1867: A Renowned Irish Engineer Embarks on His Final Journey

February 7, 1867

William Dargan, widely considered to be one of the most significant Irish engineers of the 19th century, died in Dublin at age of 67. He had been born in 1799 in the town of Carlow in southeastern Ireland. Dargan’s public works career began in earnest in 1819 when he secured a job with renowned Scottish engineer Thomas Telford, who was nicknamed the Colossus of Roads. Dargan learned many of his formidable construction skills under Telford’s guidance, and they worked together on building a large section of a major road between London and the Welsh town of Holyhead.

Telford, impressed with Dargan’s work on this project, asked him to handle construction on a road between the Raheny and Sutton communities in Dublin. Irish politician and writer Henry Parnell called the new route “a model for other roads in the vicinity of Dublin,” and Dargan was paid such a huge amount for the effort that the money helped provide out-of-pocket capital for his other public works projects. These projects included construction on such other major Dublin-area roads as a turnpike between Ireland’s principal city and Carlow. He also built the Kilbeggan branch of Ireland’s Grand Canal. 

Another breakthrough for Dargan took place in 1831, when he was awarded a prestigious and highly competitive contract to build Ireland’s first railway. This railway, connecting Dublin with Kingstown (present-day Dún Laogharie), opened in 1834 and remained in service for two decades. This project earned Dargan the title “Father of Irish Railways,” and it led to similar projects elsewhere on the Emerald Isle. Dargan, for example, designed and constructed much of the mainline and various other routes for the Great Southern & Western Railway between Dublin and Cork. By 1853, he had built more than 600 miles (965.6 kilometers) of railway routes in Ireland.

Dargan’s many other transportation-oriented endeavors included helping to build the Ulster Canal in Northern Ireland and operating regular cargo services with his own vessels between the city of Newry in that region and Liverpool.

Image Credit: Public Domain

For more information on William Dargan, please check out https://www.dib.ie/biography/dargan-william-a2407

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