Big thank you from

The Railway 'Hat' who found himself left on the line

By the Rambler 27/10/2000

SINCE I commuted by train for decades, l am still interested in the subject although I rarely use rail transport. I made my first journey for years on a late afternoon train, last summer, and got a sickener. I boarded at Botanic and paid little attention to the first hew stops.

Then I looked out, reckoning we were about Finaghy. Lo and behold, we were back almost where we started, i.e. at Great Victoria Street, having just gone round the bend.

Then it was "start, stop .., slow, slow, slow," like ballroom dancing.

The unfortunate driver never seemed to get the engine into top gear as he crawled from one hole in-the-hedge to the next.

Regulars had their noses in crosswords, mobile phones, even laptops, obviously seasoned travellers on this slow-train-to-Lisburn.

Never again, I resolved. During my commuting days the staff at Moira Station were particularly friendly and down to earth.

Commuters on the early morning, workmen's train were just one big family.

The station master, Isaac McClure of Blayney' s Bush, was particularly popular.

If a latecomer only had time to hop off his bike alongside the train and hop into the good's van, the abandoned bike was safely stowed away - no problem.

But 'wee Jimmy', I'll skip his surnames changed all that. Jimmy was "a hat" who wrought as a white-collar worker at the GNR administrative office at Adelaide.

He always wore a hard hat and he had a head swelled with ideas of his own importance.

After the air-raids during the war, he moved out of the city to a house near Moira station, and com muted by train.

The guard on the ten-past-seven (am) train to Belfast occasionally delayed blowing his whistle while some regular piled aboard the guard's van.

Wee Jimmy objected. With his "railway time keeper" watch held aloft, he verbally chastised the staff for failure to get the train off on time, even names dropping, such as "Mr Howden will hear all about this", Howden being the Big Chief.

Needless to say, tempers were "riz". So much so that a bowler hat was sent trundling along the platform one morning!

By the time Jimmy had retrieved it he was a very angry man indeed. He threatened sanctions, but that was as far as he went. He cooled down after that.

The commuters had it in for him however, and a plan was hatched.

`Yer man" often travelled on the last train home. 10.45 ex-Belfast and he was a better sleeper than any under the rails.

By the time he reached Moira, he was lying up snorting and grunting, dead to the world.

The train stopped at various halts including Damhead.

These were unmanned and lit only by one dim lamp. (I'll change a few names now).

"Joe Johnston" was a leading prankster and he led a couple of pals into setting a trap for wee Jimmy.

As the last train home shuddered to rest an Damhead, the trio piled out, noisily chanting "Moira, Moira'. Jimmy came-to as they jumped out, and stumbled after them, half asleep.

The conspirators promptly boarded the adjoining coach and left wee Jimmy stranded on a pitch black night, miles from Moira with no option but to hoof it. Rather a cruel joke, most people will agree.

Happily, one of the conspirators, a rather unwilling one really, had a car at Moira and he promptly headed away off by Lisnbilla to find jimmy.

A little man in dark clothes, including a bowler hop wasn't easy to spot with the black-out style car headlamps, but out on the broad road, near Trummery crossing, he beheld the pilgrim, and got him aboard.

Ever after. Jimmy kept his mouth shut on Moira Station Platform.

Ulster Star