The long-looked for fight in the Committee Rooms at Westminster came at last, as most things that are eagerly looked and longed for do. In May, 1892, a Bill, promoted jointly by the Midland Great-Western and Athenry and Ennis Railway Companies, was considered by a Select Committee of the House of Lords. It was a Bill for the acquisition by the Midland of the Ennis Railway (a line from Athenry to Ennis, 36 miles long), worked but not owned by the Waterford and Limerick Railway Company. The Midland were anxious to buy and the Ennis were willing to sell, but Parliament alone could legalise the bargain. To the Waterford and Limerick, the bare idea of giving up possession of the fair Ennis to their rival the Midland was gall and wormwood; and so they opposed the project with might and main, and they were assisted in their opposition by certain public bodies, some thought as much for the excitement of a skirmish in the Committee Rooms as anything else. The working agreement between the Waterford and Limerick and the Ennis Companies, which had lasted for ten years or so, was expiring; the Ennis Company had grown tired of the union; the Midland had held out to her certain glowing prospects, which had captivated her maiden fancy, and so she was a consenting party to the Midland scheme. The Ennis line, in the Midland eyes, was a prize worth fighting for, forming, as it did, part of a route from Dublin to Limerick in competition with the Great Southern and Western, a company between which and the Midland, at that time, little love was lost. Those were the days when competitive traffic, gained almost at any cost, was sweet as stolen kisses are said to be.
The proceedings opened on Monday, 16th May. Ennis was as familiar to the Committee Rooms as the suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce was to the Court of Chancery. In 1880 the Midland had also sought by Bill to obtain the fair Ennis (with her consent) but had failed; in 1890 the Waterford and Limerick (against her wishes) had essayed to do the same and failed also, and in years long prior to these, other attempts had been made with the like result. But to proceed: our leading counsel were Sir Ralph (then Mr.) Littler; Mr. Pember, Mr. Pope and other leaders, and a host of juniors being arrayed against us. The straitened circumstances of the Waterford and Limerick; its dearth of rolling stock; its inefficient ways; its failure to satisfy the public; the admitted superiority of the Midland and all its works; the splendid results which would “follow as the night the day,” if only Parliament would be wise enough to sanction a union which the public interest demanded and commonsense approved—these were the points on which our counsel exercised their forensic skill, expended their eloquence, and to which they directed the evidence. Amongst our supporters