28 February-William Dargan

William Dargan, a native of Killeshin near Carlow town, Ireland was an engineer, railway contractor, and entrepreneur during the nineteenth century. Often referred to as the father of the Irish rail network, he was also responsible for building a host of infrastructure projects around Ireland. He funded the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dublin in 1853 and helped establish the National Gallery of Ireland.

William Dargan was born in Killeshin near Carlow in 1799. He was educated locally and is said to have displayed a talent for mathematics. With the assistance of prominent local people such as John Alexander of Milford, Carlow and Henry Parnell MP for Co Laois, Dargan was employed by Thomas Telford building roads in England. He was involved in building the road from London to Holyhead. Another engineer, John Macneill who was born in Mountpleasant Dundalk County Louth, was working on the same project. Dargan and Macneill would later return to their native country to work on the building of the Irish rail network.

Dargan returned to Ireland to work on the building of the road from Dublin to Howth. In 1831 he was awarded the contract to build the first railway in Ireland from Dublin city to Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire). It was the first suburban and commuter railway line in the world and was built on time and within budget by 1833. Following the successful completion of the Dublin to Dún Laoghaire railway line, Dargan built the Ulster Canal. He later went on to build over 1,300km of Ireland’s railways.

A great exhibition had taken place at Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Dargan offered to fund a similar exhibition in Dublin. What became known as The Great Industrial Exhibition opened on Leinster Lawn in Dublin on May 12th 1853. The Dublin exhibition was the first World Fair to have an exhibition of art. It was given an enthusiastic response by the visitors. The number of visitors exceeded one million, many of whom came on the railways built by Dargan. Among the visitors on August the 29th was Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales. Dargan was offered a baronetcy by Queen Victoria when she visited him at his home in Mount Annville in Dublin in 1853. He declined the offer.

Dargan’s final project was the building of the railway line from Dublin to Wexford. He died in Dublin at the age of 67 on February 7th 1867. A mural of Dargan hangs in the lobby of Bray railway station. Two modern bridges, one in Belfast and one in Dublin are named in his honour. There is a bronze statue of William Dargan located in the forecourt of the National Gallery of Ireland.

William Dargan, engineer, entrepreneur and often referred to as the father of the Irish rail network, was born in Killeshin near the town of Carlow, Ireland in 1799 On This Day.

William Dargan Bridge – Dundrum by infomatique on 2010-12-13 12:46: