William Dargan


1799-1867; b. Carlow, 28 Feb.; ed. England; employed as surveyor by Telford on Holyhead road in 1820; constructed first railway, Dublin-Kingstown, 1831; constructed 600 miles of railway as well as the Ulster Canal, connecting Lough Erne with Belfast; organised and financed Dublin Exhibition, 1853, losing heavily (20,000); declined baronetcy [ODNB 1853]; acquired Montanville [afterwards Mount Anville Convent, Dundrum], 1851, and visited there by Queen Victoria (who planted a Wellingtonia gigantea [sequoia], 1853;
Dargan lent funds for establishment of National Gallery of Ireland at 5% and established the flax mill at Chapelizod which was later acquired as premisses for the Chapelizod Distillery in which John Stanislaus Joyce, father of the novelist, was concerned; d. 7 Feb. 1867 [aetat. 68], at his home, 2 Fitzwilliam Sq. [East], following a fall from his horse the year before which incapacitated him and impaired his management of business; his funeral cortège was preceded by 700 railwaymen;
a monument to him stands outside the National Gallery of Ireland, which was built to commemorate his services; he builts 1,335 km of track in Ireland; reinvested his investments largely in new railway projects; his papers have not survived. ODNB DIB

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Fergus Mulligan, William Dargan: An Honourable Life 1799-1867 (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2014), 300pp. See review by Andy Bielenberg, in Irish Times (1 Feb. 2014): "[...] In 1847, for example, he was building lines from Thurles to Cork, Limerick to Tipperary, Belfast to Ballymena, Newry to Portadown and Warrenpoint, and Carlow to Bagnelstown, in addition to a line from Liverpool to Bury. He was alsom employing 1,500 men on the 1,500 cut into Belfast Harbour.

Portrait : there is an oil portrait of Will. Dargan by Stephen Catterson Smith, RHA 1862 [NGI] (see Anne Crookshank, Ulster Mus. [Exhibition Cat.], 1965).

Bit[t]er words: ‘“Never show your teeth”, old Dargan had said, “unless you mean to bite”.’ (Benedict Kiely, ‘The Artist on the Giant’s Grave’, in A Bash in the Tunnel, ed. John Ryan, Clifton Books 1970, p.238.)

Douglas Bennett, The Encyclopaedia of Dublin [1991] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, rev. edn. 2005), “Dundrum” contains details of Montanville, the visit of Queen Victoria and the funeral cortège.

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