The History Show

The History Show

Sunday, 6pm

The History Show Sunday 3 February 2013

The History Show

Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past

Road deaths history

Road deaths history

Since 1959, more than 23,000 people have been killed on Irish roads. That’s equivalent to the entire population of Carlow town.

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter and journalist and author, Eoghan Corry are here to trace the history of road safety and deaths in this country.

Our first road sign and safety regulations were introduced in 1903. The first speed limit (5mph) was introduced later that decade.

In 1914, there were 20,000 motor vehicles registered in Ireland and this rose to 34,000 a decade later. And in the late 1920s, a proposal to have penalties for drink driving was dropped as it were regarded by the government of the day as being a “mischievous” proposal.

We had one tenth of the vehicles on the road 75 years ago, yet 228 people were killed in accidents in 1938.

Owing to the effect of war-time rationing of petrol, there were only 8,000 licensed private cars in 1945. Six years later, this figure had risen to 156,000.

The worst decade for road deaths was the 1970s - the decade of the breathalyser and seat belt legislation.

Our highest road fatalities were recorded in 1978 with 928 people being killed on the island of Ireland. In 1979, an amnesty resulted in an estimated 45,000 drivers being handed licences without passing a test.

In February 1972, Bobby Molloy, the Minister for Local Government (whose department had responsibility for roads) wrote a heartfelt letter to Jack Lynch about this issue. He wanted more Gardai to be assigned to traffic duty.

Bobby Molloy letter:

‘The road deaths figures issued by the Gardaí for January show another shocking increase to 62 deaths- 22 more than in January 1971. It looks as if we must expect 700 road deaths this year and at least 25,000 people injured unless we can take some drastic action to prevent it…the big gap I see in the whole organisational approach is the low level of traffic supervision and enforcement of statutory requirements by the Gardaí. It is commonly accepted that speed limits and road signs can virtually be ignored, as long as one gets away with it. There is a plethora of “bangers” on the road with bald tyres, defective steering and little or no brakes. Cars are more frequently not taxed or insured. Above all, there is frightening (though confidential) evidence of the level of alcohol in the bodies of accident victims, while drivers under the influence are a common sight after closing hours…I don’t think we can be morally justified in not assigning men and equipment to the protection of road users…in most countries the correctness of devoting police resources to road accident prevention is accepted as a proper and necessary part of upholding a code of civic behaviour. The establishment of a special traffic corps within the force has been talked about for years and seems as far away as ever…drunk driving and excessive speed should be eliminated or reduced to a “tolerable level”.’

He finished by writing of the ‘despair which I feel. I even thought of asking for a day of national mourning for the 600 dead last year and making it an annual event.’

Since records began more than 50 years ago, the number of cars on the road has more than trebled from about 700,000 to some 2.5 million. Yet the numbers dying in car accidents is falling steadily. Last year we had our lowest number of fatalities ever with 161 deaths.

Pirates & Prostitutes in Dingle

Pirates & Prostitutes in Dingle

Now – depending on who you’re talking to, the word “booty” can have very different meanings. An American rock star would be shaking his booty whereas a banker would be counting it. Never shall the two definitions of booty meet.

Except, that is, in the south-west of Ireland 400 years ago where the two forms of booty did come together.

Reporter, Rhona Tarrant travelled to Kerry to tell the story of the pirates and prostitutes that frequented the village of Dingle.

If you’re interested in hearing more about piracy in early 17th century Ireland, Connie Kelleher will be giving this month’s maritime lecture on board the Jeanie Johnston on Wednesday, the 6th of February at 8pm.

More details are available at

Men at Lunch documentary

Men at Lunch documentary

If you’re looking for a defining image of New York City’s history, you’d be hard pressed to beat the black and white poster of a group of workmen sitting on a steel girder eating their lunch high above the rooftops of midtown Manhattan.

The photo was taken on a warm autumn day in 1932 as 11 workmen sat in a line smoking, eating sandwiches and reading the newspaper. The immigrant labourers were perched 800 feet up in the air during the construction of the Rockefeller Centre.

Everybody knows the photo. But nobody knows who took it. And for most of its 80 years, nobody has known who’s in it either.

Some of the mystery is resolved in a new documentary, “Men at Lunch”, which opens in cinemas this weekend. It was made by two Irish brothers, Sean and Eamonn O Cualain who have established the identify of at least two of the long-anonymous workers on the girder. They joined Myles to talk about their project.

Men at Lunch is now showing in selected cinemas.

Language bite

Warts & all

Coming Up on next week's programme....

Coming Up on next week's programme....

Among other things, we’ll be looking at 250 years of the Freeman’s Journal and we’ll be hearing about Rosa Parks’ historic bus protest. She would have been 100 years old this month.

Also, Keith and Dave Farrell will join us to talk about A Terrible Beauty, their docu drama which offers a fresh approach to the Easter Rising. Mixing archive footage with dramatic reconstructions and eyewitness accounts they tell the little-known stories of ordinary soldiers on both sides.

It will be shown as part of the Dublin International Film Festival.

About The Show

Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past.

We want to help explain ourselves to ourselves. We will search out fresh angles on familiar topics, seek out the unfamiliar and will not shy away from bizarre or controversial issues. Our ultimate goal is to make The History Show the primary port of call for those with an intense or even a modest interest in the subject. We want to entice the casual and the curious to join us in celebrating the past.

Our aim is to create informative, reflective, stimulating and above all, entertaining radio.

Join us on Sundays from 6.05pm for The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1.

A Pegasus production for RTÉ. 



Contact the Show

Presenter: Myles Dungan

Producer: Lorcan Clancy


Ways to Listen

Radio Player