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The West Clare Railway
Michael ‘Straighty’ Flanagan
Inagh
Recorded 1978

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan

Come listen unto me awhile I won’t detain you long.
I’ll sing you a few verses of a very comic song.
It’s all about the West Clare train that goes back to Loop Head,
And when that you were landed there you wish that you were dead.

This is the way it jogs along a mile in every hour.
The only things ‘tis fit for is to hide you from a shower.
I own it is a holy show, ‘twould break your very heart,
I hope to God, they’ll pawn it soon and get an old bread cart.

There are excursions every Sunday as you may plainly see,
From the famous Ennis station to the cliffs of sweet Kilkee.
But sure you’d rather walk it than go in this cursed train,
For no matter how fine the day may be, ‘twill surely draw the rain.

It then jogs off up to Ruan and the first thing there you’ll see,
Branded on a placard there is Liptons famous teas.
To take in some passengers she sometimes gives a call,
But anytime it stops there sure it knocks Moloney’s wall.

It then jogs on to Willbrook, and there 'twill stop also,
To take in a noted passenger boy, the name of Padrigín Crowe.
Sullivan gives orders, with his new railway hat,
And his face all spotted over just like a pox-marked cat.

We went one Sunday to Lahinch the weather it was fine.
And Sullivan gave orders he’d be back at half-past nine.
But when returning home that night, I’m sure he must be blind,
He never saw the station so he left us all behind.

He packed some new spuds in Miltown, and likewise some fresh beef.
When passing Lahinch station he was snoring fast asleep.
I’m sure they disagreed with him, they made the tummy swell,
For when passing Willbrook station he cried, “This is the Golf's Hotel.”

He’ll soon be out in pension and for him we’ll get the news,
To drive around the station like a celebratory railway fool.
We’ll also write beneath his mouth, drop a penny in the slot,
And in thousands they will come to see this railway hotel pot.

Now to conclude I’ll finish and end this wretched call,
I hope to God they’ll pawn it soon and not be wasting coal.
Or else they will repair it or get an old bread cart instead,
And I’ll also say we’ll rue the day that we went back to Loop Head.


‘The West Clare Railway opened on July 2nd in 1887. It was a steam driven rail service between Ennis and Kilrush and the journey took about three hours. It was a very important service to the people who lived along its route. Charles Stewart Parnell was invited to lift the first sod in laying of the tracks and the silver spade he used
is exhibited in the Clare Museum. The railway employed about 70 people in Ennis alone. It continued to “The West Clare Railway opened on July 2nd in 1887. It was a very important service to the people who lived along its route between Ennis and Kilrush. Charles Stewart Parnell was invited to lift the first sod in laying the tracks and the silver spade he used is exhibited in the Clare Museum. The railway employed about 70 people in Ennis alone. It continued to run quite successfully up until World War II, when the pressure of improved roads finally began to tell and in 1948 the Irish National Railway (CIE) proposed to close the line but, instead. they replaced the steam engines with diesel engines. In 1952 four new diesel engines were supplied and in 1953 CIE bought three more. The last steam passenger train left Ennis on March 15, 1952. In 1955, the West Clare was the only diesel-run, narrow gauge railway in Britain and Ireland. It continued to run at a loss and finally all services were closed down on February 1961. The Ennis station house built around 1860 served as the terminus of the West Clare Railway. Many of the old railway bridges, piers, banks and other such works are still standing.

In 1896, Percy French sued the West Clare Railway for £10 for a journey he took from Ennis which was delayed at Miltown Malbay, causing him to be late for an ‘entertainment’ he was giving at Kilkee. French’s relationship with the West Clare Railway is immortalised in the song 'Are You Right There Michael?' In 1956, American director John Ford produced ‘A Minute's Wait’, a short comedy on the hazards of travelling on ‘The West Clare’ filmed at Kilkee. Apart from French’s ‘revenge taking’ song, as far as we can make out there were at least another two songs about the railway. This is a fragment which we found in a handwritten notebook of songs given to us by our late neighbour Pat MacNamara (Paddy Mac) of Miltown Malbay.

The Train Runs to Malbay
O’Brien dear, come listen here, I’ll tell to you some news,
And though you’re at your breakfast, the treat you won’t refuse.

No more the wintry winds we’ll face in Patsy Gorman’s car,
Or face the bleak Mount Callan when the elements are at war.

We’ll snugly sit and smoke our pipes in sunshine or in rain,
As we hasten home to Miltown in the West Clare railway train.

My father sure, I’m sore afraid, must sacrifice his ears,
When Daniel Barry comes along and wields his ready shears.

For though my father always believed the words of Columbcille,
He said the train would never run as far as Hynes’s Hill.

We never found any more of it.”
Jim Carroll


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