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A Fateful Tragedy

May 27th 1951

This article previously appeared in The Carlow People Tuesday May 31 2011

A fateful journey that would end in desperate tragedy

ON SUNDAY morning, May 27, 1951 eleven happy football followers left Carlow town in a Comer van destined for Mullingar to cheer on their county against Longford in the Leinster senior football championship.

The fateful journey which took place 60 years ago last weekend - was to end in tragedy with five of the party meeting their death when on the homeward trail the station wagon was in collision with a Dodge car near Kneadsbridge (Lynch's Bridge), seven miles outside Mullingar.

Carlow was plunged into mourning when news of the tragedy reached the town on Sunday evening. On Monday, Fair Day, the atmosphere in the crowded town was charged with sorrow and sympathy for the stricken families, parents and relatives.

Those who lost their lives were:

HANNAH HOGAN, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. James Hogan, 87 St Killian's Crescent, Carlow, the youngest victim of the tragedy, just 19, and an employee of Carlow Cinemas Ltd, shop assistant in the Ritz bar. She was killed instantly. Chief mourners are; James Hogan (father), Mrs M. Hogan (mother), Florrie Hogan (sister), John, Michael and Jas Hogan (brothers), Mr. M. Hayden (grandfather), Mrs Bridget Hayden (grandmother), Michael & Thomas Hayden, Richard, Patrick and William Hogan and Michael O’Hara (uncles), Mrs F. O’Hara, Miss. Mollie Hogan and Mrs William Hogan (aunts).

 

THOMAS HADE, 6 Granby Row, was aged 36 years and was employed at J. J. Wall's Garage as a motor mechanic. He was married with four children. He was killed instantly.

 

 

 

 

GEORGE SMITH, Dublin Road, was a native of Dublin and had only come to Carlow a few months previously. Managing the news agency business of Robert Whelan he was married with three children. He was killed instantly

EDWARD MOORE, Staplestown Road, died some hours after the accident. Aged 37 years he was an employee of Messrs Governey's Boot Factory. A past pupil of the Christian Brothers School, Carlow, he was a quite decent man popular with his neighbours and friends, Chief mourners are; Mrs. W. Moore (mother), Mrs. Josephine Galbally and Mrs. A. Erritty (sisters).

JOSEPH EGERTON, 3 Charlotte Street, died shortly after admission to hospital. He was Yard Foreman at the Sugar Factory. A widower left five children, two of whom, Maura and Richard, were with him in the van.

A widower, he leaves five children. With him at the time of the accident were his daughter Maura and his son Richard, both of whom were seriously injured. Joseph Egerton had a long record of service to Ireland and his fellow workers. In 1923 he joined the National Army.

 

Survivors

Those who survived the horrific crash were Maura Egerton and Richard Egerton, Charlotte Street, whose father Joseph was among the dead, Patrick Whelan (44), Dublin Road, a brother-in-law of George Smith's, Ned Pinckney (23), Dublin Road, Thomas McKechnie (25) 32 Tullow Street, Jack Bergin (63), Chain Lodge, Palatine and Moorestown, Ducketts Grove.

The Crash

The Comer van, driven by George Smith, left Mullingar to return to Carlow shortly before 8pm. About this time the seven-piece Jack Frazier dance band from Dublin were on their way by car, with instruments, to play at the opening dance of Mullingar Carnival.

At Kneadsbridge, just after the van had crossed the bridge and on a straight stretch of road, both vehicles were involved in a head-on collision. In a few moments men and a girl were dead. The horrible suddenness of the tragedy added to the gloom which its announcement spread over the area.

One of the first on the scene was Mr John Lynch, whose daughter is proprietoress of a licensed premises at Kneadsbridge. Mr Lynch rendered assistance and his car was used in the emergency.

Carlow Number Plates

Other Carlow parties leaving Mullingar met ambulances taking the injured to the local County Hospital but it was not until they saw the Carlow number plate on the van that they realised anyone from Carlow was involved. The van was still upright but was badly smashed. The front wheels, the radiator and the engine were completely wrecked. The car seemed to take the impact on the front on the drivers' side.

Mick Jones

Mick Jones, who was playing at centre half back that, recalls "we were narrowly beaten by Louth in Croke Park in 1950, a point from a free in broken time did the damage so there were high hopes for '51, we were beaten by Longford in a replay but that was completely over-shadowed by the 'Mullingar Crash'

"We came on the scene, I was travelling with Jimma Rea, who wasn't playing that day for some reason and the Doherty, the reporter from the local paper. It was dreadful, the bodies by then were laid out in the field and while I didn't know them personally, Jimma did and it was very upsetting for him."

Miracle Escape

The driver, Larry Moore, South Circular Road,, appears to have had a miraculous escape when his car was wrecked. He got out through a window in the back, and collapsed immediately afterwards. His injuries were not serious. Three passengers from the car were detained in hospital: Jack Frazer (40) 23 Wellington Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin; Edward Browne (46), 18 Warrenmount Place, South Circular Road (pianist), John Madden (40) 353 Crumlin Road, Dublin.

Four passengers of the car were discharged after treatment - Joseph O'Connor (27), 43 South Richmond St, Dublin; Harry Coats (50), South Circular Road; Thomas King (30), Upper Mount Street; Larry Moore, South Circular Road,

Heavy Traffic

The road on which the accident occurred bore heavy traffic that evening, and immediately after the crash other motorists were on the scene. One of them drove on to Mullingar to report to the Gardai and to arrange for aid for the injured. Others stopped and rendered what help they could until the ambulances arrived to take the victims to the hospital. Later they were conveyed there in two ambulances and in a number of private cars.

Saw Sister after 25 Years

Joseph Egerton was a native of the Mullingar district and had visited his sister Mrs Doran of Patrick Street, Mullingar whom he saw for the first time in 25 years after the match. His brother Thomas lived in The Downs, Mullingar.

Engaged To Be Married

Hannah Hogan, who sadly lost her life, was engaged to be married to Thomas McKechnie who was among the injured.

Eye-Witness

An eye-witness who saw the scene after the collision described the state of the vehicles. The front of both were badly damaged, and he could not see the steering wheel of one. The three bodies were lying to one side of the front of the van and car.

Inquest of Identification

An inquest was opened and adjourned at Mullingar Courthouse on Monday by Mr JJ Macken, Solr, and a jury. The stricken relatives who made the journey that morning from Carlow gave evidence of identification.

Widow's Evidence

Mrs Kathleen Smith, widow of George Smith, identified her husband's body and said that she last saw him alive at 1pm on Sunday, when he left for Mullingar in his van to attend a football match. Her brother Patrick Whelan and Thomas Hade were in the van at that time.

Thomas Hade, Pollerton Road, Carlow, identified the body of his son Thomas, whom he last saw on Friday.

James Hogan, a Mineral Water employee, said he last saw his daughter Hanna, at 12.30 on Sunday. She was going to Mullingar.

William Egerton, who is also an employee in Carlow Beet Factory, said his father, Joseph, stated on Saturday night that he was going in Whelan's can to the match in Mullingar.

Cornelius Farrell, 14 Church St., Graiguecullen, Co. Carlow, identified the body of Edward Moore whom he last saw alive on Friday. It was stated that Edward Moore had no relatives.

Medical Evidence

Dr P. J.  Keelan, Surgeon, County Hospital Mullingar, gave detailed medical evidence as to the cause of death. The coroner paid tribute to the Medical Officers and staff of the County Hospital for the manner in which they dealt with the emergency.

Mr Macken said that this was the worst tragedy he had ever come across. It had cast a shadow over the entire area, He could not picture anything worse than what had happened. He had gone to the scene of the accident on the previous night and afterwards went to the hospital. He could not let the occasion pass without thanking Dr Keelan and asking him to convey his (Mr Macken's) appreciation of the work that had been done there by the medical and nursing staff as well as the Nuns. He desired to convey to the relatives his deepest sympathy in this tragedy. Words could not convey his sympathy.

Mr F. J. Lanigan

Mr F. J.  Lanigan, Solr, Carlow, on behalf of all the relatives, thanked Mr Macken and the other speakers for their sympathetic remarks. He knew these expressions carried with them the sympathy of the people of Mullingar.

Funeral

The public gave full expression to it's grief on Monday night when thousands lined the Athy Road to meet the funeral cortege when the bodies of Miss Hogan, Joseph Egerton, Thomas Hade and Edward Moore were brought to the Cathedral of the Assumption from Mullingar.

Hundreds of people were waiting beyond the Sugar Factory to meet the hearses and by the time the cortege turned into College Street about five thousand sympathisers were in the densely packed throng. On Tuesday morning all business was suspended when a Special Requiem Mass for the victims was celebrated by Very Rev D. B. Kennedy, Adm, at 11 a.m. in the Cathedral. There were moving scenes as the four hearses, followed by several thousand people on foot left for St Mary's Cemetery.

George Smith's remains were interred in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, on the Wednesday.

SIX decades later the 'Mullingar Crash' and its aftermath remains one of the darkest episodes in county's history.

Source: Carlow People Tuesday May 31 2011


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