Coming of the railway

On this page we will gather up what stories we can about the building of the railway through the parish.

Here is what Wikipedia has (under entry for Jonesborough):


“The Ulster Dublin and Drogheda main line company opened a double track in 1850, which extended from Dundalk to a point north of Adavoyle station. This was a temporary station known as the “Wellington Inn” and was in use from 1850-1852 whilst a track was being cut through the curving rocks, now known as “the Wellington” possibly after the engineer responsible for feat. Until this length of line was ready a coach ran between the Inn and Portadown. Another station north of Dundalk was formerly known as Plaster but the name was then changed to Mountpleasant and Jonesborough. The section of line through the “Wellington” to Goraghwood was opened in 1852, and going south through this, the steep gradient meant that goods trains laboured under their loads and even with a good head of steam they didn’t exceed 15 m.p.h.”

The Wellington Inn is shown on the first Ordnance Survey map from 1834-36. It was in Lower Fathom townland at the junction of the old Dublin Road and the Barracrick Road (which was not there at the time). Wikipedia is doubly wrong about how it got its name. The engineer in question was John MacNeill of Mount Pleasant: the inn was named after the Iron Duke of Wellington – Arthur Wellesley the hero of Waterloo who was Prime Minister for two periods in the early 1830s..



“Engineer John Macneill, a son of Torquil P. Macneill of Mount Pleasant, Co. Louth, was born in, or about, 1793 at Mount Pleasant. Originally destined for a career in the Army, he served in the Louth Militia from 1811 to 1815 before deciding to train instead as an engineer. He became a pupil and then an assistant of THOMAS TELFORD  THOMAS TELFORD and worked in England and Scotland until 1836 or 1837, when he was recruited by the Irish Railway Commissioners to survey and lay out a railway system in the north of Ireland. Soon afterwards he became engineer to the Dublin, Carlow & Kilkenny Railway and in about 1840 engineer to the Dublin & Drogheda Railway. On the opening of the latter on 24 May 1844, he was awarded a knighthood.(1) Other railways for which MacNeill was engineer during the next three decades were the Dublin & Belfast Junction Railway from Drogheda to Portadown.”

MacNeill was the architect for both the Egyptian Arch and the Craigmore Viaduct – the builder was William Dargan.  Mount Pleasant Station was down a lane not far north of O’Connell Farm Supplies. No trace left.




Our section of the railway was built from south to north at commendable speed, so there must have been an enormous army of navvies.




The line from Dublin had reached Dundalk in February 1849 but there it stopped while the company sorted out financial problems, with government help – it cost £40,000 a mile to build, an enormous sum. Work restarted in late 1849 and by the following July it was past Killean at the Wellington Cut (The industrial archaeology of Northern Ireland, page 109.  By William Alan McCutcheon, Northern Ireland. Dept. of the Environment).


The section of embankment through Adavoyle bog is built on fascines – large bundles of brushwood, probably mostly willow cut in the bog itself. Fergal White, Molly Road, told me that people living close to the railway route were encouraged to join the workforce for a short time, and part of the pay deal was slates as the railway company owned slate quarries in Wales. As a result, houses along the line in Adavoyle and Ayallogue were among the first to replace thatch with slate rooves.

My father also said there were backhanders paid to change the route of the line around where Adavoyle Station is, to the benefit of one landlord rather than another (which would have been Chambre and Jones). As a result the line went through solid rock which had to be blasted (very expensively with black gunpowder, Mr Nobel had not yet invented gelignite).My father had a great railway story, which I think was about Rosie Morgan from down what we might call the eponymous Pad running from Dernaroy into Foughilotra. It seems she was a woman of intellngence, some education and a lot of ingenuity, widowed young with a large family. It was possible to rent lengths of the railway embankments or cutting sides to graze goats which had to be tethered. Rosie rented out two lengths on each side of the cutting. Rosie knew her law and found some obscure clause allowing her to fence her holdings. She then proceeded to build a ditch across the railway line. The trains stopped, there was a stand-off, the lawyers arrived, Rosie got paid off and the trains ran again. Can anyone throw light on this?

The station opened in 1892 and was closed in 1933. On the Griffiths Valuation map (1864) the bridge where the station was later built was listed as Ballina Bridge – no idea why. De Valera was deported from the north in 1924 by being put on a Dublin train at Adavoyle by the RUC:

It seems Adavoyle is famous among model train freaks. Try Googling ‘Adavoyle Junction’


For those of you who can remember the distinctive puffing rhythm of the old steam trains, going uphill they were supposed to be saying: “I think I can I think I can.”  On the other side as they went downhill they exulted: “I done it I done it I done it.” But according to a venerated member of my family what the train was really saying on the long pull up towards Kilnasaggart was: “Damn and bugger Edentubber, damn and bugger Edentubber.” On the way back down it was saying “Faughil people decent people, Faughil people decent people.”The steam trains took on water at The Tank – an aquaduct filled from Smith’s Pond in Faughilotra. It was a huge tunnel of riveted sheet-iron that we used to walk through as kids. It got the wee touch in the 1970s and 10-foot chunks of the iron sheets landed three or four fields away.

Has anyone got good information on the Adavoyle Ambush? Here’s Wikipedia:

  • “23 June 1921: IRA volunteers ambushed a troop train between Adavoyle and Jonesborough in County Armagh. A mine was exploded under the train, derailing it and killing four soldiers of the 10th Royal Hussar cavalry regiment, two drivers and 63 horses. British troops conducted a sweep of the area and shot dead one local man when he failed to stop when challenged.”
  • The cavalry was returning to the Curragh from Belfast where they had guarded the King as he opened the Northern Ireland Parliament. As I recollect the man shot dead was called McAteer. The Newry Journal says 40 horses were killed or had to be put down: It also mentions local men being rounded up and forced to bury the horses. The way I heard it, they were rounded up again some time later and forced to dig the horses up and re-bury them.

Where exactly did it happen? Most of the accounts indicate it was between the railway gates and Adavoyle Station (ie, in Foughiletra townland) but I have heard it was on the Ayallogue side of the gates. Someone must know what field the horses were buried in.

Look at this newsreel:

Judging by the angle of Slieve Gullion it must have happened immediately south west of Ayallogue Bridge.