Railway Police in Ireland

(This introduction to the Project is compiled from papers submitted to the Garda Historical Society; the RUC GC Historical Society; The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and The Irish Railway Records Society between 2012 and 2013)

When I retired from BTP and came to live in Northern Ireland, I became interested in the railway police in Ireland. Not many people will be aware that until the middle of the 1960’s there were British Transport Police officers stationed at North Wall, Dublin and also at Donegall Quay in Belfast, until the late 1980’s. They were there to ‘police’ the various interests of British Railways, in freight, passenger and shipping services. These men were the successors to the police of the former British railway companies whose interests had been active in Ireland from the early days of the railways. Records show that the railway police in Dublin and Belfast were employees of the London Midland & Scottish Railway which was formed in 1923 and lasted until nationalisation in 1947. Prior to 1923 there were numerous railway companies, large and small, who may have had powers to appoint ‘Constables’. Some of these Irish companies were connected to the ‘mainland’ railway companies but others were wholly rooted in Ireland.

One of the earliest records I have come across is reported in the Limerick Chronicle newspaper of Saturday 30th. September 1848. It refers to Inspector Rodgers of the Waterford & Limerick Railway (W & L Rly.) Police being ‘served’ with a ‘Rock notice’ at the Tipperary terminus of the railway, commanding him and his men to “quit the establishment or to prepare their coffins”. This was signed by “Captain Tell Truth’. From enquiries I made, it appears that Inspector Rodgers was originally an employee of the Great Western Railway in Swindon, England, and had been seconded to Ireland to deal with an outbreak of sabotage on the W & L Rly., carried out by one of the ‘secret societies’ active in the County of Limerick. The so called ‘Rock notice’ would appear to relate to the Rockite organisation who were active in agrarian unrest in the 1820’s. Quite what their ‘gripe’ with the W & L Rly. was remains to be discovered!

I have searched some of the early Staff Records of the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway (B & NCR) which are lodged in PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland) under UTA (Ulster Transport Authority) references, and there is evidence of ‘Constables’ employed at various railway locations in Co. Antrim, including Belfast. Perhaps the most useful records for this type of research have been the 1901 and 1911 census returns, available on the website of the National Archives of Ireland. Searches under ‘railway police’ and ‘railway constables’ have turned up individuals all over Ireland.

I would like to know of any information, artefacts, etc. relating to the former Irish railway police and how this can be accessed. Also, although it is nearly 50 years on, I would be keen to have information on the Dublin and Belfast based BTP officers and their activities. Unfortunately the BTP organisation has dispensed with many records from the 1960’s and earlier, and so the Historical Group is dependent on anecdotal evidence or documentary evidence from unofficial sources. So far as is known, there was only one police officer who served in Belfast for the whole of his career. This was Samuel Alexander (Alex or Alec) Manning who joined the LMS Police on 5th. March 1945. Alex is unique (so far as I know) in that he served in Belfast from LMS days, then with the British Transport Commission Police from 1947, through to his retirement from BTP on 21st. January 1983.

Many railway and dock officers in England, Scotland and Wales had Irish origins, and within Ireland, there were officers of the old Royal Irish Constabulary who went on to have other careers in the railway police. I hope that this outline of the Project will stir some memories of the railway police in Ireland, and which can be passed on to me. This Project on the ‘Railway Police in Ireland’ for the BTPHG is covering the whole of the island of Ireland – as the railways once did.

My contact details are shown on the Projects page.


Robert C Davison – Co. Down

November, 2013

See also: The BTP in Northern Ireland