Extracted from "Fifty Years of Railway Life in England, Scotland and Ireland"
By Joseph Tatlow Director Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland and Dublin and Kingstown Railway; a Member of Dominions
Royal Commission, 1912-1917, late Manager Midland Great Western Railway, etc.
Published: 1920 London THE RAILWAY GAZETTE Queen Anne's Chambers, Westminster, S.W. 1 - pp110-113
Though not a golfer myself, never having taken to the game in earnest, or played on more than, perhaps, twenty occasions in my life, I may yet, I think, in a humble way, venture to claim inclusion amongst the pioneers of golf in Ireland, where until the year 1881 it was unknown. In the autumn of that year the Right Honourable Thomas Sinclair, Dr. Collier, of " British History " fame, and Mr. G. L. Baillie, a born golfer from Scotland, all three keen on the game, set themselves in Belfast to the task of establishing a golf club there. They succeeded well, and soon the Belfast Golf Club, to which is now added the prefix Royal, was opened. The ground selected for the links was the Kinnegar at Holywood, and on it the first match was played on St. Stephen's Day in 1881. That was the beginning of golf in Ireland. Mr. Baillie was the Secretary of the Club till the end of 1887, when a strong desire to extend the boundaries of the Royal game in the land of his adoption led him to resign the position and cast around for pastures new. Portrush attracted him; engaged his energies, and on the 12th May, 1888, a course, which has since grown famous, was opened there. About this time I made his acquaintance and suggested Newcastle, the beautiful terminus of the County Down railway, as another likely place. On a well remembered day in December, 1888, he accompanied me there, and together we explored the ground, and finished up with one of those excellent dinners for which the lessee of our refreshment rooms and his capable wife (Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence) were famous, as many a golfer I am sure, recollects. Mr. Baillie's practised eye saw at once the splendid possibilities of Newcastle. Like myself, he was of an enthusiastic temperament, and we both rejoiced. I remembered the shekels that flowed to the coffers of the Glasgow and South-Western from the Prestwick and Troon Golf Courses on their line, and visions of enrichment for my little railway rose before me. Very soon I induced my directors to adopt the view that the railway company must encourage and help the project. This done the course was clear. They were not so sanguine as I, but they had not lived in Scotland nor seen how the Royal game flourished there and how it had brought prosperity to many a backward place. Mr. Baillie's energy, with the company's co-operation to back it, were bound to succeed, and on the 23rd March, 1889, with all the pomp and ceremony suitable to the occasion (including special trains, and a fine luncheon given by the Directors of the Company) the Golf links at Newcastle, Co. Down, were formally opened by the late Lord Annesley. From that time onward golf in Ireland advanced by leaps and bounds. Including Newcastle, there were then in the whole country, only six clubs and now they number one hundred and sixty-eight! The County Down Railway Company's splendid hotel on the links at Newcastle, with its 140 rooms, and built at a cost of £100,000, I look upon as the crowning glory of our golfing exploration on that winter day in 1888. To construct such a hotel, at such a cost, was a plucky venture for a railway possessing only 80 miles of line, but the County Down was always a plucky company, and the Right Honourable Thomas Andrews, its Chairman, to whom its inception and completion is chiefly due, was a bold, adventurous and successful man.
Another experience somewhat removed from ordinary railway affairs that helped to enliven the latter part of my time on the County Down, and added variety to the work imposed by the Railway and Canal Traffic Act and the revision of Rates and Charges, was a project in which I became engaged connected with the Isle of Man.
Joseph Mylchreest was a Manxman, a rough diamond but a man of sterling worth. He left home when young and worked first as a ship's carpenter. An adventurous spirit led him to seek his fortune in various parts of the world-in the goldfields of California and Australia and in the silver mines of Peru and Chili. Later on he went to South Africa, where in the diamond mines he met with great success and made a large fortune. His property there he disposed of to Cecil Rhodes, and it now, I am told, forms part of the De Beers Consolidated Company's assets. In the late eighties he returned to his native island, settled at Peel, and became a magnate there.
One afternoon early in the year 1889 two gentlemen from the Isle of Man called upon me at my office. They were Mr. Mylchreest (the " Diamond King ") and a lawyer friend whose name I forget, but I remember they informed me they were both members of the House of Keys. Mr. Mylchreest was anxious to do something to develop the little port of Peel, his native town, and a steamboat service between Peel and Belfast, Bangor or Donaghadee, seemed to him and his friends a promising project. What did the County Down think? Would either Bangor or Donaghadee be better than Belfast? If so, would my company join in and to what extent? We had no power to expend money in steamboat enterprise, but I assured them we would do all we could to help in other ways, and that Bangor was the port to select. My directors heartily approved and other interviews followed. Once, I had hurriedly to go over to Peel to meet Mr. Mylchreest and his lawyer, on a certain day, as some hitch had arisen, and by this time I was desperately keen on getting the steamboat service started. The only way of reaching Peel in time was by a collier steamer, belonging to the East Downshire Coal Co., which plied between Dundrum on the Co. Down coast, and Whitehaven; the manager of the company was my friend, and would allow the steamer to drop me at Peel. It was a memorable crossing, the weather was bad and so was I. But my journey was successful, and soon the Peel and North of Ireland Steamship Company, Limited, in which the " Diamond King " was much the largest shareholder, was established, and on the 26th June, 1889, the first voyage was made from Peel to Bangor. It was a great event for the quiet little town of Peel. Mr. Mylchreest had invited all his friends to the inaugural service, in addition a good number of the public travelled, and the steamer arrived at Bangor with nearly 300 passengers on board. On the return voyage from Bangor to Peel the same evening the " Diamond King " gave a great dinner, champagne and speeches freely flowed, and music and dancing enlivened the proceedings. The service prospered for a time, but the traffic did not reach expectations. Ultimately it was taken over by the Isle of Man Steampacket Coy., and after a few years discontinued.
Little more remains to be told of my five and a-half years' sojourn in the north of Ireland. They were pleasant and profitable years for mind and body. With health improved, experience gained in practical railway work, knowledge acquired by personal contact with men of all sorts and conditions, I felt strong and confident, ready for anything, and, like Micawber, longed for something to turn up.
Early in October, 1890, Walter Bailey and I took our second Continental holiday together. We re-visited Paris, but spent most of our three weeks in a tour through Belgium, finishing up at Brussels. When we reached London I received a letter from my friend, W. R. Gill, Secretary of Bailey's railway, the Belfast and Northern Counties. It was to tell me that the position of Manager of the Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland had become vacant, and suggested that I should return home by way of Dublin and call upon the chairman of the company, Sir Ralph Cusack, in regard to the succession. Now something had turned up, and Bailey declared I was as good as appointed. At dinner that night we indulged in a bottle of sparkling wine-in nothing meaner would my warm-hearted friend drink success to the prospect that had so unexpectedly opened before me.
The Midland Great Western was the third largest railway in Ireland, nor, in the matter of length of line, was there very much between the three. The Great Southern and Western consisted of 522 miles, the Great Northern 487, and the Midland Great Western 432, nearly seven times as long as the County Down. No wonder I felt elated.
How it all came about was in this way. Skipworth, the London and North-Western Manager in Ireland, was on very friendly terms with Sir Ralph Cusack, and Sir Ralph had a high opinion of his judgment. He consulted Skipworth about a manager and asked if he knew any railway man in Ireland, not too old, who would do. Said Skipworth, " Tatlow of the County Down. He has shown up remarkably well at the Clearing House over this terrible Railway and Canal Traffic Act, and seems to know all about it." ...
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The
© F.Coakley, 2006