Derrybeg: Bessie Flashes

Yes, in the early years we walked to school.  I vividly remember walking down the Camlough Road in the dark, on a winter morning, and seeing flashes lighting up the sky.  

No, it wasn’t lightning.  It was Bessie, the Bessbrook tram, heading along the meadows towards the terminus at Edward Street

The flashes were caused by the electric pickup on the tram making and breaking contact with the badly worn centre rail.

This was all before the housing development in the ‘Meadows’ was built after the war.  Interesting thing is that the contractor on that development, Mc Grath Brothers from Finaghy, as I recall, went out of business because of a scandal allegedly associated with poor quality construction.  When we arrived in Seattle in 1967 we found the same McGrath Brothers company was developing new homes in this area.

Being fascinated by all things mechanical, I remember crossing the fields and spending many enjoyable visits to Bessbrook station on the main Dublin line.  George Bittles, the station master, enjoyed the company, I suspect.  He and I would sit in the signal cabin and he would sometimes let me try to pull the levers for the signals when a train was due.  I never could quite manage to pull them all the way.  The highlight of a visit was to be there to see the Enterprise Express with the beautiful, then new, blue steam locomotive heading the train north from Dublin.  According to Mr. Bittles it was travelling at eighty mph and slowing to the sixty mph speed limit to negotiate the curve on the viaduct.  The whole station shook.  What a sight!  Still gives me shivers when I think of it.

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