Local news from January 1916 shows life hasn’t changed that much in the 21st century

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With this year marking an historic centenary in the history of our country I decided to have a look at what was in the news 100 years ago this week and to my surprise it was dominated with reports about a massive storm which had just hit the country and a protest in Tallaght over an unjust tax. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

In an edition of The Kildare Nationalist dated Saturday 1st January 1916, under the headline “Blessington Tramway – A “Steam-propelled boneshaker”” is a report on a meeting that was held in the Vicarage Tallaght on Thursday 30th December 1915 to protest against “the very unsatisfactory working of the Dublin – Blessington Tramway line and the payment of the tramway tax.”

A “large number of rate payers” were in attendance at the meeting which was chaired by Rev J.H Oliver, Rector of Tallaght who opened proceedings by saying he “sincerely hoped something would shortly be done to remedy the very unsatisfactory working of the Tramway Company.”

Back in 1916 the line, which had been operating since 1890, started at the Templeogue Road, near the junction with Rathfarnham Road, and the first stop after the depot was at the bottom of the Firehouse Road.

After this it made a climb towards Balrothery along the road which nowadays is the dual carriageway of the Tallaght by-pass. There was a booking office at Balrothery, and then the line went along the old road into Tallaght village where it stopped at Fox’s public house.

After Tallaght, the line turned sharply at the church and graveyard and travelled along a part of the road has hardly changed 100 years later.

A Mr John Bagnall from Dublin County Council spoke next as he read a statement of the amounts paid to the Steam Tramway Company by the Council which showed in 1915 “no less than £1,496 was paid and even at that the ratepayers would be more heavily taxed next year.” He said the present working of the line was “second class” and that instead of being a benefit to the ratepayers it was “simply a nusiance.”

The next speaker was a local doctor named P.J. Lydon who in a “vigorous speech condemned the working of the line.”

“The people of this district are groaning beneath the burden of the tramway tax and they will groan louder until their groans become shrieks while this steam propelled bone shaker goes merrily on, not according to the timetable but whenever the humour seizes it.

“Local people should tear up the line, sleepers, rails and all and carry them away. I would gladly lend a hand to remove this excrescence from the smooth and genial countenance of Tallaght.”

Many unfortunate accidents occurred on this line around the time of this article and people were often killed due to being hit by the tram which was known to appear suddenly and silently from around a corner. Following a fatality a cross would be erected beside where the person had been killed and the line was known for years as “the longest graveyard in the world.”

A Mr Samuel Boothman said he frequently saw the tram going through Tallaght village on “dark nights with no headlights on the engine” which was a “scandalous state of affairs.” No such thing as health and safety back then!

In other news the country was reeling from the effects of a severe storm which had raged for three days. An Irish Independent article from Monday January 3rd 1916 described how “much damage has been caused due to the drenching rains which have prevailed.”

As today it was people living close to the Shannon who were most effected. The article continued:

“Again the Shannon district has suffered materially from flooding. The countryside has the appearance of an inland sea. The flooding of the Barrow has been the worst experienced for many years. For years past attention has frequently been drawn to the havoc wrought by these floods and yet, despite all appeals nothing has been done to prevent the inundations although we were most solemnly assured seven years ago that once Mr Lloyd George’s Budget was passed money would be available to drain the Barrow, the Bann and the Shannon. No more, we were told, would the regions along those rivers undergo the devastations due to flooding…”

The Freeman’s Journal, also from Monday 3rd January, wrote of the dawn of the new year bringing a “terrifying visitation of wind, rain, thunder and lightning” to Dublin and that it was “impossible to say how many lives in the capital have been sacrificed to the fury of this succession of gales. The thoroughfares are rendered unsafe, perhaps impassible, business is disorganised and the risk to life or limb from toppling structures or flying slate is very real…” Little did anyone know that in just a few months the city would play host to the momentous events of Easter week and the country would be changed forever.