Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Athy's railway footbridge

The foot bridge across the railway tracks at the local railway station has always been presumed to be an integral part of the fabric of the 166 year old railway station.  But for the first 40 years of its life Athy’s railway station was without a foot bridge.  During that time the ‘down’ platform was accessed by crossing the tracks at the Carlow end of the platform.  This arrangement was to change following a tragic accident which was reported in the Nationalist and Leinster Times of 13th February, 1886.  John Hamilton, described as ‘a newspaper vendor’ was struck and killed by the 7.25 a.m. Kilkenny train as he attempted to cross the railway tracks at about 100 yards from the place assigned for passengers and the public to cross. 

At a subsequent meeting of Athy Town Commissioners Mr. M. Doyle raised the need for a foot bridge across the railway at the Athy station.  He proposed ‘that owing to the late accident at Athy station we entreat the railway company to put up a foot crossing as the lives of the people are at all times in danger from the present arrangement.’ 

The foot bridge which now allows safe passage from one platform to the other has a plaque with the following lettering:-  ‘Arrol Brothers Germiston Ironworks Glasgow 1886’.  Was there I wonder any connection between the Arrol Brothers and the Arrol Johnston car company, both located in Glasgow?  The latter company founded in 1895 by Sir William Arrol and George Johnston manufactured the Arrol Johnston motor car, the 1902 model of which is on permanent exhibition in Athy Heritage Centre. 

Just a few hundred yards away from the Heritage Centre is  the other example of the fine engineering skills of the Scottish steel and iron industry of the latter part of the 19th century.  Unfortunately I have been unable to discover what connection, if any, there was between the Arrol brothers, manufacturers of Athy railway station’s footbridge and the Arrol Johnston car company which gave us the famous Arrol Johnston car.  Neither sadly have I been able to discover any information on the unfortunate John  Hamilton, whose death in February 1886 prompted the railway company to erect a footbridge which is still in use today.

I have received a number of queries from people living outside Ireland seeking information on past family members. Paddy Kane, now retired in England, is seeking information on his maternal grandfather, Michael Nolan.  His name was recorded on Paddy’s mother’s wedding certificate and his occupation was given as Master Poulterer.  Paddy’s mother’s name was Bridget Mary Nolan and her mother and Paddy’s grandmother was Pol Alcock of Dooley’s Terrace.  Pol had a son Christy born in the 1890s and a daughter, Mary Bridget born in the early 1900s.  She later gave birth to Bridget Mary Nolan, born 1911, and John Nolan born in 1915 and lived with the two Alcock children and the two Nolan children in Athy. 

Bridget Mary Nolan who married Joseph Kane from Edenderry died in England in 1954 and her brother John who served with the Gordan Highlanders was killed in action in October 1944.  Paddy Kane tells me that his uncle Christy Alcock and his friend James Wall enlisted during World War I and apparently did so while living in Athy.  Paddy’s quest is for information on his maternal grandfather, Michael Nolan. 

Margey Mastik-Quinn’s mother Margaret O’Neill was born in Athy in 1915.  Margaret emigrated to America with her father Michael O’Neill in 1923.  They had lived at 12 Woodstock Street.  Shortly after arriving in America Michael O’Neill died and his young daughter was adopted by the owner of the boarding house where she was living.  Margey who lives in America would like to get information on her grandfather Michael O’Neill who had married Annie Holligan.  From the details given to me I surmise that Annie died before her husband and daughter emigrated. 

If anybody can help Paddy Kane or Margey Mastik-Quinn with their enquiries I would be delighted to hear from them.

During the week I came across the following quote while reading a local newspaper of 30th July, 1859.  ‘There is not in Ireland an inland town that can boast of more public spirit than Athy, or amongst whose inhabitants so many friendly and social re-unions are reciprocated.’  Do you think that this would apply to us today?

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