Fatal Accidents in 1912 & 1918 Involving The ‘Muskerry Tram’

The 125th anniversary of the first train to Blarney from the Western Road terminus of the Cork and Blarney Light Railway at the former Jurys, and now River Lee, Hotel site was celebrated in 2012. This line was known affectionately both as the “Muskerry Tram” and the “Old Hook and Eye”. Its rails ran, without separation from other road traffic, along the Western Road and the Straight Road, before turning right just beyond Carrigrohane Station, which was located at the bottom of the cliff below Carrigrohane castle. It then crossed the Lee by Leemount Bridge, passing the Angler’s Rest pub to Leemount Station at the crossroads between the Carrigrohane-to-Cloghroe and Lee Road-to-Inniscarra roads. It then entered its own enclosed line at Leemount Station.

The unfenced line between Leemount Bridge and Leemount Station was the location for fatal collisions with two other types of road user in 1912 and 1919. The first involved a horse and cart and resulted in the death of a farmer from the Coachford area. This took place in the short distance between the Angler’s Rest pub and Leemount Bridge. The second happened when the engine of a through train from Cork to Blarney, steaming into Leemount Station, hit a chauffeur-driven car in the centre of the car on the level-crossing. The car belonged to a British army officer on his way to work in Victoria Barracks in Cork. He had spent the previous night at The Hydro in Blarney. The chauffeur was thrown clear into a field and uninjured, while the officer was killed in the impact. His, and his wife’s, forebears had had entanglements with Irish National aspirations in the past and his death had incidental side-effects on Irish politics in the pre- and post-treaty era of the early 1920s.

1912 ACCIDENT

On the late afternoon of Saturday, 2nd of November, 1912, a farmer, Patrick O’Mahony of Clontead House, Coachford, was travelling homewards on a horse and cart, having left Cork City at about 4 o’clock. He was accompanied by his son-in-law, who was sitting in the rear of the cart, leading another horse. He was in the short distance between Leemount Bridge and Moxley’s (Angler’s Rest) public house when the 5 p.m. Blarney-to-Cork train, having passed through Leemount station at 5.36, was approaching on the open road section of the line. The driven horse became restive and a collision occurred between the cart and the train. As a result, O’Mahony was thrown into contact with the train and sustained very serious injuries. One carriage in the centre of the train was derailed. The front of the train was uncoupled and, having telephoned from Carrigrohane station for medical and spiritual assistance to be available in Cork, they transported the injured man and his son-in-law to Cork. Having been met by a priest, O’Mahony was taken by ambulance to the South Infirmary, but died about ten minutes after arrival.

An inquest was held on Monday, 4th of November, 1912 in the South Infirmary, before Mr. Coroner W. Murphy and a jury.

Jeremiah Donovan, Clontead House, Coachford, son-in-law of the deceased deposed that the latter, who was 67 years of age, was living in the same house. Both were in Cork on Saturday and left the city at about 4 o’clock. The deceased drove the horse and cart and was sitting in front, while witness led another horse behind. They got on all right as far as Carrigrohane, where the train was coming towards them. The front horse got restive and the deceased said to witness “Oh, Jeremiah, what is this”. Witness, who was sitting behind, got to his knees on the cart, but before he had time to do anything, the train came on. The horse under the cart continued restive, and when the engine had passed, the left shaft struck the second or third wagon, and the cart and horse were turned right around, the horse was thrown as well as the led horse. Witness went to the assistance of the deceased, who was lying on the ground with his head in as far as the rail. Witness pulled the deceased out and the latter said “Oh, why, why, I am dead”

It emerged that the deceased had been sitting on the right-hand side of the cart. The train was lighted up and there was no light on the cart. A solicitor pointed out that it was not yet lighting-up time. The horse was 15 years old and had often been on the same road before. The deceased and witness were both perfectly sober at the time. The deceased had been struck on the head by the train, and was attended to by Captain Dorgan, R.A.M.C., who had been a passenger on the train.

Patrick Keegan, engine driver, of 29, Great George’s street, said he had been employed by the Muskerry Railway for the past 6½ years. He was up and down the line every day and was in charge of the train. When he got nearly abreast of the cart, the horse wheeled round and the buffer plank of the engine struck the heel of the cart and turned it upside down. The mark of the heel was on the buffer. They were going about six miles an hour and after the brakes were applied, they went about 45 or 46 yards before they stopped dead. The way these accidents always happened was that the horse turned away from the engine and backed the cart into the train.

There followed an extended argument/debate about atmospheric conditions in the area at the time, the braking efficiency of the train, the point of impact of the cart with the train and how the deceased got to the position, where he had been found.

Patrick Lehane of 29, Sunday’s Well Avenue was the guard and was in a van in the middle of the train. He found that one of the bogeys had been derailed about the centre of the train. He thought that this was caused by a shaft of the cart getting under the train during the struggles of the horse. A juror asked was not the driver bound to whistle for hand brakes to be used where necessary. Witness replied that they were not allowed to whistle on that line at all. He said there were 14 coaches on the train and the derailed portion was situated near the middle. They sent the front portion of the train on ‘special’ to Cork, leaving the derailed portion behind. They also telephoned from Carrigrohane station for the ambulance to meet the train in Cork.

Dr. George Hegarty, House Surgeon, gave evidence that deceased arrived by ambulance, was treated but died about a quarter of an hour later. He had suffered a depressed compound fracture on the top of his head, his collar bone and eight ribs had been broken and six or seven of his vertebrae had been injured. Deceased died from shock, caused by the injuries.

All representatives present expressed their sympathies with the relatives of the deceased. Mr. Dorgan, solicitor, on behalf of the Railway company, said that he had been asked to express the deep regret of the Chairman of the line, Sir Richard Barter, and other directors, while mentioning that the Secretary and Sir George Colthurst were away on business.

The Coroner felt that if the line were fenced off, a number of accidents could have been avoided, but the line was entitled to travel as they did by statutory right. He could not see what element of negligence could be attributed to the engine driver and then reviewed the evidence in some detail.

The jury returned the following verdict:-

“That the said Patrick O’Mahony, late of Clontead House, died of shock due to injuries sustained in a collision between his horse and cart and the Muskerry tram, and that we do not attach any blame to the driver of the tram”

Cork Examiner, ‘Death Notice’, November 4th, 1912

O’MAHONY – On November 2nd (the result of an accident), Patrick O’Mahony of Mahalough, Canovee, and Clontead House, Coachford, to the inexpressible grief of his wife and family. R.I.P. Remains leave South Infirmary on this day (Monday) for Coachford Catholic Church. Funeral for Murragh, via Crookstown road, on to-morrow (Tuesday) at 11 o’clock. 

The above excerpt was taken from a much larger article titled ‘Fatal Accidents in 1912 and 1919 Involving the Muskerry Tram’ by Chris Synnott, which appeared in Issue 9 of the ‘Old Blarney’ Journal. A limited number of ‘Old Blarney’ back issues are still available.

Contact: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email: bg1@eircom.net Tel: 021 4381349 Mob: 087-2153216