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28 dead in Irish factory explosion
The 'Kynoch' cordite factory in Arklow c 1895 Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 3 August 1895

28 dead in Irish factory explosion

Arklow, 22 September 1917 - An explosion at a cordite factory in Arklow has claimed the lives of 28 people and injured many more. 

The single blast occurred at one of the most dangerous sections of the facility, which was isolated from the main building.

The majority of those who lost their lives in the factory – which has been operating since the 1890s – were killed instantly. 10 workers were found alive at the site and taken to the local hospital but two subsequently died there. One of these men was the only locally-born employee among the victims; the rest came from various parts of Ireland.

One of the first to visit the scene was the local Roman Catholic curate; he found bodies around the factory, many of them charred and several without limbs.

The force of the blast was felt far beyond the site itself: two nearby houses were completely destroyed and four or five were seriously damaged. The local coroner heard the explosion from his home two miles outside the town; he told reporters that one of his bedroom windows was thrown open and the whole house was ‘lit up brilliantly by the great flashes of light’.

Once notified of the incident, fire brigade and ambulance services were immediately dispatched from Dublin, offering support to the military who had already arrived on the scene.

An inquiry is to be held into the causes of the blast.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.