The Owencarrow Viaduct Train Crash 30 Jan 1925

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While this event did not occur on Arranmore Island, it did impact on the lives of the people of the Island


        On the evening of Friday, 30 Jan 1925, an engine pulling two carriages, one wagon, and a combined van, was travelling on the  Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway (Burtonport Extension), which had been opened in 1903. In the 20 years the line had been open, there had been no serious accidents and only two mishaps which resulted fatally. However, the crossing over the Owencarrown viaduct was known to be dangerous in bad weather, which what was being experienced that evening. The train approached the viaduct, which was from 400 to 440 yards in length, at a speed of about 10 miles per hour. The 14 passengers had been enjoying the journey, having left Kilmacrenan Station at 7:52pm, running only 5 minutes late.


        The driver had observed nothing unusual as he approached the viaduct - only that it was a very stormy night. When the train was a little more than 60 yards onto the viaduct, there was a great gust of wind, which lifted the carriage next to the engine off the rails. The driver applied the vacuum brake and stopped the train. When the train came to a hault, the back carriage, which had been lifted off, had carried the wagons halfway over the wall of the bridge. The other carriage was lying over the embankment, the covered wagon was lying over the coping, and the six-wheeled passenger carriage was tumbled upside down.



        The gust of wind had lifted two of the big coaches from the rail and flung them top downwards on the parapet. Their roofs were smashed and by the violence of the impact, passengers were hurled from the carriages into the valley below. The masonry of the parapet gave way beneath the shock and stress, and masses of it thundered down upon the injured passengers. Despite all this, the engine kept the rails and the couplings held, suspending the upturned coaches across the parapet. Of the 14 passengers, only one was unhurt - a Miss Campbell was flung from the upturned carriage, then deflected from the course followed by the other falling passengers, landing on soft and boggy soil, sinking knee-deep into it. 


Those killed:

Mr Philip Boyle, Leabgarrow, Arranmore

Mrs Sarah Boyle, Leabgarrow, Arranmore (wife of Philip)

Neil Duggan, Meenabunone

Mrs Una Mulligan, Falcarragh


Injured Passengers:

Unnamed Boyle boy, son of Philip and Sarah - shock

Mrs Brennan, Dungloe - severe injuries to her head

Mrs McFadden, sister-in-law of Mrs Brennan - shock

Mrs Bella McFadden, Gweedore - shock

Edward McFadden, Magheraroarty - shock and wounded hand

Denis McFadden, Cashel, Creeslough - severe concussion



Neil Boyle, train guard

Bob McGuinness, engine driver, 13 years experience on the Burtonport Extension line

Con Hannigan, fireman



James McFadden, Kilfad & Pat McFadden, Terlin - their bravery was recognised at the inquest, for rescuing two women from a carriage hanging over the edge of the viaduct

Rev Father Burns, CC Doe and the Rev J Doherty, Letterkenny - were early to the scene and attended to the wounded


        The inquest on Philip Boyle and Una Mulligan was opened Saturday, 31 January, by the Coroner, Dr JP McGinley, at the licensed premises of Mr Bradley, Falcarragh. Dr McGinley also opened an inquest on Neil Duggan at his residence in Meenbunone. The inquest on Mrs Boyle was held by the Deputy Coroner for East Donegal, Dr Walker, at Letterkenny Workhouse. The proceedings consisted of the formal identification of those killed in the train crash. The inquest was then adjourned until the following Friday, 6 February, at Creeslough.


        At the conclusion of the inquest, the jury found that death in every case was due to the injuries received. They added, as a rider, their unanimous opinion that if a properly constructed rail had been carried along the whole length of the viaduct, from cutting to cutting, and without an intervening gap, no lives would have been lost. They were also of the opinion that the driver, fireman, and guard were not in any way to blame.


Details of those killed:


Philip Boyle

b Jul 23 1870, son of Neil Boyle and Catherine O'Donnell, Leabgarrow, Arranmore Island

Married Sarah Gallagher (below) on June 11 1896

Had gone to Letterkenny with his wife to bring his son home to Arranmore from the hospital

Died at the scene of the crash

Body identified by his son Michael

Left a family of 11 children

- see 1901 Leabgarrow census

Sarah Boyle

b Aug 17 1871, daughter of Michael Gallagher and Hannah O'Donnell, Rannagh and Toories, Aranmore Island

Wife of Philip Boyle (above)

Died in Letterkenny hospital of her injuries

Body identified by her son Michael

Sarah's younger brother, Edward Gallagher, died along with 6 of his children in the Arranmore boating tragedy in 1935 - see Arranmore Boating Tragedy 9 Nov 1935

- see 1901 census Rannagh and Toories

Neil Duggan

Aged abt 50 of Meenbunone, a widower

Died at the scene of the crash, within 200 yards of his home

Left a family of 4 children

- see 1901 census Meenbunone

Una Mulligan

Aged abt 48 of Falcarragh.

She had been to visit her daughter in Inch Island

Died at the scene of the crash

Body identified by her husband Daniel, a shoemaker

Left a family of 4 children

- see 1911 census Gortahork


The last passenger train on this line, from Letterkenny to Burtonport, ran in June 1941 and in 1947 the line closed entirely


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Lindel Buckley

Donegal Genealogy Resources