The Battle of Tallaght 1867-2017


Exhibition: Messines, Ypres and South Dublin County

After the Battle of the Somme, the campaigns of the Great War continued to take their toll on South Dublin County. This being the centenary of two of the most decisive battles to take place after the Somme, we in Local Studies have identified thirteen men from the county who were killed in Belgium during these iconic battles of the Great War. One was killed at Messines, twelve perished at the Third Battle of Ypres.

The Battle of Messines was considered a successful offensive of the Great War mainly due to the much-improved accuracy of British Artillery, and the extensive use of underground mines. In all, 19 were detonated under the German defences at the Messines Ridge causing extensive damage. In Irish terms, it was also the first battle where Unionists and Nationalists fought together against a common foe.  Among their number was the only  known Messines casualty from  the South Dublin County area – a Tallaght man – William (Billy) Barrett who spent his early years living in Tallaght Village. His mother ran a pub which was then called Barratt’s. The premises still exists as the Dragon Inn, and is virtually unchanged since then.


The Dragon Inn today

We have located and transcribed personal letters from Billy to his brother in Wicklow, along with some very moving letters from his comrades to his mother detailing the confusion surrounding his last hours.



Billy Barrett’s panel and letters home


The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, lasted from the 31st of July to the 10th of November 1917. The battle was characterised by persistent mud and heavy losses . The Allies sustained over 320,000 casualties, while German losses were between 260,000 and 400,000.

Twelve men who were born or lived in our county were killed at Passchendaele:
Daniel Brady and Robert Christopher Butler (Rathcoole), James O’Toole (Templeogue), John Nolan (Saggart), Joseph Redmond, Richard Rodgers and Thomas McCann (Rathfarnham), Thomas Stoney (Tallaght), John Monahan and William Carroll (Lucan), Ralph Mulligan and Richard Rumgay (Clondalkin)


Panels showing the life stories of British Army casualties from South Dublin


Their life stories are detailed on panels illustrated with newspaper cuttings, photographs and contemporary documents. Earlier census returns from 1901 show them as small boys still at school. The occupations of their fathers include an RIC pensioner, an army pensioner, a dairy farmer and general labourers.


Some examples of food from the Great War


If these men were to return and walk round our county’s villages again, the surroundings would no doubt be very familiar to them. Their streets are our streets, and this exhibition reclaims their memory, presenting their stories in an accessible way.

The exhibition runs at the County Library, Tallaght until the end of September.


WW1 Soldier’s Bible Reunited

One of South Dublin Libraries’ Decade of Centenaries projects was the creation of a website using as its source an early 20th Century magazine called Irish Life. During WWI, it published pages of photos and information on Irishmen in the British Army who were either killed in action or were decorated for bravery. A hundred years later we made it available online as a free database called Our Heroes.

It has been in existence since 2014, and in the database there is an online enquiry form which attracts enquiries, both locally and as far afield as the USA and Australia. Many people search for a relative’s name and up comes our information and a photograph which in some cases they never knew existed.

An unusual query popped into our inbox on the 12th of July. A woman named Janet from Manchester had picked up a small New Testament in a local flea market ten years ago.  It was inscribed:

With every good wish

From Mrs. W Montgomery Coates

Sheringham 1916

John 3-16





Janet searched the internet with the name on the inner leaf of the book, and her search results returned our site which lists a soldier named Basil Montgomery Coates who was killed in 1915. He was the son of a Mr. W Montgomery Coates MA – a double medallist graduate (mathematics and experimental physics) of Trinity College Dublin. The soldier’s mother, Mrs. W. Montgomery Coates was from Sheringham in Norfolk.

This confirmed that the bible had been inscribed by the mother of the deceased soldier – a year after he was killed. Poignantly, the Bible verse referred to in the inscription is “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”



Further research revealed that Basil Montgomery Coates was killed while on patrol by a German sniper on the 7th of September 1915. Attempts by his comrades to locate his body failed due to enemy gunfire. It appears that his body was retrieved by the Germans and buried, but subsequently lost. Consequently he has no known grave.

We were asked by Janet if we would be interested in acquiring the book, or if we knew how to go about finding any descendents. She made the point that she found it incredibly sad when items such as these get discarded.

We agreed, so a quick search on Ancestry’s website revealed the existence of a hidden photograph of Basil Montgomery Coates on a family tree. A message was swiftly dispatched to the owner of the tree (coincidentally named Janet), who confirmed she was indeed a distant cousin of Basil Montgomery Coates and was living in the USA in Michigan.

So, in September 2017, “USA Janet” will be visiting the UK, and “UK Janet” will reunite the hundred year old New Testament with the family of Basil Montgomery Coates.

“UK Janet” told us “This makes me so happy to think after all this time ‘The Little Book’ will be back with a Family Member.”

Well, we in Local Studies are delighted that we played such an important part in making it happen.


Public Lecture on the History of Bohernabreena Reservoir

The Heritage Society of Engineers Ireland in association with the ICE ROI Branch present:
History of Bohernabreena Reservoirs and their Relevance to Milling on the Dodder and Poddle
by Don McEntee
Monday, 6th March 2017 at 6.30pm

At Engineers Ireland, 22 Clyde Road, Dublin 4

Although little is known of the remote history of the Dodder, some sadly incomplete records survive of mills that worked in the thirteenth century. Considerably more is known about the industrial development of the river and its tributaries that began in the late seventeenth century. Until the late 1800s water, where available, was the preferred power source for most mills and factories.

In the Dodder catchment the Bohernabreena Reservoirs, more properly known as the Glenasmole Reservoirs, were completed in1886 and they had an unique role in water supply to Rathmines and the millers’ compensation water to keep mills working during periods of drought.

In the catchment sources of clear water were used for drinking and the coloured bog water for the compensation supply. In the nineteenth century the technology did not exist to remove colour from bog water. Therefore, the principle of construction adopted at Bohernabreena was the method known as the separation principle.

Don McEntee will describe the events leading up to and including the construction of the reservoirs. A short history of the various types of watermills on the Dodder and Poddle will be given.

Don McEntee, now retired, was a Senior Engineer in the Design Section (water and drainage) of the Engineering Department of Dublin City Council. During his involvement in charge of upgrading of the spillways to the two reservoirs in Bohernabreena he researched the original design of the waterworks with his co-author Michael Corcoran he published a book in 2016 titled The Rivers Dodder & Poddle Mills, Storms, Droughts and The Public Water Supply

For Details please go to:
Or contact Con Kehely:
All Welcome
Admission Free
No booking required
This event will be webcast and can be viewed here:

Today in 1918, and a notorious railcar.

Today in 1918, the Armistice that ended World War 1 was signed by representatives of Germany and the Allied Powers in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiègne in France. It has been a cause of controversy over the years that, although the Armistice was signed at approximately 5.20 in the morning, the war was allowed to continue until 11.00 that day – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the time chosen to officially end hostilities. During this time there were thousands of needless casualties. The official explanation for the delay was the need to communicate the message to all of the areas in which fighting was taking place.

The railway carriage in which the Armistice was signed had an interesting and chequered history. It was built in 1914 and served as a regular dining car until 1918, after which it was converted to an office for Marshall Ferdinand Foch. After it had been used as the location of the signing the armistice, Foch continued to use it until 1919.


The original preserved railcar in Compiegne Museum


In 1921 it was moved to Paris and exhibited in the Cour des Invalides until 1927, after which it was moved back to a specially built commemorative museum near the Armistice site in Compiegne Forest.


The rail car displayed in Paris












There it remained until 1940. When France surrendered to Germany, in an ultimate act of humiliation for France, Hitler demanded that the carriage be removed from the museum and placed in the same spot as the 1918 Armistice had been signed. On the 21st of June 1940, the preamble of the French Armistice was read out by Generaloberst Wilhelm Keitel and Hitler immediately left the carriage to leave the surrender formalities to his staff – another carefully calculated insult.


Keitel reads the Armistice to the assembled French delegation in the carriage


Three days later, Hitler ordered the site to be destroyed, and the carriage to be removed to Berlin. It was displayed as a War Trophy in the Lustgarten outside the city’s cathedral.


The carriage is paraded under the Brandenburg Gate on the way to the Berliner Dom


The piece of historic rolling stock had a sad end. As the war’s end neared and the bombing of Berlin increased, it was decided to move the carriage to a safe location in Thuringia where it was guarded by Hitler’s elite SS. As the allied invasion of Germany progressed, the SS guards followed their orders and burned the carriage in case it fell into enemy hands. The remains were buried.

After the war, the location at Compiegne was restored, the museum rebuilt and a replica carriage from the same year of manufacture was procured and re-numbered as 2419D – the same number as the original. It was filled with memorabilia and fittings from the original carriage. These had been removed to safety on the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Armistice Clearing in Compiegne was re-dedicated on 11th November, 1950

Tallaght Historical Society Talks 2016/17

Tallaght Historical Society’s Lectures for the 2016/17 season have commenced. All lectures take place at 7:00 p.m. in the County Library, Tallaght, and all are welcome. No booking required.


October 11th – Life after the Twelve Locks by Mick KinehanTaylors Map of Tallaght 1816 showing the many mills in the area

November 8th – Dublin from Old Photographs by Cormac Lowth

November 22nd – The Shape we’re in: the history of the map of Ireland by Michael Keyes

December 13th – Leo Swan Memorial Lecture – Archaeologist Neil Jackman will give a talk on his recent findings at the Hell Fire Club.

Round Tower_small


January 10th – History of the Garda Siochána by Gerry Lovett

February 14th – A History of the GAA by David Griffith

March 14th – Edward Trevor, beast of Kilmainham by Michael Ó Doibhilín

April 11th – If those Trees Could Speak: the Massys of Killakee by Frank Tracy

May 9th – History of Ireland’s Round Towers by John Dolan

May 23rd – The Collection of the Irish Air Corps Museum by Michael Whelan

June 13th – Dublin Housing in the 1800s by Seán Bagnall