Pages from the Past

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 17th August, 2011 5:00pm

Pages from the Past

An ad from the Westmeath Independent of August 1911 for the White Star Line, with the ill-fated Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage the following year, mentioned in the text.



Curraghmore women killed in cart accident

The Westmeath Independent reported on August 10, 1861, that a woman named Mary Brennan, wife of a farmer in Curraghmore had been killed while passing under one of the bridges of the Great Midland and Western Railway at Athlone.

"The deceased was sitting in a cart when the whistle of a passing engine startled the horse who took flight and in attempting to get out of the cart, deceased was thrown on her head, when the car passed over her."

The report said an inquest was held the following day in Roscommon when a verdict of death by an accident from injuries sustained by the wheel of a cart was delivered.

Black speaker visits Athlone

A black American must have been an unusual sight in 1860s Ireland.

However, the Westmeath Independent reported in August 1861: "Mr Benjamin Benson, a coloured American, has been lecturing on the subject of temperance in Athlone, Moate, Clara and Tullamore, and he purposes visiting Ballinasloe and Limerick in a few days. He succeeded in drawing large and respectable audiences to his lectures, after which not a few signed the pledge."

The report said the speaker stated that: "Every seven minutes a human being was called off to the next world in a state of drunkenness to come before him who had sent his only son to the world to redeem mankind."



Death of wife of Ranelagh school master

The death took place on Sunday last August 20, 1911 of Elizabeh Baile, wife of Mr Robert Baile, who was headmaster of Ranelagh School, a famous educational institution in Athlone, located close to the site of the present-day Athlone Extrusions.

Reporting on her death, the paper said she had been in failing healthy for a couple of years. "Three weeks ago there came the final breakdown which was destined to end a really model and useful life."

"She had throughout her long connection with Ranelagh distinguished herself by the possession of a rate and valuable quality of head and heart."

She was like "a mother to the large number of children who passed through Ranelagh during these many years."

The chief mourners were her husband, Robert and son George.

She was buried in Cornamagh cemetery, following a funeral procession from Ranelagh.

The paper said her health had suffered from the "crushing bereavement which she had experienced by the death of two young and promising sons".



Roscommon defeated in All-Ireland semi-final

While Roscommon failed in their efforts to beat Offaly in the All-Ireland senior football semi-final at Croke Park in mid August, 1961, there were individual displays which showed that the country can still produce the best in football, according to the Westmeath Independent.

"With such stalwarts as Gerry O'Malley to inspire them, the county need never despair of losing its premier place in Connaught football. They are a young energetic team and if they keep together may yet be a force to be reckoned with for premier honours.

Offaly ran out winners by 3-6 to 0-6. The half time score was Roscommon 0-6, Offaly 1-2

Roscommon: A. Brady, JJ Breslin, J. Lynch, J.O. Moran, A. Whyte, G O'Malley, PJ Shine, D. Cryan, G. Geraghty, Des Feeley, E. Curley, Don Feeley, P. Waston, M. Shivnan, A. Kenny. Subs: G O'Reilly for Geraghty, R. Creaven for Watson and R. Beirne for Shine.

The Westmeath reported that nine of the team were from South Roscommon, Moran, Whyte, O'Malley, Shine, Feeley, Curley, Watson and Kenny. Sub Creaven was also from the south of the county



Death of former editor Joe Cunningham

The death took place of Mr Patrick Joseph Cunningham, St Mary's Place, Athlone, during August 1986.

A native of Naas, the late Mr Joe Cunninghman began his journalistic career with the Leinster Leader and during his term with the Independents in Athlone, which began in the early 1930s, he served under three editors, the late Tom Knightly, the late Maurice Ryle and the late John Glennon, whom he succeeded as editor just three years prior to his own retirement in 1976.

In a tribute, his colleague, the recently-retired editor Jimmy Spollen remarked: "He never had any aspirations for a higher profile and in fact turned down many offers."

Elan's Moyvannion Castle works near completion

The Westmeath Independent reported that a refurbishment project on Moyvannion Castle in Kiltoom was near completion.

The paper said: "The 15th century castle is being restored by Elan, the Monksland-based pharmaceutical firm, to serve as a guesthouse for visiting executives.

Because of its extensive dealings in both the European and US markets and recently increased penetration of the Japanese market. Elan each month hosts a large number of visiting executives calling to conduct their business at the South Roscommon headquarters of the firm.

The idea to purchase and restore the castle came from Elan's managing director and chairman, Dr. Dom Panoz - a US-born businessman who took up Irish citizenship two years ago.

Work on the castle had been progressing for over 12 months now and the renovation work should be completed by the end of this year.

More summer flooding but OPW denies responsibility

Shannon flooding has been a part and parcel of midland life for hundreds of years, and summer flooding, unfortunately, too has also been a regular occurrence.

Late June and July 1986 were particularly wet periods and the inevitable happened, with claim and counter-claim over responsibility for the summer flooding hitting the headlines.

In August 1986, the Westmeath Independent reported that the "Government agency accused of a foul up which led to massive Shannon flooding in late June, early July, denied this week that it was at fault.

The Office of Public Works, however, admitted that after it had opened the sluice gates at Athlone some days previous to the huge electrical storm of the weekend of June 28 -30, it didn't open the sluices downstream of Meelick until the Monday morning following the storm.

The report said: "It was blamed for causing flooding by not doing so. But a spokesman claimed in an interview with the 'Westmeath' this week: "It would have made no difference at all"

The article continued: "Local politicians say that the sluice gates at Meelick are causing the flooding problems, The gates hold back water and as levels rise lands are flooded.

"But the OPW dismiss this completely. They say it is ridiculous to suggest that the gates being opened would make such a massive difference.

"The blame the flooding on the fact that the stretch of the Shannon from Athlone to Meeelick is very low lying and with a slight rise in water levels is subject to flooding.

"The OPW says the solution to the problem lies not in the manipulation of the sluice gates but in an alternative drainage scheme which would allow heavy torrents to get away quick and not meander and flood low lands."

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