ON THIS DAY: The world's first recorded road death occurred in Offaly

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie

ON THIS DAY: The world's first recorded road death occurred in Offaly (Picture Credit: Offaly History)

ON THIS DAY: The world's first recorded road death occurred in Offaly (Picture Credit: Offaly History)

It is a little known fact that on this day, August 31, 1869, the world's first recorded road deaths occurred in Co. Offaly as a woman from a very famous family was killed.

Mary Ward, a niece of the 2nd Earl of Rosse, synonymous with Birr Castle, spent much of her life in Offaly having been born in Ferbane in 1827.

She married a Down man, while her aunt, Mary Lloyd was married to the 2nd Earl of Rosse. Mary Ward did not attend conventional school or college, but instead was educated at home in Offaly.

She went on to become a well known artist and naturalist, and in line with her relations in Birr, was a respected astronomer and microscopist. 

She wrote a book, Sketches with the Microscope, published in London, about microscope under the name, the The Hon. Mrs W, and went on to write three more books on scientific subject. Her book on the microscope was republished at least eight times in the mid to late 1800s.

Mary Ward, although an exceptional woman in her own right, will have her name go down in history as the victim of the world's first recorded road fatality. 

She was a passenger in a steam passenger built by her cousins, the sons of the 3rd Earl of Rosse, in Parsonstown (now Birr) when it jolted unexpectedly and overturned close to the church. Records show that Mary Ward was killed almost instantly. She was thrown from the carriage under its wheels and crushed. 

It is now widely regarded as the first recorded road death anywhere in the world. The jury at the inquest found that the deceased came to her death by an accidental fall from a steam engine. They did not attach blame to any particular person.

*The information in this article is supplied publicly online by Offaly History, and you can read the full story of Mary Ward and more at www.offalyhistory.com

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