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Includes content from Vanishing Ireland, Easter Dawn, Dublin Docklands, The Irish Pub, Maxol and many more, as well as Waterways Ireland, the Past Tracks project and hundreds of historical articles on Irish families, houses, companies and events.

Past Tracks – An Illustrated Journey Through Irish History

Like Paddington Bear, the Past Tracks project came to life on a railway platform. In fact, so did Algernon Worthing in Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, ‘The Importance of Being Ernest.’ I was standing on the platform at Hazelhatch, near Celbridge, County Kildare, awaiting the Dublin train, with drizzle cascading down my neck, wishing there was something, somewhere, that might entertain me. A little local history perhaps. Of the great battles that raged when Brian Boru’s forces swept through these parts a thousand years earlier. Of the Italian fresco painter who caught Lady Cloncurry misbehaving with a suitor at nearby Lyons. Of the roadside beer-seller from up the road whose grandson founded the Guinness brewery …

History should never just be boring old dates dates dates. It should be full of the vibrancy and personality and passion of the people who have gone before. In Ireland, we are surrounded by the past wherever we stand. Every field, hill, stream, rock, street or railway platform has a story to tell.

As we glide through the countryside in trains, buses and motor cars, we are often utterly unaware of the history that whizzes by. We vaguely take in hilltop summits crowned with ancient forts, ruined castles, hollow churches and crumbling farmsteads. We daydream past the bramble-strewn shells of abandoned canals and copper mines, the ghostly outlines of primeval forests, the overgrown graveyards where vanished bloodlines lie, the stumps of pillars that once carried railway lines, but the history itself often eludes us.

In 2019, I teamed up with Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann) and the illustrator Derry Dillon, ‘Past Tracks’ to put such history back in focus by installing a series of history panels at railway stations across Ireland. The first ten panels were sponsored by Flahavan’s of Kilmacthomas, County Waterford, a company with a rich history itself. In 2022, we unveiled a further forty panels, spread along all of the major railway lines in the state, including the DART in Dublin.

In March 2024, my friend Se Merry Doyle told me he was at Portlaoise railway station one rainswept afternoon, waiting for a train, when he espied our panels, with Derry Dillon’s vibrant illustrations. He likened it to ‘a beacon of light on a drab day.’ That is what it’s all about.

To date, we have produced 50 panels with 300 short stories about lesser-known people, places and events connected with Ireland’s rich past. Work is underway on a further stories for another 50 railway panels to be in position before 2024 is out.

Each tale is presented in a manner that seeks to intrigue, amuse and maybe even inspire commuters, passengers and visitors alike as they journey around Ireland.

Hats off to Jack O’Driscoll, Irish-language editor, for his expert translations and grammatical observations, and to Maria O’Brien for her fine reading of the panels also.

The stations covered to date are as follows:

 

  1. Carlow – Carlow Town
  2. Clare – Ennis
  3. Cork – Cobh
  4. Cork – Mallow
  5. Dublin – Adamstown
  6. Dublin – Ashtown
  7. Dublin – Balbriggan
  8. Dublin – Bayside
  9. Dublin – Booterstown
  10. Dublin – Broombridge & Cabra
  11. Dublin – Castleknock
  12. Dublin – Cherry Orchard & Park West
  13. Dublin – Connolly Station
  14. Dublin – Clongriffin
  15. Dublin – Clondalkin & Fonthill
  16. Dublin – Clonsilla
  17. Dublin – Coolmine & Blanchardstown
  18. Dublin – Dalkey
  19. Dublin – Docklands
  20. Dublin – Donaghmede & Howth Junction
  21. Dublin – Drumcondra
  22. Dublin – Dun Laoghaire
  23. Dublin – Grand Canal Dock
  24. Dublin – Greystones
  25. Dublin – Hansfield & Phibblestown
  26. Dublin – Hazelhatch and Celbridge
  27. Dublin – Howth & the Howth Head peninsula
  28. Dublin – Heusten
  29. Dublin – Kilbarrack
  30. Dublin – Killester
  31. Dublin – Lansdowne Road
  32. Dublin – Malahide
  33. Dublin – Pearse
  34. Dublin – Portmarnock
  35. Dublin – Raheny
  36. Dublin – Sandycove and Glasthule
  37. Dublin – Skerries
  38. Dublin – Sutton
  39. Galway – Athenry
  40. Galway – Ballinasloe
  41. Galway – Galway City (Ceannt)
  42. Kerry – Killarney
  43. Kildare – Athy
  44. Kildare – Hazelhatch & Celbridge
  45. Kildare – Maynooth
  46. Kildare – Monasterevin
  47. Kildare – Naas & Sallins
  48. Kildare – Newbridge
  49. Kilkenny – Kilkenny City (MacDonagh)
  50. Laois – Portarlington
  51. Laois – Portlaoise
  52. Leitrim – Dromod
  53. Louth – Drogheda (MacBride)
  54. Louth – Dundalk
  55. Longford – Edgeworthstown
  56. Mayo – Ballina
  57. Mayo – Castlebar
  58. Mayo – Westport
  59. Offaly – Tullamore
  60. Roscommon – Boyle
  61. Sligo – Sligo Town
  62. Tipperary – Templemore
  63. Tipperary – Thurles
  64. Waterford – Waterford City
  65. Wexford – Wexford Town (O Hanrahan)
  66. Wicklow – Arklow
  67. Westmeath – Athlone
  68. Westmeath – Mullingar