William Dargan

An Honourable Life (1799-1867)

By: Fergus Mulligan

Publication Date: 1 Aug 2013

(2 customer reviews)


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 a dynamic 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’s biography of Dargan is well laid out and written in an easy style. The text is well illustrated and is peppered with interesting asides. It contains an extensive bibliography, detailed supporting notes and a useful index. The appendix, containing a chronological listing of all Dargan’s construction projects, shows both the scope and extent of Dargan’s interests and provides a useful guide to the timing of his many projects.’ ICE Virtual Library


Fergus Mulligan PhD is the author of several works of history and transport.

Also available as an ebook

2 reviews for William Dargan

  1. Lilliput Press

    “This is an excellent book for anyone interested in Victorian civil engineering in Ireland. As I have a personal interest in Lough Erne and the Ulster Canal, I found the book quite interesting. The detail can be a bit vague in places but overall I found it an enjoyable and informative book.” BRIAN OSBOURNE

  2. Lilliput Press

    “This is a wonderful book. It is a bit academic in it’s style. It is more of an historical record but it is very well done. It could have been made much more sensational if it had been approached differently. This man was kind. He did great social works. He also had an incredible thirst for alcohol. He did not do things by half. It is an excellent book that touches upon so many aspects of life that it should be recommended for students in so many disciplines.” ELVA DARSON

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Weight 0.75 kg
Dimensions 156 × 234 mm
Publication Date

1 Aug 2013



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