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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Curragh Camp Executions

1922-curragh-executions-monumentSeven Republican fighters, all from County Kildare, are executed in the Glasshouse in the Curragh Camp on December 19, 1922. The Glasshouse is a small stone and brick military prison where the military usually houses their own prisoners. It consists of two floors enclosed within a twelve foot high walled enclosure with cells for 64 prisoners. During the Irish Civil War, and afterwards, it is used as a punishment block for Republican prisoners.

The seven, Patrick Bagnall, Patrick Mangan, Joseph Johnston, Bryan Moore, Patrick Nolan, Stephen White and James O’ Connor, are all veteran Irish Republican Army (IRA) men and belong to a column of ten which operates against railways, goods trains and some shops in the vicinity of Kildare. Five of them are involved in the derailment of engines at Cherryville on December 11 when they make a serious attempt to dislocate the whole railway service on the Great Southern and Western Railway. Two engines are taken out of a shed at Kildare and sent down the line by Cherryville. One engine runs out of steam and does no harm, while the other overturns and blocks the line for a considerable time.

The column is also responsible for an ambush on National troops at the Curragh Siding on November 23 when a large party of troops are returning to Dublin after escorting prisoners to the Curragh Camp. On their return journey the troops are fired on at the Curragh Siding and two are wounded. In the confusion a policeman is accidentally shot by a National soldier.

The seven, along with Commandant Thomas Behan, are found in a dug-out at Mooresbridge, on the edge of the Curragh, on the night of December 13. They are under the command of Commandant Bryan Moore, a veteran IRA officer, and comprise a section of the 6th Battalion Column. They are armed with rifles bought from a soldier stationed in Naas Barracks.

When they surrender, Behan is struck with a rifle butt, breaking his arm. When the captives are ordered into the back of a truck he cannot climb aboard because of his arm. He is struck again on the head with a rifle butt and dies at the scene.

The remaining seven men are charged before a Military Committee with being in possession, without proper authority, of ten rifles, 200 rounds of ammunition, four bomb detonators and one exploder. They are found guilty and sentenced to death. Father Donnelly, chaplain to the troops, administers to the seven volunteers before their executions. They are executed one by one by firing squad on the morning of December 19 and are buried in the yard adjacent to the Glasshouse.


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Birth of William Dargan, 19th Century Engineer

william-darganWilliam Dargan, arguably the most important Irish engineer of the 19th century and certainly the most important figure in railway construction, is born at Killeshin near Carlow in County Laois (then called Queen’s County) on February 28, 1799. He designs and builds Ireland’s first railway line from Dublin to Dún Laoghaire in 1833. In total he constructs over 1,300 km (800 miles) of railway to important urban centres of Ireland. He is a member of the Royal Dublin Society and also helps establish the National Gallery of Ireland. He is also responsible for the Great Dublin Exhibition held on the lawn of Leinster House in 1853. His achievements are honoured in 1995, when the Dargan Railway Bridge in Belfast is opened, and again in 2004 when the William Dargan Bridge in Dublin, a new cable stayed bridge for Dublin’s Light Railway Luas, are both named after him.

Dargan is the eldest in a large family of tenant farmers on the Earl of Portarlington‘s estate. He attends a local hedge school in Graiguecullen near Carlow, where he excels in mathematics and accounting. He subsequently works on his father’s 101-acre farm before securing a position in a surveyor’s office in Carlow. With the assistance of prominent local people, particularly John Alexander, a prominent Carlow miller, and Henry Parnell MP for County Laois, he begins working with the Scottish engineer Thomas Telford on the Holyhead side of the London-Holyhead road. He works there between 1819 and 1824.

In 1824 Telford asks Dargan to begin work on Howth Road, from Raheny to Sutton in Dublin. He earns the relatively large sum of £300 for his work on this road and this provides the capital for future public works investments. Henry Parnell describes the road as “a model for other roads in the vicinity of Dublin.” Around the same time Dargan contributes roads in Dublin, Carlow and Louth as a surveyor. He also serves as assistant manager for about three years on the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal and the Middlewich Branch, which are two canals in the English midlands.

On October 13, 1828, Dargan marries Jane Arkinstall in the Anglican Church of St. Michael & All Angels, Adbaston, Staffordshire. He and Jane do not produce any offspring.

When Dargan comes back to Ireland, he is occupied by minor construction projects, including rebuilding the main street of Banbridge and the 13 kilometers long Kilbeggan branch of the Grand Canal. After Irish parliament decides to launch a plan for the very first railway, the Dublin & Kingstown Railway in 1825, he becomes increasingly invested in the project. To fight against the skepticism of any railway program in Ireland, he spends a considerable amount of unpaid time promoting this first railway of Ireland, working along with engineer Charles Vignoles to plan the route. After a persistent effort, the Dublin & Kingstown Railway is opened on December 17, 1834, with eight trains running in each direction.

Dargan next constructs the water communication between Lough Erne and Belfast, afterwards known as the Ulster Canal, a signal triumph of engineering and constructive ability.

Other great works follow – the Dublin and Drogheda Railway, the Great Southern and Western Railway and the Midland Great Western Railway. By 1853 Dargan has constructed over six hundred miles of railway, and he has contracts for two hundred more. He pays the highest wages with the greatest punctuality and his credit is unbounded. At one point he is the largest railway projector in Ireland and one of its greatest capitalists.

Dargan has a strong sense of patriotism to Ireland. He is offered a knighthood by the British Viceroy in Ireland, but declines. Following this, Britain’s Queen Victoria visits Dargan at his residence, Dargan Villa, Mount Annville on August 29, 1853. She offers him a baronetcy, but he declines this also. Wishing to encourage the growth of flax, he then takes a tract of land which he devotes to its culture, but owing to some mismanagement the enterprise entails a heavy loss. He also becomes a manufacturer, and sets some mills working in Chapelizod, in the neighbourhood of Dublin, but that business does not prosper.

In his later years Dargan devotes himself chiefly to the working and extension of the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway, of which he is chairman. In 1866 he is seriously injured by a fall from his horse. He dies at 2 Fitzwilliam Square East, Dublin, on February 7, 1867, and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. His widow, Jane, is granted a civil list pension of £100 on June 18, 1870.