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Steam Trains in the Douglas Shire - The Cane Trams

Faugh a Ballagh

7 October 2005

Faugh a Ballagh, was the fearful battle cry used in faction fights by the clans of western Ireland in Connaught & Munster. From the Gaelic language it translates as "Clear the way" though how it is spelt is often disputed.

It seems that it became woven into Irish history as an nationalist song first published in 1842 & it is also the motto of 87th regiment, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, known as "The Faugh a Ballagh Boys".

The locomotive’s original manufacturer’s plate that has been presented to the Douglas Shire Historical Society today is part of the Shire’s history which goes back over 100 years.

In 1899 the Douglas Divisional Board, forerunner to the present Douglas Shire Council, was granted a loan of £22,000 to construct a tramway to extend the Mossman Central Mill’s passenger service from South Mossman to Port Douglas.

During the year 1900 the tram traveled almost 6,000 miles carrying over 23,000 passengers.

In 1901 the Divisional Board received its own rolling stock that included this England built Fowler steam loco “Faugh a Ballagh” (number 8733 dated 1900).

John Fowler began business in 1850 by forming a partnership with a fellow Quaker, Albert Fry, as agricultural implement manufacturers & traders. John Fowler & Company (Leeds) Limited formed in 1886 was one of the best-known manufacturers of traction engines in the UK.

Their tramway locomotives were exported all over the world & indeed many found their way to Australia, especially during the evolution of the sugar industry.

There is a story that this locomotive was used on the initial construction of the Panama Canal in the late 1890’s though it seems incongruous that the name “Faugh a Ballagh” could be used by that French construction company which ceased in 1899. Our Society would welcome any further information regarding this loco’s name.

In addition to “Faugh a Ballagh”, four ex-Mossman Mill Fowler locos are still known to exist;

  • “Pioneer” No. 8047 1899
  • “Ivy” No. 15947 1922
  • “Miallo” No. 20276 1934


“Faugh a Ballagh” also hauled bagged sugar from the Mill to the Council Wharf at Port Douglas. She last saw service under Council ownership in 1958 when she reached the South Mossman depot & her fire was extinguished for the last time by driver Mike Loveday & fireman Wally Butler. Mike Loveday would later write “There was no one at the depot to greet us. In a very sombre mood we went home. The Douglas Shire Council Tramway was finally dead”.

The loco & carriage were originally installed in Anzac Park opposite the Court House Hotel as a reminder of the importance of the tramway to this town. During the late 1970’s the carriage was restored by the Train Restoration Society & Douglas Shire Council provided weather protection. With the advent of the Bally Hooley Tour the Mill reclaimed “Faugh a Ballagh” with a view to returning the loco to steaming condition but the cost was found to be prohibitive.

The Douglas Shire Historical Society became aware of the perilous state of this loco & remaining original carriage in 1994 & together with the Douglas Shire Tourism Association, the Douglas Shire Council & the Mossman Central Mill a project was conceived to refurbish these former tramway relics during the centenary of the Mill Company’s formation in that year.

Today we see the handover of these historic tramway items to the trusteeship of our Society under which we can now move to their repair & restoration. We earnestly ask for the assistance of those who see it as a responsibility to ensure that “Faugh a Ballagh” may continue to exist as a memorial to the pioneering spirit of the Shire.

On behalf of the Douglas Shire Historical Society members I thank Council for its gesture today.

Noel Weare

Read more about the Bally Hooley steam trains operating in Port Douglas here.