OVER the past week, there have been a number of references on social media to the final days in 1947 of the Schull to Skibbereen Tramway.
Though it is not all that long ago, there is some uncertainty as to when the last train actually ran. While the official closing date was February 1st, 1947, AT Newham, in his booklet on the line, states that the last passenger train left Schull on Monday, January 27th, while James IC Boyd, in his indispensable book on the subject, believes that the final tram was on the previous Saturday, 25th.
Manning the final train were driver Jack McCarthy and fireman Charles O’Donovan, while the regular guard, Dan McCarthy, was ill and his place was taken by porter, Denis Sheehan and stationmaster at Skibbereen, Thomas Barry, was on duty when the train arrived.
The official reason for the cessation of services was that, although a train had run on January 25th, 1947, from Monday 27th, the service would be suspended due to the fuel shortage. Fuel rationing was a fact of life during and for a number of years after World War II.
The statement implied that services would be restored again when the crisis ended. They never were, but this expectation of being reopened may explain why the occasion wasn’t marked in any way.
Boyd, also, wonders how the service operated on that date because Cork City was paralysed that weekend by a blizzard of extreme intensity. He describes it as a mystery, but those of us living in West Cork are well aware that weather conditions in the city can often be quite different to those prevailing here.
In September 1952, CIE applied for an order to abandon the line, which was sanctioned in due course. Opportunity was given for objections to be heard and Cork County Council was ready to consider making representations.
However, on learning of local indifference to the continuing existence of the line, they desisted. Thus, the fate of the tramway was sealed but, at least, here in Ballydehob we are fortunate to be left with our iconic viaduct, the 12-Arch Bridge.