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Mysterious goings-on at Monasterevin and Maynooth.

Mysterious nocturnal goings-on at Monasterevin entranced the readers of the local papers a century ago in March 1911. Under the headline ‘Monasterevin Mystery’ the Kildare Observer reported on how persons unknown were interfering with the safety of the railway line through Monasterevin station by taking the signal lamps from the siding junctions on the track. The line being the main railway route from Dublin to  Cork was a busy one and any interference with the signalling equipment risked causing a catastrophe. Extra police had been drafted in to Monasterevin to try and capture those interfering with the signal lights but despite vigorous patrolling of the track by the constabulary and the railway staff the lamps were being taken almost under their noses. On two successive nights when the lamps were removed, the police and staff of the railway company had patrolled the section of track just a few minutes before. One of the policemen reported seeing some movement in the dark and gave chase but the suspect was of fleeter foot and managed to escape.
On a subsequent night the town lamp-lighter was on his rounds extinguishing the street-lamps and was about to ascend a lamp-post near the railway bridge when he spotted two of the railway lamps which had been left near the bridge. Whoever left them there clearly intended that they would be found and returned to their proper position on the rail tracks. Why somebody should go to the bother of taking the lamps and then leave them to be found was a source of bewilderment to the townsfolk of Monasterevin. There was another twist to the story when one of the signal lamps was found on the steps of Mr. Cassidy’s home (owner of the Monasterevin distillery) accompanied by ‘written notes of an uncomplimentary nature.’  The paper reported that the local people could not understand the motive for the interference with the signal lamps as it was not for profit or robbery as the lamps were always left in a position where they could be recovered.
In the era before electric light the dark held many mysteries for people and some of a superstitious nature began to fear that the interference with the railway lamps was not the work of a human hand. They reasoned that if there was a culprit he should have been caught by the intensive police patrols but whoever was responsible only seemed ‘to laugh at all the efforts of the authorities to catch them.’  Others believed that the culprit was of the human kind but was a madman as no ‘sane person would be guilty of such conduct.’ Generally the offer of a cash reward was enough to flush out an informant who might point the authorities in the direction of a suspect. However the twenty pounds offered by the railway company (a serious sum of money in 1911) did not result in any useful information being proferred to the solution of the Monasterevan mystery. The Observer report concluded with the bewildered comment that ‘the police or public, so far as can be ascertained, have not the slightest clue to the perpetrators of the outrage.’
There was a mystery man involved in another episode reported in March 1911 from the northern end of the county when a Maynooth publican was before the court on a charge of allowing persons to be on his premises during prohibited hours on a Sunday. Sergeant Finnegan of the Maynooth constabulary said he had knocked at the door of Mr. Caulfield’s licensed premises. The door was opened and the constable caught sight of ‘a man’s leg going up the stairs.’ Mr. Caulfield, the proprietor, said the man was in the premises to repair the porter machine in the bar and must have got nervous when the policeman appeared at the door. Mr. Lambert, defending solicitor, remarked that ‘The sight of a policeman’s uniform has a terrific effect on a good many people’ – an observation which prompted laughter in the court. The magistrates accepted Mr. Lambert’s courtroom humour and the case against the publican was dismissed.  Series no: 218.

In his column 'Looking Back' from the Leinster Leader March 1, 2011 Liam Kenny writes about strange happenings in Monasterevin and Maynooth. In the former railway signal lights were disappearing and reappearing in unusual locations. Maynooth had a case of a man who disappeared on the arrival of the police at a public house during prohibited hours on a Sunday. Our thanks to Liam.


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