Athboy Times Past – Vol. 3

Sad Fatality at Athboy

Man Falls from Church Roof

The above is the heading of a story from The Meath Chronicle, 31st October 1914, which describes an unfortunate accident at St. James’s R.C. Church, Athboy in which a workman fell to his death while working on the roof.

Lawrence Collection Photograph circa 1901 Courtesy National Library of Ireland
Lawrence Collection Photograph circa 1901
Courtesy National Library of Ireland

It appears that the Church roof was damaged by lightning a short time previously. Messrs. Delaney, Contractors and Builders, from Navan were employed to carry out repairs. Work commenced on Monday 26th October but on the following day, just after work started at 8 a.m., a roof ladder on which James Dunne, a slater, was working, collapsed and the unfortunate man fell 50 feet to the gravel path below. The injured man was carried into the Church porch and was anointed by Rev. Peter Kelly C.C. Medical assistance was quickly to hand as Dr. Grene was soon in attendance. However, nothing could be done for the injured man and he died an hour later.

An inquest was held the following day in The Courthouse, Athboy. The following Jury was sworn – George Murphy, John C. Finn, Peter Rispin, Peter Nicolson, Patrick Kelly, John Darby, Patrick Gibney, John Carberry, James Keogh, Patrick Byrne, Patrick Fitzpatrick, Martin J. Mangan and Henry Byrne.

At the inquest evidence was given that the deceased man was aged about 35 years and supposed to be a native of Dublin. The only clue to the place of his nativity was a post card which he carried in his pocket, addressed to a Mr. Moore, Bride Street, Dublin. The police communicated with this and other addresses but could find no definite information as to his next of kin. The dead man had simply turned up at Athboy on the previous Saturday evening and asked Mr. Delaney for a job. He started on the Monday morning. None of the rest of the workmen had ever met him before.

There was intensive questioning at the inquest, of James Brien, St. Finian’s Terrace, Navan, who was attending the deceased slater on the morning of the accident. The ladder from the ground had been tied securely, at gutter level, with a rope to the base of a roof ladder. The top end of the roof ladder was secured with a rope which went through the louvred window into the belfry and was tied to an upright which carried the bell. Both men had worked perfectly safely on the roof the previous day.

On the following day work commenced as normal. Dunne dressed three slates on the ground and Brien carried them up to the roof. Brien came back down to ground level and, on hearing a noise, looked up to see the ladders collapsing and the unfortunate Dunne falling to his death. Evidence was given that the rope had frayed and broken about half way between the top of the roof ladder and the sill of the louvred window. There was much speculation as to whether the deceased man might have accidentally cut the rope with his slating tools however, no definite opinion could be given on this.

The Jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence of Dr. Grene, that the deceased had died as a result of heart failure, due to shock, following a fall. No opinion was expressed as to whether the rope was reasonably sound or not.

Evictions At Athboy

Freemans’s Journal, 3rd June 1881

Yesterday one of the most extraordinary scenes ever witnessed in Athboy took place. Although it was rumoured that the decrees obtained by the Governors of Dr. Stevens Hospital against their tenants were about to be executed, no one ever thought that such a display of armed force would ever be made. Over two hundred police from the surrounding stations and a company of Scot’s Greys, forty two in number, who arrived by special train at ten o’clock, proceeded to the scene of action, under the command of Captain Butler, R.M. The moment it became known that the military arrived every single house in the town was closed and the Chapel bell commenced to toll, bringing in immense crowds from the surrounding country. Several Priests were present.

A mournful spectacle was presented as the little army of grippers, process servers, keepers, drivers, police and military marched through the streets of the closed town amidst funeral silence.

Mr. Kiernan’s farm at the end of the town was the first place to halt, where Rev. Mr. Connolly, the president of the local branch of the League, called for three cheers for Mr. Parnell and the Land League, which was responded to amidst a scene of excitement and enthusiasm. Possession was demanded of the inmates of two cabins, on Mr. Kiernan’s land, which was refused, and the bailiffs immediately broke open the doors and took possession, allowing the people to return as caretakers. They next went to the houses of the two Lynches and Reillys of Castletown, where the same operation was performed. They then moved off about a mile to another farm of Mr. Kiernans, where an old ass was found decorated with a paper saddle representing the Land League. The next move was to the mill of Martinstown, the old residence of McCormacks. Possession was demanded and refused. The inmates were then expelled, McCormack stating that his family were in possession of the place for more than a hundred and fifty years. A scene occurred here which needs description. The crowd, which by this time was largely increased, began to groan the bailiffs and armed forces. Capt. Butler threatened to make arrests if the demonstration did not cease. The people, however, persisted for some time, when they stopped of their own accord. The next place visited was the farm of Mr. Murphy, the treasurer of the local branch of the Land League, where a fine cow of his was found with a handsomely printed and embellished card on her forehead with the words “Rack Rents” in black letters, the work of the ladies branch. The turning out of the cow was the signal for tremendous cheering for Parnell and the Land League. On their return to the town Rev. Mr. Connolly addressed the people, congratulating them on the peaceful and orderly demonstration they had made, exhorting them to adhere to the rules of the Land League and reminding them of the tremendous support received from the Irish Race in America for the destruction of the unjust power of landlordism in Ireland.”

Athboy’s Other Railway

Lawrence Collection Photograph circa 1901 Courtesy National Library of Ireland
Lawrence Collection Photograph circa 1901
Courtesy National Library of Ireland

It is a well known and documented fact that the railway arrived in Athboy in 1864, bringing with it a much-needed economic boost to the town and general area. But it is much less well known that Athboy featured in the plans to build a different railway line, almost 30 years earlier in 1836.

In July 1836, The Great Central Railway Company announced plans that they wished to build a railway line “connecting Dublin with the ports of Galway and Sligo and the intermediate and contiguous districts”. The Company was hoping to raise capital of two million pounds “In forty thousand shares of fifty pounds each”. The Directors of the Company were a large group of Dublin and West of Ireland businessmen, headed by Rt. Hon. Thomas Lefroy, M.P. Longford. The Engineer was to be Charles Vignoles, a man of vast experience in railway construction, both in Ireland and England.

The proposed route for the east-west railway was to start on the north side of Dublin City and then proceeding by Dunboyne, Summerhill, Trim, Athboy, Castletowndelvin, Castlepollard and Mullingar. When near Mullingar a branch was to go to Athlone, Ballinasloe and Galway, while the main line continued from Mullingar to Edgeworthstown, Granard, Longford, Carrick-on-Shannon and Boyle, reaching the Atlantic within four miles of Sligo. The survey of the proposed route was reported to be in progress.

By 1837 the plan seems to have been in trouble. Mr. Vignoles, the Engineer in charge of the plans, sued the Railway Company for monies owed to him in carrying out his work. In 1839 the Company had adopted a different route, the nearest point to Athboy now being through The Hill of Down, between Ballivor and Kinnegad.

One wonders what would Athboy be like today if the Great Central Railway Company had stuck to their original plan!

Another Clifton Shooting

In 2013, Athboy native John Gilroy published a book, A Cry In The Morning, telling us the story of the murder by shooting of Japanese manservant, Sanotic Koniste, at Clifton Lodge Estate, Athboy, one hundred years previously in 1913. This however, was not the only shooting associated with Clifton. Just 9 years after the first fatality a young man, Nevins Vincent Jackson, aged 22, from Clifton Lodge, Athboy, was shot dead on the Main Street of Ardee, Co. Louth on 23rd October 1922.

Nevins was the second son of Henry Vincent Jackson, an extensive landowner from Roscrea, Co Tipperary. Nevins and his brother, William, were managing the Clifton Estate after the death of Mordecai Jones.

On the night in question, Nevins and William were visiting a lady friend in Ardee. They took her for a drive in their motorcar and returned her to her lodgings in Ardee after midnight. The men then stopped to fill the car radiator at a pump on the Main Street of Ardee. They got it hard to restart the car and the resultant commotion of engine revving and blaring headlights caught the attention of sentries at the nearby military barracks. Two soldiers of the Free State army went to investigate, with weapons drawn.

The soldiers later testified that they called four times on the occupants of the car to turn off the headlights and turn off the engine. William Vincent Jackson later testified that with the noise of the engine, they heard no such call. Two shot rang out and Nevins was shot through the neck. A local doctor who just happened to be walking home at the time rendered immediate medical aid, but the unfortunate Nevins was killed instantly.

Nevins Jackson
The unmarked grave of Nevins Vincent  Jackson (foreground) which is just metres away from the Grasnevin Visitors  Centre.

Nevins was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, in a plot which is literally just metres away from the present day Glasnevin Cemetery Visitors Centre. The only other interment in the same plot is that of the infant child of William some years later. The grave is unmarked, but like all such graves is maintained by the Glasnevin Trust. Following the shooting, William sued the authorities for the unlawful shooting of his brother. It is unclear what the outcome of that case was.0

The year of 1922 was an unhappy one for the Vincent Jackson family. Early in the year their mother died suddenly following a family dance held at Clifton Lodge (Irish Independent 7th April 1922)

The Magistracy

On 14th March 1870 Alexander Somers Drake Esq., of Rathvale, Athboy, was appointed to the Commission of the Peace for the County of Meath. On 25th April 1874, Jocelyn Otway Johnson Esq., of Frankville House, Athboy, was similarly appointed.

The Railway Hotel

Advertisements appeared in the Irish Times in September 1881 offering to let, for such term as may be agreed upon, the Hotel, Athboy, the property of The Earl of Darnley. The house was described as substantially built with seven bedrooms, large coffee room, parlour and usual kitchen and servant’s accommodation. There was good stabling at the rear with boxes for 15 horses, coach houses, out offices and garden. The property was described as being close to the Athboy Railway Station and in the centre of one of the best hunting counties. Being the only hotel in the district, it was supposed that in the hands of an experienced man, a good business could be carried on. Full particulars were available from E. W. Chetwode Esq., of Athboy. (Lord Darnley’s agent at this time)

The Railway Hotel was situated in Lr Bridge Street (Daly’s Public House) and next door to the Ulster Bank (present day Garda Station).

Mirus Concert In Athboy

Mercer’s Hospital was founded in 1734 by Mary Mercer for the relief of the sick and poor of Dublin City. Located in the middle of one of the poorest areas of the city at that time, the hospital relied to a very large extent on charitable donations and fundraising for its finances. The most significant such event was the first performance of Handel’s Messiah in the “Ancient Musick Rooms” in Fishamble Street in 1742.

In 1903 and again in 1904, a great fundraising event in aid of Mercer’s Hospital, was held in Dublin. It was a week-long event, known as The Mirus Bazaar, and had the support of the gentry of the time and also had the Royal seal of approval. It consisted of a great bazaar held at the RDS in Ballsbridge and supplemented with every imaginable type of fundraising event around the city. It was so successful that The Mirus Bazaar was mentioned by James Joyce in his novel, Ulysses.

Not to be outdone in their charitable efforts, the good people of Athboy joined in the fundraising, in what was one of the very few such events held outside the City of Dublin. The Irish Times of 16th April 1904 tells the story:

One of the most successful concerts ever held in Athboy came off on Saturday, in aid of The Mirus Bazaar. It was held in St. James’s School, there being a crowded house, which included the elite of the district. A number of distinguished amateurs kindly lent their assistance towards this most praiseworthy object, including The Countess of Darnley, who opened the proceedings with a pianoforte solo, her ladyship also supplementing this with two Irish songs, rendered in most artistic style. The Misses Rowley, Miss Jones, Mr. and Miss Murray, Miss O’Brien, Mr. Henley, Mr. Parr and Mr. Coghill also contributed enjoyable items. A special word of praise is due to Mrs. McVeagh of Drewstown, and Miss Ida Harvey, who were untiring in their exertions to make the entertainment a success.


Freeman’s Journal 23rd November 1882

Found in Athboy, County Meath, on 8th inst., a pig. The owner can have it by applying to the RIC at Athboy and paying costs.

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