Tragedy and accidents mar Punchestown of old

"The King was much shocked to hear of the death of your son, who succumbed to the injuries he received from his fall at the Punchestown Races. His Majesty deeply regrets that so shocking an accident should have occurred, and desires me to express his sincere sympathy with you and the members of your family.”

That letter, published in the Kildare Observer of May 1904, was addressed to the father of the victim, W.M’Cormack of Co Limerick. Beneath it was a printed letter from a surgeon in Dublin who wished to confirm that it was not he who had performed the operation of trephining the young man: “It was actually performed by my friend Dr. D.P.Coady, of Naas, assisted by Mr. Taylor, surgeon of the Meath Hospital. I was present at the operation, and quite concurred in the opinion that the operation was absolutely necessary.”

Another fatal accident associated with the races that week resulted in a Dublin car driver being charged with the death of John Mooney by negligent driving.

Several witnesses on their way home from the races gave evidence at Clane Petty Sessions that they had seen the deceased staggering about the road drunk, but a member of one party said he believed that he felt the car jolt as the horse was going along, and remarked that they “had driven over something.”

“They stopped and found the man lying in a pool of blood on the road. When they lifted him up they found him to be quite stiff. They drove onto Clane and reported the mater to the police, and to the priest.” The magistrates found that the car driver was not to blame for the death.

A Newbridge man wrote to the Observer asking “If nothing could be done about the military wagons that travel from Newbridge and the Curragh to the races. I unfortunately have to travel the same road, and the great wonder is how there are not more accidents.”

He suggested that each wagon should display a number in the style of motors.
The Editor added a note that he knew on good authority that the policy on duty at the Fair Green in Naas had some trouble with the military wagons.

In the following week’s issue two other correspondents supported the proposal that military wagons should be checked and that “it was impossible to think that with the RIC present in such huge numbers the drivers of these vehicles would be allowed to run riot and cause so much annoyance, terror and injury to the public without being in any case pulled up.”

Those were not the only fatalities reported that week. Two young men were drowned while working at sheep dipping in a pool in the Rye Water at Leixlip, in which it was customary for flock owners and farmers to give their sheep their annual washing.

When one of the sheep headed away from the others a man rushed to divert the animals, but fell into a deep pool, and another man went to his help. Despite the efforts of a third man, both men drowned.
The police were quickly on the scene, but it was a long time before the bodies were found. During the rescue attempts the mother of one of the drowned men arrived on the river bank and “the poor woman, frantic from her sudden grief, was with difficulty restrained by some women from jumping into the fatal pool.”

There was also a report of an accident. Lieut. A.H. Harrison, Royal Horse Artillery, stationed in Newbridge, was summoned by Alfred Beckett, a civil servant from Dublin, who was cycling home at Harcourt Street when the officer’s motor car came round a corner and struck him.

He was thrown off the bicycle, which was smashed. He said he had been riding a bicycle for 28 years.
Lieut. Rochford Boyd, who was a passenger in the car, said that they had driven up from the Curragh in an hour and a half; at the time of the accident there was a baker’s cart in front of them and they did not see the cyclist, who wobbled into the car.

He admitted that he had said to the cyclist “Silly fool, it is your own fault.”

Mrs. Ethel Mahony, who witnessed the accident, thought the cyclist had been confused when he saw the motor, and lost his head which she told him afterwards when he called to her house.
She was a cyclist herself.

Having deliberated on the evidence, the jury announced that they were unable to agree, and were discharged.

May 2004