Claremorris-Collooney Railway Line in Co. Mayo

In the Nineteenth century, Ireland was ruled by Britain, and most of the investments in Ireland at that time were by British companies. As far as we are concerned in the West, our Line began with the formation of the company: Johnson and Kinder of Worcester, England, with their headquarters in Limerick. This was the beginning of the Limerick to Sligo line.

It was called the MGWR railway company and £50,000 was invested in the line. They started to work in 1853, and during this section of the work, one of the most important finds of gold ornaments ever made in Ireland were discovered near Ballygar.

Many Parliamentary debates took place in the British parliament in relation to the best deals that these companies could achieve. The idea of a northward extension of the AT line had been envisaged as soon as the parent line was authorised, but the MGWR were opposed to it and it was a condition of the lease of 1860, that no extension should be made, as this was regarded as conflicting with the interests of the Great Northern & Western Railway, which was also worked by the MGWR.

A Claremorris extension was nevertheless planned by the AT in 1868, nothing came of this, but as soon as the AT were freed from MGW influenced by the termination of the lease in 1870, the plan was brought forward again and a Bill was submitted in 1872, which provided for the extension to Claremorris to be made by the AT. This decision was supported by the Grand Juries of Galway and Mayo.

When the Tramways (Ireland) Act was passed in 1883, it gave a further impetus to railway construction. Finally the Tuam-Claremorris line was made by a separate company, officially entitled the ‘Athenry & Tuam Extension to Claremorris Railway Co Ltd’. It was generally known as the Athenry & Tuam Extension.

The last part of the extension northward was being made under the Light Railway Acts of 1889 and 1890. This was to be in two sections, Claremorris - Swinford and Swinford - Collooney, with guaranteed capital of £40,000 and £80,000 respectively, and a free grant of £146,042. The latter sum included provision for the supply of rolling stock, in the shape of four engines, nine carriages and fifty-five wagons.

The Claremorris-Collooney lines were initiated by the Grand Juries, concerned as relief works, but an agreement was soon made with the WLR for their working. Worthington was the Contractor, but work was held up by his bankruptcy in 1893 and in 1894 a contract was made with Fisher and LeFanu for the completion of the line. The line from Claremorris to Collooney was opened on the 1st of October 1895, with running powers over the MGWR thence to Sligo, through Swinford and Charlestown.

Local Administration at the time of the construction of the line through Charlestown, and it’s members contributions.

In 1838 an Act for the more efficient relief of the Destitute Poor in Ireland was passed by the British Parliament. It enshrined the principle that; Local Property must support Local Poverty. This Poor law Act divided Ireland into one hundred and thirty Poor Law Districts or Unions, each Union was administered by elected Board of Guardians, or Local Councillors and they usually met in Swinford.

At a meeting of the Union members in SEPTEMBER 1884, it was resolved that; the Board approve the proposal of a Line of railway from Claremorris to Collooney.

Meeting 20th January 1891

Proposed by MC Henry, seconded by Mr Mulligan: that owing to the distressful condition of the following Districts – Sonnagh and Doocastle within the Union, and which is completely deprived of any relief in the shape of work from the Claremorris-Collooney Railway line, we are unanimous in directing the attention of the Government to the serious consequences that are likely to arise, unless relief works are immediately offered.

At the same meeting the following letter was read: ‘There are upwards of three hundred families in the Parish of Kilebeagh, and outside the reach of Railway works and at present in a state of abject poverty, and as these poor people can be profitably employed in their own neighbourhood, in repairing roads, cutting hills, sinking rivers etc, we recommend these poor people to the consideration of the local Government Board and we urge upon the Government the necessity of helping these people by giving grants in the above named works.

The villages of: Glann, Tavneena, Lurga, Kilgarriff, Barnalyra, Barnacogue and Killaturley are the places named as being outside existing Railway works, and where works of some kind are absolutely necessary to save the people from starvation. Signed: Thomas Canon Loftus PP, and JC McDonnell, CC.

Meeting 1st of October 1895

Proposed by Mr Staunton, seconded by Mr Sheridan Resolved that; as this is the Opening Day of the Claremorris–Colooney Railway line, we adjourn the remaining business of the Board to give an opportunity to the Guardians and others concerned, to travel over a portion of the Railway and see for themselves how they appreciate it’s completion.

Around the year 1892, the Claremorris and Swinford Unions appointed the following delegates: James McGarry, Conor O’Kelly, Tommy Kelly and Mark Henry to meet the British Prime Minister of the day, Mr Bonar Law, to convince the British Government to run the Railway line from Claremorris through Swinford and Charlestown to Collooney in Sligo. We now know that they succeeded.

The first Station Master in Charlestown was Mr Broderick. The last Station Master was Mr Currid; Bill Henderson was the first Signal man and Mick Fitzgerald served many years later. The first passenger train to run through Charlestown was on the first Wednesday of February 1895, driven by Mr Jones. The last train to run was in October 1975 and the driver was Mr James O’Grady and the Guard was Paddy Bree from Sligo.

By Cathal Henry © (2010)

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