Tag Archives: Irish Railways

Remembering Gaga Clinton

It was a Saturday evening in December when the phone rang. I went downstairs to answer it. Someone wanted to speak to our mother. I ran up to tell her and she returned from the phone crying. The call was to tell her that her father was ill. An hour or so later I answered the phone again. This time whoever it was said that our Gaga had died. I ran to get our mother and she was deeply upset. It transpired that Gaga had in fact dropped dead in his kitchen and the first call saying he was ill was to soften the blow for her. She needed the blow softened as just over five months earlier our 15 month old baby brother had been accidentally killed. A lot of sorrow for any mother and daughter to deal with in a short period of time. The date was Saturday December 19th 1959.

My last post here was on the occasion of the anniversary of the death of our paternal grandfather, James D. Gallagher. We never knew him as he died before any of his grandchildren were born, but we did know our maternal grandfather Christopher Robert Clinton. He was ‘Gaga’ to all of his 17 grandchildren (although I cannot be sure that all of them were born while he was alive). It is nice to have special memories of him, although the younger grandchildren do not have any. Our sister for example was aged 3 when he died and does not remember him at all.

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Christopher Robert Clinton at Newtownforbes Railway Station c.1958

On Christmas mornings in the early 1950s, we used to leave Carrigart in County Donegal after breakfast and head for Newtownforbes in County Longford to spend time with our grandparents. This journey of at least 3 hours on modern roads and in modern cars would likely have taken 5 hours or more in our little Ford Prefect. One of my earliest and happiest memories is of sitting in the back of the car next to my older brother, with my treasured hexagonal concertina, that had been dropped off Santa’s sleigh only hours earlier. It had three buttons (and three notes!) and I vividly recall grown-ups pleading with me to ‘give it a rest’, but I am certain that I proudly played it for every mile of that long journey to Nana and Gaga’s house!

In later years, when the family had become too big for long journeys to Longford on Christmas mornings, we each received a Christmas card written by Gaga, individually addressed and stamped, and containing a ten-shilling note. He had beautiful clear and recognizable handwriting. The cards duly arrived on Friday December 18th 1959 as they had done for some years before, and were received with great excitement. Little did we know that these would be the last we would ever receive from him, as the next news of him was about his death the following day. These treasured cards were carefully put away and although I am not sure where my one is, I do have the one written to our parents, and our sister still has hers.

Gaga was a great man for children and we loved to visit. He was Station Master in Newtownforbes, so we had wonderful times when we went there. Both my older brother and myself were born in this house, so it was home from home to us. We went for walks along the railway line with him and he would lift us up and press our ears against the telegraph poles to hear the wind singing in the telegraph lines; he would let us ‘issue tickets’ in the ticket office, play hide and seek in the wooden floored waiting room and let us make pretend telephone calls on the old wall mounted phone. He loved gardening and would often be found out there in his garden tending flowers and vegetables with his big dog Rex, by his side.

old-phone

Old wall mounted phone

Our Gaga, Christopher Robert Clinton, was born in Altamount Street in Westport County Mayo to John Clinton, Railway Porter and Amelia Gertrude Judge on February 2, 1889.

He died on December 19 1959 at the age of 70, just days after sending out his Christmas cards. I often wish that my own children and grandchildren had met him. He is remembered with much love, particularly at this time every year.

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A walk on the wild side: Ireland’s Greenways

2013-06-06 12.04.54Here in Ireland’s Mid-West region we are privileged to have some of Ireland’s most beautiful unspoilt countryside. Not only that, we are doubly privileged to have a dedicated walking  and cycling track right in the heart of that lush green landscape. This is the  jewel of the South West, the Great Southern Trail Greenway.

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The trail winds along the route of the now defunct Limerick to Tralee railway line that linked Limerick and Newcastle West in 1867 and then Newcastle West and Tralee in about 1880. The line finally fell into disuse in the 1970s and through the extraordinary efforts of a small group of local people down the decades, this has now become 40 kilometers of magnificent country  walks.

Feb13 417This is Ardagh station, with the long platform gradually being claimed by vegetation. Station houses were traditionally made of beautifully hand cut limestone, such as can be seen here.

Ardagh Station

Ardagh Station

Deserted railway stations have a particular fascination  for me, as I was born in one such beautiful building, the home of my grandparents, in Newtownforbes Co Longford seen below.

Microsoft Word - Newtownforbes LAP.docStation House, Newtownforbes, Co Longford where I was born and the track I walked with my grandfather.

I spent many an hour walking the railway line with my grandfather, jumping from sleeper to sleeper, trying to keep up with him,and helping him to pull the great big levers that changed the direction of the tracks, sending the engines to the store.  Telegraph lines traditionally ran alongside the railway  line  and my grandfather would lift me up so I could press my ear to the pole and hear the lines ‘singing’.

It was not until several years after I came to live in this area that I discovered that my grandfather’s brother Alfie Clinton, had served  as station master  in Newcastle West  in the early 1950s which made the opening up of the trail of extra special interest to me.

newcastle house

The beautifully restored and modernized Station House in Newcastle West, Co Limerick.

 

Feb13 413 Feb13 406The beautiful cut limestone is also used in the bridges, platforms, and tunnels that lie along the trail.  Apart from these lovely examples of our built heritage the trail offers a unique close encounter with nature in all her glory.

These photos are from a walk on the stretch between Ardagh and Newcastle West in the month of May, when Ireland is  at her prettiest with the branches of the white Hawthorn  weighed down by heavily scented white blossom.

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Deliciously scented Hawthorn

The meadows at either side of the line are filled with Spring flowers and the occasional cow peacefully grazing.

The hedgerows along the line have their own microclimate and are populated with copious wildflowers.

Sometimes you have  to look very closely to discover the tiniest of little flowers…

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The Great Southern Greenway is one of many such trails being developed on disused railway lines in many parts of Ireland. Each is unique. The award-winning Great Western Greenway that runs along the Atlantic from Westport to Achill Island in County Mayo, with its stunning scenery; the Deise Greenway between Dungarvan and Waterford in Co Waterford with its spectacular arched viaducts; the recently begun Burtonport  Old Railway Walk which traverses some wild Donegal scenery – to name but a few.

The tourist potential of these Greenways is enormous and it is to be hoped that they will continue to be funded – not just to attract tourists, but for the benefit of local communities that work so hard to get these recreational amenities up and running.

Some sites of interest with some stunning scenery!

Great Western Greenway in County Mayo

Deise Greenway in County Waterford

Burtonport Old Railway Walk in County Donegal

Great Southern Trail in Limerick/Kerry

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Filed under Healthy Living, Ireland, Irish Countryside, Living in Ireland