William Dargan was one of Co. Laois's most famous son. Born near Killeshin on the 28th February 1799. William Dargan changed the face of Ireland.
In 1831, Dargan won the contract to build Ireland's first railway from the new port of Dun Laoghaire to Dublin. The success of this project, which he completed in one year, despite having to overome huge engineering difficulties , led to many other railway contracts, and Dargan ended up constructing most of Ireland's railways, some 1,290km in total.
He was a great defender of the working man and provided employment during the Great Famine, at the expense of any profit. In 1853 he financed the Dublin International Exhibition in the grounds of Leinster House, as a showcase for Irish industry. Queen Victoria attended, visiting Dargan at his home. He was offered a baronetcy, which he declined. Dargan then established the National Gallery of Art.
As well as building railways, William Dargan opened up the port of Belfast by dredging out a new shipping channel and using the waste material to create the artificial Queen's Island that Harland and Wolff now occupies. He also developed the seaside resort of Bray.
In 1866 he was badly injured falling from his horse and, unable to maintain control of his many enterprises, he died in 1867, bankrupt and broker. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Dublin.
The beautiful eye-catching new cable-stayed bridge that carried the Luas tram line at Taney Cross, near Dundrum town centre, has been named the 'William Dargan Bridge' in honour of the Father of the Irish Railways.
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