In this guest post Norman Gamble, the Archivist of the Irish Railway Record Society (IRRS), introduces the Society and its archives – including the great potential offered by their holdings of staff accident registers. As yet these volumes are, like their British equivalents, unindexed and untapped – something we’d like to change, working with the IRRS.
To date our coverage of the island of Ireland has been limited by the relatively few investigations undertaken by British state inspectors – for 1911-15, only amounting to 175 of the 3,929 cases investigated for the whole of the UK. We’ve blogged about a few of those already (including most recently 2 weeks ago, with the help of the IRRS), with more to come. To get a stronger sense of the accidents to Irish railway men and women would be wonderful – and a great demonstration of the potential of extending the project.
If you have an idea for a guest post – or for other sets of accident records that might be incorporated in the project’s work – please drop us a line!
The Archives of the Irish Railway Record Society (IRRS), founded in 1946, originated in the 1950s when Society Members and Córas Iompair Éireann (Irish Transport System; CIE) donated a wide range of records to the Society. Initially beginning with a store in the CIE Depot at North Wall, Dublin, the collection was centralised in the early 1970s at the disused Drumcondra railway station licensed to the Society by CIE, and moved in 1984 to the former Great Southern and Western Railway goods offices at Heuston Station in Dublin. The premises also provided meeting rooms and the Society’s Library.
An Honorary Archivist was appointed in the early 1970s, the first holder being Mr Joseph Leckey, a professional archivist who also became Archivist to CIE. Many staff and other records were transferred from Irish Rail to IRRS care when the Society moved from Drumcondra to Heuston Station. The present archivist is the 3rd holder of the post, following Mr Leckey and the late Mr Brendan Pender.
The Archives occupy most of the ground floor of the present building. One room is dedicated to genealogical and managerial records, and in normal circumstances visitors are welcome once a week on regular Library and Archives nights, or queries may be dealt with through the internet by the Archives Team of members who assist the Hon Archivist. There are also major collections of plans and drawings of stations and rolling stock as well as records relating to a wide range of railway activities, which occupy another four rooms in the building. The facilities have been extended in recent years to provide a separate photographic and film archives under the care of a member who is a professional photographic archivist.
The Society’s Library contains some 15,000 volumes relating to railways and transport, which includes many rare volumes now unobtainable elsewhere, including timetables and weekly circulars relating to the Irish railway companies, and a particularly valuable collection of volumes relating to railway law, a particular interest of the Hon Librarian.
The Society’s officers work in a voluntary capacity, and the Society’s funds are limited. While outside enquirers often make donations, most of our income comes through membership subscriptions.
Many of the surviving staff records were indexed on arrival, but far from all. The ones which are not indexed include a large series (at least 15) volume of accident reports dealing with minor injuries to staff in the 1920s and 1930s, the type of event which never led to government enquiry, but often had lasting effect on those injured. The same comment may be made of similar numbers of volumes of pension records. Digitisation of these records, which are often the subject of genealogical enquiries and local historical research, is highly desirable, but time and lack of financial resources have meant that it has not been possible to progress this and similar projects, including the Dublin Tramway staff ledgers from the 1920s: the records of this company were totally destroyed in the Civil War.
(Rev) Norman E Gamble, BA(Mod), HdipEd, PhD
Rev Dr Norman Gamble BA(Mod) H dipEd, Div.Test, PhD (1950 – ) has been Hon Archivist of the Irish Railway Record Society since 2010. By profession a priest of the Church of Ireland, and Rector of Malahide & Balgriffin in north Dublin since 1990, his academic training is as a historian with a particular interest in urban history of Ireland in the 18th and 19th century, and also the construction of the early railways. His doctoral thesis was ‘The Business Community and Trade of Belfast 1767 – 1800’ (TCD PhD 1978) and has also found time to write a number of articles in the IRRS Journal, using the documents in the Society’s archives at Heuston Station, the most recent being a study of the Southern Railway Company (of Ireland)