Friday 24 November 2017

Macmine incident was like something out of 'Die Hard'

The edition of the 'Bree Journal' recently issued revives long buried memories of an incident that would not look out of place in a 'Die Hard' movie, complete with high speed vehicles and loud explosions.

But instead of Bruce Willis in a singlet, the 'Macmine Spectacular' of 1923 featured anonymous Irregulars keen to grab headlines and upset the establishment.

The piece by Seamus Moriarty entitled 'War On the Rails - Killurin and Macmine, July 1922 to January 1923' touches on the troubled period of the Civil War.

The writer acknowledges that the topic is one that most people know little or more likely nothing about.

However, when he came across a couple of pieces published in 1953 by Dr. George Hadden in the 'Journal of the Irish Railway Records Society', Seamus struck gold.

The Irregulars of County Wexford, loyal to Eamonn Devalera and the anti-Treaty cause, put much of their energy into disrupting rail services.

They threw a locomotive off track at Killurin in 1922 when the derailment was followed by a battle between Free State personnel on board the train and those responsible for the ambush. Two of the Free Staters died in the firefight.

The incident at Macmine junction, close to Ballyhogue, early the following year claimed no lives but was truly extravagant in its scope. The Irregulars hijacked a train at Killurin and arrived at Macmine station to take command of two other locomotives.

They sent one on its way north unmanned, intending derail it and send it careering into the Slaney.

Instead the ghost train blundered on and on until it literally ran out of steam in far away Camolin.

Meanwhile, the hijackers brought another loco a mile up the line and then put it into reverse back to the station, heading at full throttle towards a third engine.

As Seamus Moriarty writes: 'The sight and sound of two steam trains of immense weight and bulk crashing at full speed must have been an awesome and frightening sight.'

To be sure, to be sure, petrol was poured on the wreckage and all was set alight as hapless stranded passengers watched from the platform.

It is estimated that the bill for the episode ran to around €3.25 million in today's money. Yet it was an incident that has been more or less ignored since.

Just who was responsible is not known and, as Seamus Moriarty concludes, there are no heroes and no heroic deeds in a civil war.

Wexford People

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