There wasn’t a seat on the train metaphorically speaking at the recent Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage illustrated lecture on the West Cork Railway system which was delivered by Maurice McCarthy at the Parish Centre.
In his hour-long talk using 150 slides (operated by Gerard Butler), Maurice took the enchanted audience on a trip from Albert Quay Station, along the main line to Bantry and all the lines off it, stopping at every station. Given that the system closed down in 1961, the slides were from various decades before that.
The trains began running in 1849, when the first section, from Ballinhassig to Bandon, was opened. By 1893, it ran from Albert Quay in Cork City to Skibbereen, with extensions to Kinsale, Clonakilty, Courtmacsherry, Bantry and Baltimore.
The Clonakilty line included a short siding to Shannonvale Mill, which used a wagon along the track pulled by a horse called Paddy.
There were some wonderful photos of city crowds arriving at Courtmacsherry for the Sunday excursions and wagons of beet at Timoleague loaded ready to head to Cork and onto Mallow.
During the lecture, Maurice interspersed the serious history talk with funny stories of events and individuals and there was also some audience participation when people saw relatives on the screen in front of them. Also in the audience were people who had close associations with the railway system who brought along some memorabilia.
Cathaoirleach of Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage, Tim Feen and Marian O’ Leary who organised the lecture thanked Maurice for an excellent lecture.