The Dundalk ‘Great Train Robbery’
A short time ago somebody asked me if I could remember the 'Great Train Robbery' at Dundalk Railway Station?
At first I thought they were referring a famous robbery of a Night Mail Train running between Dublin and Belfast when armed men forced Post Office staff at gunpoint to throw mail bags out of the train somewhere around Balbriggan.
This happened sometime during the Wartime Emergency of the 1940s when there had been strict media censorship, so little or nothing appeared in the newspapers at the time about the incident.
The reason I remembered it was because my father had been a detective Garda investigating the robbery and was told that there had been a packet of jewellery consigned to a jeweller in Dundalk among the stolen items.
That was an exciting enough story but the person who had asked me said 'No! That the robbery they were thinking about was much more recent and thought it had something to do with the Troubles in Northern Ireland!'
For some reason I had forgotten about that robbery which had involved a van, with armed men, pulling up to the front of the Station and holding up the staff! But to tell the truth I had not thought a lot about this incident because there was a lot of shootings and explosions around the Border at the time and I must dismissed it was a fairly minor incident.
When I looked up reports in the Dundalk Democrat of the time, however, I discovered a report in a Review of the Year 1973 which seemed to indicate that the story had been taken up by the international media of the time and had been considered something of a sensation. The review stated ---
'Events in Northern Ireland continued to have their effects here although, perhaps, not as much as in previous years. We had our share of violence, the so-called 'Great Train Robbery' at Dundalk Railway Station in February being an example.
There were the many times we had the road and railway links with Northern Ireland cut -- and yet people and goods managed to get through, in spite of the of the obstacles'.
Then in the month of February there was a report
'The "Great Train Robbery' at Dundalk railway Station on Tuesday morning, February 20, when a group of eight or nine youths, operating in a military fashion held up the Enterprise Express train travelling between Belfast and Dublin attracted international headlines once again for poor old "El Paso". There was great speculation at the time as to the amount of money stolen; this turned out to be something in the region of £5,000 and 2,000 Canadian Dollars.'
Strangely, there does not seem to be many around now who can recall the details of this robbery but, from the above account, it must have taken place at the south-bound platform No 1.
The money taken might not seem very great for all the planning that must have taken place beforehand but 46 years ago, I suppose, it must have been worth at least ten times, or more, compared to today's values. One has to wonder why the Canadian Dollars were being transferred from Belfast to Dublin but then, maybe, some informers may have got wind of this unusual transfer and 'militants' might have thought that it was going to be a much greater amount! I wonder what did happen to the money stolen as I am pretty sure it was never recovered by the authorities!
Maybe some day, somebody will write a novel, to be made into a movie or television documentary about the story of the Great Dundalk Train Robbery of February 1973?
Then again, it might just serve as a warning about what might happen again in these parts in the event of Hard Brexit in the not too distant future!