Tag Archives: Emily M. Weddall

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]

“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

Tickets for the first Dail Eireann

The first sitting of Dail Eireann in January 1919, was a momentous historical occasion. As there was a public meeting order put in place since July 1918 to prevent organisations such as Cumann na mBan, the Gaelic League, the Irish Volunteers and Sinn Féin gathering as they were all ‘deemed dangerous’. But for the occasion the ban was lifted, due to public interest.


With the order lifted, a limited amount of tickets were issued to the press and public, but had to be applied for through Sinn Fein headquarters at 6 Harcourt Street.

6 Harcourt Street today

Sources

Irish Independent 21 January 1919

Dublin Evening Telegraph 18 January 1919

Night of the Big Wind

Storm damage

On January 6th 1839 a storm hit Ireland that is still talked about nearly two centuries later. It did not occur in Emily Weddall’s lifetime, but it did during her parent’s. That year her father was in his early career as a priest, and her mother was a girl of about twelve. No doubt they would both talked about during any night of high wind thereafter.

Today it is 180 years since that storm and 110 years since the Old Age Pension was paid to those over seventy in Ireland. Even though it doesn’t look it the two events are bizarrely linked. In the early 1900’s most people had no formal forms of identification the authorities had to rely on other ways of determining age. A lot of the census records from the 1840’s and 50’s had been destroyed so they had to rely on other sources. One of such was the would be recipients ability to recall the Night of the big Wind in 1839 but:

The truth of course was different: since their ages could not be proven one way or another, tens of thousands of Irishmen and Irishwomen aged well under 70 could not be denied the pension. Throughout the country, old people – and many not so old – testified to “eating a potato out of hand” on the night of the “Big Wind” in 1839, so much so that remembering “Oíche na Gaoithe Móire” soon had to be discarded as a test of old age.

From: “The greatest blessing of all: the old age pension in Ireland”, by Cormac Ó Gráda is professor of economics at UCD published in Past Present in 2002

Below is an example of how the ‘pension qualifying story’ traveled well:

Irish News and Belfast Morning News 16 March 1910

Nonetheless it was still held in memory in 1937 when school children collected folklore from their parents, grandparents and neighbors. Here is an excerpt recorded by Kathleen Glynn, a schoolgirl from in County Galway, told to her by her father:

Long ago the old Irish people witnessed a lot of great storms, thunder and lightening. The biggest storm ever witnessed in Ireland was the Night of the Big Wind in 1839. This was a terrible storm.
It swept the sea water in from the seas, and brought it miles inland. Cattle, sheep, and all kinds of animals were lost. It knocked houses, hay-ricks, and every kind of corn. There was hay and corn brought miles from people.
It knocked houses and plenty of trees all over Ireland. It also left some poor people homeless. Some people were so horrified that they began to say the Rosary and continued praying until the storm was over.

School’s Collection (National Folklore Archive)

If the storm did untold damage in Rural Ireland, it was just as fierce in the Cities and Dublin did not escape its destruction but on a lesser scale

Dublin was described as resembling in many places *a sacked city”. The majority of Dubliners quitted their beds and remained all night in ‘indescribable terror’. The river Liffey rose many feet and overflowed the quay walls. On 6 January the Bethesda chapel in Dorset Street had given thanks at its Sunday noon service for being delivered from a lire which was thought to have been extinguished on Saturday. During Sunday night the wind must have revived the flames, for the chapel, orphan house and female penitentiary, together with five adjoining houses, were burned to the ground. Destruction of property in the capital was estimated, from police statistics, at £6405, or £3 per house on average (Pettigrew and Oulton. 1840). Nevertheless, the Dublin Evening Post (10 January 1839) concluded that the city has suffered less than might have been expected … certainly less — relatively — than other parts of the country.

Emily’s mother lived in Dublin at an address on Clare Street in 1839. She was about 12 years old and no doubt had a memory of the night. She was probably one of the “bed quitters” that took refuge in churches and other more robust buildings. Emily and her siblings may have heard the tale from her mother when they took refuge of a different kind in churches too.

Sources:

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/curious-tale-of-pension-boon-1.1276289 

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0105, Page 095 National Folklore Collection

https: //www.met.ie/climate/major-weather-events

Irish News and Belfast Morning News 16 March 1910