Irish Railway Record Society
JOURNAL 192 OBITUARY
on 16th October 1921, John O’Meara lived in Ballymote, Co. Sligo, until
1934, during which time he developed a deep passion for the railway, becoming
friendly with many of the engine crews even at this early age. Sadly, in that
year, John’s father died, and John went to live in Claremorris, where his
fascination with the railway business remained undiminished. In the early
1940s, on completion of schooling, John went to live in Dublin, where he
pursued a successful commercial career, while also continuing his railway
interests and travels.
1957, John married Marie Noone, and they went on to have four children and,
later, grandchildren, and to enjoy a long and happy life together. While
John’s railway enthusiasm never waned, he managed to combine this with a
full and active family life, a balance not always easily achieved, but no
doubt facilitated by John’s warm and engaging personality.
AND THE SOCIETY
O’Meara’s name first appeared in the Society’s membership list in
Journal No. 3 of July 1948, with an address at 116 Lower Baggot Street,
Dublin. John was soon active in the Society’s formal structures. In Journal
No. 7 of Summer 1950, he is recorded as “assisting”, along with Sam Carse,
in “making arrangements for meetings”. At the AGM of 28 September 1950, he
is recorded as serving on the Committee as “Liaison Officer” and was
re-elected to the Committee at its fifth AGM on 20 September 1951. He was
again re-elected in 1953, and in 1954 was serving as Hon. Assistant Secretary.
In 1955, there was a rare event, a contested election for the Committee, in
which John topped the poll. In 1957, he presented his first paper to the
Society, “The Meath Road”. That year also brought another contested
election, in which John once again topped the poll, and took up the post of
“Programme Secretary”. Another momentous change of 1957 was John’s
address changing to Beaumont Crescent, where he and Marie continued to live
for their long married life together.
the AGM of 1958, John’s title had changed to “Acting Programme
Secretary” and he also presented the Secretary’s Report at that meeting.
In the Summer of 1959, John led the Society’s first lengthy tour, an
eight-day journey around Ireland in June, using mostly service trains with
some specials to cover non-passenger lines. The highlight for the only Junior
Branch participant in the group was an incomparable day on the Donegal,
railcar to Letterkenny, carriage on the goods from Letterkenny to Donegal
Town, and a special railcar on the branch to Ballyshannon. A
never-to-be-forgotten experience in the Donegal’s last year, and with
sunshine from Strabane onwards, after a damp start. In that year, the Society
had 312 members, 165 being located in Ireland, this information being reported
to the 1959 AGM by the indefatigable John, on this occasion speaking on behalf
of the “Acting Secretary”.
brought John’s second paper to the Society, “The Beet Campaign of 1959”.
At the 1960 AGM, John’s title became “Hon. Programme Secretary”.
However, in Society Bulletin No.
4 [see endnote],
of October 1963, the terse statement appeared that “Members have been
informed that Mr. J. O’Meara has resigned from the position of Hon.
Programme Organiser, and that the Committee has appointed Mr. P. J. Currivan
to act in his place in a temporary capacity.” Apparently there had tensions,
and not the first time, between John and PJ Currivan about John’s
non-adherence to the programme set out in the circular for an outing. In
fairness to John, deviations from plan were not always within the Society’s
control, as witness our return from Baltimore, arriving at Kingsbridge at
03:40 of St. Patrick’s Day, 1961 (or rather the following day), and getting
back from Rosslare via Waterford at 00:05 in the September the same year!
are of a fractious and uncomfortable AGM that year, but the outcome was that P
J Currivan went on to occupy the role of Programme Organiser until 1973, a
period which saw also the second and final Steam Tour of Ireland in 1964,
while John stood aside from the Society for a period of years.
AS AN AUTHOR
the passage of time saw a resumption of participation in the Society by John
and on 19 March 1977, he delivered a paper on the
subject of Whit Week, 1961. That was the first of a series of talks and papers
by John, several multi-part, which were subsequently published in the Journal,
26 in total so far, with a few still to appear in print. A full list of
published papers appears below.
was certainly one our more prolific authors and his presentations always
attracted substantial attendances. He had a unique talent for recreating
vividly in words the railway ambience of the past. He had astonishing recall
for the journeys he made, but his papers were always underpinned by original
research in the Society’s Library and Archive. John had a particular rapport
with railway staff, especially enginemen, and his ability to remember those
with whom he travelled on the footplate more that half a century ago was
legendary. John’s final talk to the Society took place on 14 February 2008,
when he read his paper “Banteer to Kenmare”.
contribution of his wife Marie must also be acknowledged, who typed out his
papers from John’s manuscript notes. John’s prolific output was enabled in
no small measure by Marie’s behind the scenes activity. Marie was also most
supportive of John in his railway activities. On a night when John was to
present a talk to the Society, she unfortunately suffered a fall in their home
and had to go to hospital. Despite the circumstances, she insisted on John’s
going to the Society meeting and presenting his paper! Happily, she made a
good recovery, but John was inevitably a little distracted during his talk.
was a loyal attender at Society meetings and had his regular position, in one
of the several throne-like heavy railway officer chairs which came to the
Society from the GNR offices, and while the chair has not remained vacant, it
remains a continuing reminder of one of the Society’s most esteemed and
is agreeable to record also that the Society honoured John with Honorary
Membership on 7 September 2006. On
8 November 2011, at a lunch in Dundalk, this distinction was likewise
conferred on Desmond Coakham, who travelled from Belfast for the occasion.
John and Marie were also present at this lunch, to mark John and Desmond’s
shared 90th year.
John passed away on 23 September 2016 at the age of 94.
The funeral took place on 27 September. The Society was represented at
his funeral and members also paid their respects at his lying in repose the
previous evening. We extend our sympathy to John’s
wife Marie, their
children Paul, Anne, Clare and Eoin, John’s sisters, his grandchildren, and
his very many friends. MJW
PAPERS FOR THE SOCIETY
This should have been 139, but was inadvertently incorrectly numbered. The
following issue of February 2000 was numbered 141a.
O' Meara joined Railtours Ireland as a Host (as our tour guides are known), a
few days after the company commenced operations in June 1998. The planned
operating model had envisaged a self-guided tour on the rail portion, but it was
very soon realised that this wasn't working and we sought some help from retired
friends and acquaintances from the IRRS and RPSI - to chaperone our guests.
took to his new role with flair and enthusiasm and with his fellow hosts was
responsible for the early success of the fledgling company. He escorted groups
of clients all over the country but was particularly fond of our
'Ballykissangel’ tour, which used the lunchtime departure of the Rosslare
Harbour train of MkII carriages hauled by an 071 class loco to Arklow and thence
by coach to Avoca. He took a very personal interest in the presentation of this
train and in particular our reserved carriage - this was a time when cleanliness
of the exterior and interior was not always consistent! On many occasions Johnny
would suggest to his friends in the IÉ staff in Connolly that train should be
run through the wash again – and, as he used to say himself, if any of the
toilets looked as if the elephant had been, he would ensure that it was dealt
with before his guests boarded. If time precluded a return to the wash - the
fire hose on the platform was quickly pressed into service!
encyclopaedic knowledge of Ireland and her railways endeared him to many
visitors, and this resulted in many letters and phone calls from our guests who
had experienced his empathy, sheer warmth, and passion for what he did. We were
delighted that he was able to continue with us into his ninety first year - we
will miss him!
Gaffney was not a member of the Society, but apart from the distinction of being
Ireland’s oldest barrister and still practicing at the time of his death, Mr
Gaffney acted on behalf of CIÉ on various occasions during his long legal
career, which commenced in 1954.
considered to be particularly expert in the field of railway law, an area in
which activity was certainly at a low ebb for much of the latter part of the
twentieth century, but which came into prominence again with new developments at
the turn of the twenty-first century.
final recorded appearance in a railway case seems to have been at the Public
Inquiry in November 2006 on the Glounthaune-Midleton Rail Project, when he
addressed the Inquiry on behalf of Coras Iompair Éireann, the applicant for the
was also a long-standing and respected member of the Railway Preservation
Society of Ireland (RPSI). An enthusiastic volunteer over many years, he
assisted in the carriage department in both Mullingar and Dublin before in more
recent years becoming the regular ticket inspector on railtours. With his
tremendous knowledge of railway matters, and the contacts he built up over the
years with a large number of railway professionals, John proved to be a great
ambassador for the RPSI. There were few stations on the IÉ network where he
wasn't known to staff. With these contacts a warm welcome for a railtour and its
participants was assured.
in advancing years when he had passed the ticket clipper to a new generation,
John remained a regular traveller on railtours - always ready to offer advice,
reflecting on past times, or just enjoying himself. The RPSI has lost a
dedicated and most valuable member. DH/JMcK
was a short-lived venture for the years 1962 to 1964, under which Society
Matters and Current Developments were recorded separately from the Journal,
which was then half-yearly. The
Bulletins appeared also half-yearly, between the Journals. Bulletins ceased when
the Journal moved to three times a year publication from February 1965.
French died suddenly and unexpectedly in London on 13 September 2016. Alan will
be known to many Dublin members as a regular attender and researcher at the
Tuesday Library nights. At the time of his death, Alan was nearing completion of
his first paper for the Society, and it is hoped to publish this in due course.
Memorial Service for Alan was held at St. Paul's Church, Glenageary on 4
February 2016, at which the Society was represented.
extend our sympathy to Alan’s wife, Sarah, and to Alan’s sisters and
Copyright © 2017 by Irish
Railway Record Society Limited