Story of Midland/ Lár Tíre


Midland - Lár Tíre, Cycling the MGWR from Past to Present

A version of this multimedia bilingual installation, which showed in the National Photographic Archive, Temple Bar, Dublin 2  in 2015, is now touring Dublin City Librarie 2016-2017


 



In 1987, Ann Mustoe gave up her job as a teacher in London and decided to travel the world on her bicycle. Several years, several journeys and several books later she was to become my inspiration to cycle as much of the route of the former MGWR network as possible  from east to west, approx 920 km. I planned initially to photograph the old stations but the idea developed into something completely different.

The line originated in Broadstone and branched out at various locations to its final destinations in Kingscourt, Athboy, Edenderry, Clara, Cavan, Killeshandra, Sligo, Ballaghadereen, Loughrea, Ballinrobe, Killala, Westport Quay, Achill and Cliften. I planned to visit each station along the way and to document my explorations of the patterns and rhythms of  the route and network. I also intended to keep a notebook which would include a daily account of the journey, sketches, incidents, interviews etc.

Pre-planning included researching details of the route, working out approximate time to travel from one station to the next, arranging for overnight stops; arranging permission to photograph the old stations, meetings with interested parties as well as historical documentary and photographic research.

I spent a considerable time in the National Library looking at old books on the MGWR. The most helpful was The Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland, an illustrated history, by Ernie Shepherd.

Ordnance Survey Ireland donated first edition maps which I planned to cut up and use later. These old versions of maps were to prove problematic when I came to new motorways crossing the old roads, especially around Meath.

The National Photographic Archive house the O'Dea Collection which contains 5,350 photographic prints covering all aspects of railway transport in Ireland, between 1937 and 1966. The photographs were all taken by James P. O'Dea, a devoted railway enthusiast, and subjects include locomotives, railway stations and bridges, as well as railway staff and passengers. I trawled through many of these photographs and selected those relevant to my project. Then I sought and received permission to photograph the O'Dea photos with my mobile phone so that I could take new photos from a similar angle.

When I started to knock on the doors of the former but now inhabited stations I knew the project would take off in a different direction. 

I have ended up compiling a large body of oral and photographic documentation which captures Ireland's rich but silent cultural heritage.