Recently I began attempting to establish when the first traffic lights in Dublin came into being. Many sources hinted at the Clontarf Road being able to claim the honour, with a set of lights placed there in 1893 by Fergus Mitchell, said to be the owner of the first car in Ireland. Why a single car would justify the presence of a traffic light is beyond me.
Newspaper reports show that the first traffic lights in Dublin city centre were erected over the second half of the 1930s, with the first set of traffic lights placed at the junction of Merrion Square and Clare Street in August 1937. There had been calls for traffic lights in Dublin in the years prior to this, as Belfast could already boast such a system, and the Irish Independent noted in 1936 that traffic signals in Dublin would “permit the public to cross with the hearts in the right place instead of their mouths”. It was reported in July 1937 that contracts had been signed with a London firm for the traffic lights and they would be on Dublin streets within a month.
The Irish Press reported on the unveiling of the first lights that:
Dubliners, ready at all times to stand and stare, had a regular field day yesterday when the new system of traffic lights, automatically controlled, came into operation at the junction of Merrion Street, Upper and Lower, Clare Street and Merrion Square.
The paper reported that Dubliners “thronged the pavements” to see the lights, but newspaper reports noted there was difficulties in the flow of traffic owing to tendency of Dubs to take no notice of the amber light, telling them to prepare to start.
A guide to the lights was printed in all daily newspapers at the time:
Following on from the success of the lights at Merrion Square, others followed around the city quickly, with the Clanbrassil Street junction and the junction of Northumberland Road and Haddington Road among others being identified as suitable locations. Interestingly, it was around this point that the Lord Mayor (Alife Byrne) first raised the idea of a specialist cyle lane in Dublin.