The Railway House
Appletree Press The Old Potato Station, 14 Howard Street South, Belfast, BT7 1AP, NORTHERN IRELAND
* Author - Barry Kennerk
Out of all the publications written about railways, the proportion that does not relate to trains/locomotives/rolling stock is very small. This publication delves into a
subset that is even less written about - that of the level crossing and those that operated them. The author is the grandson of the daughter of one the former keepers
at Ashfield Crossing in Co. Offaly on the railway line between Portarlington and Athlone. This is a look at the life of his grandmother and her family, living in the railway
house at Ashfield. Whilst not specifically stated, the time period would appear to be the 1930s.
The book looks at the social aspects of life in Clara (the nearest town) in that era and the social rivalries between the rural residents in the hinterland and the mill
workers in Clara (Clara was a town with a significant Quaker industrial past). Life in the employ of the railway was not easy and the evidence of this permeates the
Interesting anecdotes in the text include a story about the transportation of a greyhound which saw the staff of the train moving the said greyhound to the footplate of
the train. To to avoid detection when the animal was reported missing, the greyhound was flung into the locomotive fire. The despicable practice of the Roman
Catholic Church in reading out the names of those who had given what they could ill afford to that evil empire as well as the amounts in question is mentioned. The
price of High mass in 1943 is given as 5 pounds (an inordinate amount of money).
As a look at the life of railway staff, this publication is well worth it and I hope that similar style publications on other railway staff might be produced.
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