic or revolutionary years 1915-1920. Below is what he recalled of 1918.

1918

On November 11th, 1918, the Great War ended, and o November 25th the British Parliament was dissolved. December 14th was Polling Day, and Sinn Fein was working under great difficulties.

Most of its responsible leaders were in jail, arrested under “The German Plot” scare in June of that year.

It seemed impossible that an organisation which was practically leaderless could win a General Election, but in Ireland “the impossible, always happens, and the inevitable never,” as a famous Trinity-man once remarked.

Father O’Flanagan, the famous Roscommon patriot priest, who had preached eloquently at Rome before the Pope and who in his day was one of the most noted preachers in Ireland, took over the leadership of the Election Campaign.

He visited the Irish towns and villages, and the result was, as we all know, a resounding victory for Sinn Fein, who came back from the polls with over 70 seats. Before the election they had held only three.

Christmas Day, 1918 saw bonfires burning on every hillside, tricolours flying from tree-tops, and the nation watching and waiting for the first freely elected Irish Parliament since the Confederation of Kilkenny, over 300 years before.

The Derry Journal, December 21st 1955

Sources

The Derry Journal, December 21st 1955

The Easter Rising Stories YouTube Channel by Marcus Howard