This is the first full-length biography of one of Ireland’s greatest railway engineers, William Dargan (1799–1867). The son of a Carlow farmer, he changed the face of nineteenth-century Ireland.
William Dargan’s career began in Wales on the Holyhead Road, working under the famous Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford. He went on to build roads, railways, canals and reservoirs, developed hotels and the resort towns of Bray and Portrush, laid out Belfast harbour, ran flax and thread mills and reclaimed vast tracts of farmland in Derry and Wexford. He operated canal boats and cross-channel steamers, constructed several canals and railways in England and in 1834 built Ireland’s first railway from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire. There is hardly a town in Ireland untouched by William Dargan.
Alone he funded and constructed the 1853 Art-Industry Exhibition on Dublin’s Merrion Square as a boost to a country recovering slowly from the effects of the Great Famine just five years before. The National Gallery, raised largely in tribute to him, has a Dargan Wing and his statue stands in its grounds. Despite these achievements Dargan was a modest man. Several times he declined a peerage, a seat in parliament and even the baronetcy offered by Queen Victoria when she came to take tea at Mount Anville, his south Dublin mansion.
This fascinating book, complete with over thirty archival photographs, draws on a range of original material and sources, much never seen in print before, to present an all-round portrait of adynamic and engaging figure showing how his energy and abilities laid the foundations for Ireland’s later prosperity. The story of Dargan and his era will inform and uplift, evoking wider appreciation of a true patriot and an honourable man who did so much for his country.
FERGUS MULLIGAN PhD is the author of several works of history and transport.