Thursday 15 November 2018

All aboard . . . Monasteraden N.S. pupils recapture the magic of Kilfree to Ballaghaderreen train

A South Sligo national school that has been making a name for itself when it comes to film-making has now launched a 32-minute movie documenting the significant role played by the Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree train, which last ran in 1963.

The film, entitled "The Train," features an array of interviews with local people as well as rare footage that will educate as well as evoke memories of a time now gone.

For St. Aiden's National School in Monasteraden, it has not been its first foray into the world of filmmaking, having been successful in the FÍS project in which schools throughout the country were selected and supplied with film and editing equipment.

St Aiden's pupils has been successful at county level each year and represented Sligo in the national finals in the Helix Theatre.

To date they have entered films recounting local history, such as "The Monument" which recalls an eviction and stand off in Monasteraden Village where two locals and a policeman lost their lives.

"The Tallystick" traced the history of education from Druidic Times, through hedge schools and to the present day. "Sacrifice at the Four Altars" focused on the life of the Irish Church in Penal Times.

St. Aiden's took awards each year in different categories.

Last year, the school submitted "Calypso", an animated film focused on the life and work of Jacques Cousteau and including John Denver's Tribute Song "Calypso". This film took overall prize in 2008 for best Film.

This year's entry, "The Train", documented the role played by the Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree train, which, twice daily, met the Sligo-Dublin train at Kilfree, allowing rail travel between Ballaghaderreen and Dublin. The final journey for this train — lifeline for the community — took place in 1963.

In making the film, a series of interviews took place with people whose family members worked on the train or line, with others who worked on the train, with the driver of the last train in 1963, with locals who had personal memories of the Ballaghaderreen-Kilfree train, and with a priest and former teacher in St Nathy's College who travelled on the train with two of his colleagues just two days before the train ended its service.

The priest and former teacher captured footage of the train leaving the town as well as moments at Island Road and Kilfree Junction where the turntable could be seen in operation.

A local solicitor presented footage taken by his father of the train's last journey when the solicitor, a small boy at the time, was on board. He describes the excitement of the day as "like going to an All-Ireland Final." He also has footage taken in 1947 during the blizzard, showing Ballaghaderreen in the snow and workmen clearing the railway line.

By necessity the film had to be edited to five minutes for submission to the FÍS Competition.

However the teachers and pupils felt the longer film should be made available and the school has now produced a DVD of the full film. It is just over 32 minutes in duration, the same length of time the journey from Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree took, making it an ideal way to re-live that journey if you made it and to discover its magic if you didn't. Accompanying this article are stills from the film.

Copies of the DVD are available from Ethna Surlis, Shroofe, Monasteraden; Towey's Shop, Main Street, Ballaghaderreen; or The Presbytery, Ballaghaderreen (094-986 0011). They cost €15 and proceeds go towards the School Building Fund.