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If you had been returning to Lucan for Christmas in 1830, you would probably have travelled by coach. No railway had yet been built in the vicinity and for a short journey the canal was too slow.
With the exception of the Royal Mail Coaches, most other coaches started from the yard of Dublin castle, from which point distances were measured.
Let us imagine we are starting with a full load for Lucan and points west. There is great competition for the inside seats at this time of year in spite of the unbearable jolting, for the outside passengers have frequently to get down and walk.
Off we go at a spanking pace along the cobbles of Thomas Street, with its recent sad memories of Emmet and Lord Edward. Along we go by the narrow coach road winding at the side of the Royal Hospital and on to the open spaces of Kilmainham where we pass the infamous jail. It too has memories of '98 and Emmet. But the passengers pay little heed; they are too busy muffling themselves against the cold.
Then down the steep hill to Chapelizod, the drags – two pointed bars – are lowered to the road to act as brakes, and down we go with the screech of tortured iron, and a stream of sparks. The already indifferent surface of the road was torn by these devices into a multitude of ruts and channels. On we go through Chapelizod, and now, the wisdom of those who got the inside seats, becomes apparent.
The hill to Palmerstown has a thin skin of frost, and so, the outside passengers, with much muttering, are forced to descend. And walk up the steep part of the hill. On we go through Palmerstown, which has been savagely hit by the Act of Union. It was described at that time as a miserable place - "fit only for the savage followers of Mahommet".
We soon approach Lucan and descend the hill. The coachman bares his head as he passes the scene of poor Fr. McCarten's savage murder some years before. Down we go through the village, which still for most part consists of thatched cottages. At the Ball Alley we see the milestone with the distance from Dublin "7 Irish Miles" engraved upon it. At last, we halt at the corner of Dodsboro, or "Eating House Lane" as it was then known.
For now, we have reached our journey's end. The rest of the passengers grabbed hasty refreshments, as the tired team of horses was unyoked, and a fresh team harnessed in their place.
A Coach Ride was written by the late Laurence McCarthy, for the 1968 Christmas edition of Lucan Newsletter, and was intended to give us a feel of the times.
Mr. McCarthy did much research into local history, in particular the canals, railways and roads. His work provided much of the raw material for the series of Lucan History book by Mary Mulhall and Joan O'Flynn.
He came from a family, which was deeply interested in our heritage – his brother, the Rev. Desmond McCarthy, was one of the leading lights in the 1938 Primary Schools Collection of Folklore now held in UCD.
He was Principal of Lucan BNS, and also one of the founders of Lucan Newsletter.