"Its that time of year" again when people say "Its that time of year again".This Christmas is special for me as I was asked to contribute to "Abbeydorney-Our Place"
a brief account of the Railway mainly I suppose because of my family's long association with the Iron Road. At first it cowarded me but,on reflection,I found that I could scribble pages. I was born you could say on the side of the track. I grew up there and have fond memories of the railway line and its trains-Steam Loco's in the early days and later Diesel Engines. The Puff-Puff passed by the side of our little dwelling.I had a fascination for one Steam Loco in particular-Loco No.222 and we called it the "Three Swans'.She puffed and chuffed in a cloud of steam with a blast of the Air Whistle.The
clickety-clack of wheels on track as she came out from under the 'New Bridge' hauling the Freight wagons on up the gradient by the creamery to the sound,as I thought anyway,of
"I think I'll do it"
"I think I'll do it
on reaching the top of the summit the sound of the melody changed to
"I've done it"
"I've done it"
"I've done it"
The chimes of a passenger train differed and we chanted...
"First Class Passengers,get out and walk"
"Third Class Passengers,get out and shove"
We put other words to the musical tones of the Iron Horse which is no more but still lives on in my memory.The Tralee-Limerick Railway Line serving Abbeydorney en-route,opened for traffic in 1880.The first passenger train made its maiden trip on the 1st November of that year.Legend has it that is was chased in relays by flag -waving and cheering crowds on the journey.The axe fell on the passenger service on the 4th February 1963.
ABBEYDORNEY STATION IN 1960
Ironically hundreds of people waved farewell to the last passenger train to travel from Limerick to
Tralee. They stood in groups at Stations and level crossings all along the line from Limerick and acknowledged, with nostalgic cheers, the hooting of the engine whistle amidst blazing detonators, with the crew of Loco Driver, John Joe McCarthy and guard Billy
Devane. I must admit that Healy's Cross was a sad place to be that evening for me anyway, with Paddy Joe gone to his eternal reward and now farewell to the last passenger train. However, there were more joyous occasions - I refer of course to the welcoming home of the great ploughmen of Abbeydorney returning with All-Ireland honours to our little village, Paddy
O'Mahony, J.J. Egan, Paddy Glavin, Desmond Shanahan, Kevin Roche, PJ.P. Shanahan and his daughter Mary 'Queen of the Plough' The earlier years when the Rices of football, horse and greyhound fame returned with similar honours as well as the Hartys and the Reidys success in coursing - the oldest field sport in the world.
In the hundred years of its existence the railway contributed in no small way to the social and economic development of
Abbeydorney, in particular to the farming community. Freight trains transported beet to the Sugar Factory at Mallow, grain to Ranks Flour Mills at Limerick, and cattle, sheep and pigs to the meat factories around the country. It employed people at the station and also in the maintenance and upkeep of the Permanent Way. Extra staff were employed during the grain and beet season.
In the days prior to mechanisation feats of strength were the order of the day, especially during the grain and beet season. It was a regular occurrance to see men jostling for vantage positions for the loading of the wagons. Some of the great hurlers of Abbeydorney were also associated with the railway The Walkers,
Brosnans, Lawlors, Riordans, Stacks, Walshes, Moloneys, Keanes and Kavanaghs to name but a few. The trains acted as time pieces especially for those toiling in the fields and bogs along the line. It measured the time for breakfast, dinner and supper - early morning mail - midday- the six O'Clock stopping time was not always observed by the employer.
"There goes the Six O'Clock"
"May she never lose her Links-pen"
I went to school by train. I remember racing down the track up the steps of the Signal box to Mick Moloney. I still have vivid memories of the Old Kyrie Eleison Abbey with its green ivy walls reflecting on the flooded hinterland, prior to Brick/Cashen drainage scheme and I often wondered why the monastery was built there at all. The next caller to the cabin would be Postman Batt!!! - awaiting the arrival of the mails with his cheery greeting "Good Morning", "Good Morning". They communicated in a language all of their own...
Our Own Place
"How is she going Mike?"
"She's on to me"
"She's coming in to me now"
"She's down on top of me"
This meant the running of the train!)
John Joe Mulvihill (Mull) a local cattle drover and a renowned coursing slipper among other things was a regular, especially for Cattle Fair Specials. The Limerick Loco Crew would arrive with the cattle wagons and they too had a language of their own. "Take a gander at the Muller and he peeping through the glazier". All confusing to the young mind. I listened eagerly to the wise old railway men telling their tales of the rail operation, which stood well to me in my career.
The first Station Master appointed to Abbeydorney was a Mr Hogan, descendent of the Galloping O'Hogans of Limerick. He is laid to rest across the fields in the Old Abbey. His successors were
Moloney, Nolan, Walker, J Garry, T Whelan, P O'Leary, J Leahy. It was reduced in status following the withdrawal of the Passenger Train, not by the collective illusion of a nation but by the guilt of a few and so, I myself, was appointed Haltkeeper and was followed by my brother Brendan who was the last employee at the Station.
The Station has been honoured by the presence of many famous and distinguised people over the years. It had its sad and happy moments especially with the plight of emigration. Some left and never returned, whilst others made it back home.
I've always felt that the engineering features of the Railway Bridges, Permanent Way and Signalling are outstanding and many railway buildings are architecturally distinguished and count among the finest buildings in the country. This fine old house here in Abbeydorney is now a home to me and my family. Restoration is a rich man's pleasure but I have made an effort to maintain the character of the old house. There is a genuine ring about the opening words of gospel stories which still unfold for me their present meaning "It came to pass".
Slan agus beannacht.
Last Steam train approaching Abbeydorney Station in 1964