Horse & Cart Deliveries
The faithful horse pulled a Ton of coal to customers as far away as Thurles or Tullamore a distance of up to 40 miles - each way. Sometimes a donkey, mule or jinnet was brought along to help the horse on the hills.
ROLE OF THE CARMAN
From the start of the mining operation in the Castlecomer area and with
the discovery of Anthracite the carman had a part to play in the
distribution of coal or the firing as
it was called locally.
the earlier years this entailed a man, sometimes with two horses
travelling on foot to places like Freshford in Co. Kilkenny 12 miles
approx. and further afield to parts of Co.Tipperary and Co. Offaly. The
brewery outside Tullamore was one such destination for the Carmen and
often a convoy of six Carmen set off on such a journey. These were
journeys of up to forty miles and as you can imagine often took a few days
at a time. Sometimes the Carmen had a donkey or pony that would help the
horse to pull the load up the hills.
The Carman would rise about 4 a.m., tackle his horses and ensure
they were already fed and had a good set of shoes on. During the frosty
weather frost nails had to be put in the shoes. The nose-bag had to be
filled with "goodies",
hay, oats and other treats to fortify the horses on the way. They then
made their way to the mine, usually the Deerpark, and with some help
loaded up and got on their way. This was happening in Ireland during the
1930s and 1940s when times were in no way as they are today, poverty
prevailed. The people who could afford the luxury of the coal being
delivered to them were, as the story goes, living in the "BIG
HOUSE" in each location travelled to. Those same people would have
domestic staff. The staff' would provide a meal for the weary carmen
whether authorized or not. This welcome rest would would
also allow the horses get their noses into the bag. The next stop
might be the local hostelry. Then, after man and beast were refreshed, the
long journey home would begin.
horses in question were very clever and had good road sense and could
bring home the weary carman, who after the long trek on foot on the
outward journey, and maybe a little drink on some occasions might get a
bit too comfortable and take a little snooze.
time went on and as cars and lorries became more plentiful the role of the
horse-drawn car became less in demand. As a result the Carmen began to
disappear from the scene at least for the long haul.
local scene remained the same as the miners were entitled to a monthly
ration of coal and until the mines closed in 1969 two carmen were employed
to deliver the coal locally.
horse was a very important animal in those days. They have since been
replaced by the motorcar. There was a very important “spin-off”
industry associated with the horses and that was – fitting them with
shoes. This job along with many other jobs was done by the
“Blacksmith”. In the following pages you can learn about the role of
the Blacksmith and his importance in the Castlecomer area at that time.
When the load was delivered the Carman
could go asleep in the cart and the horse would find it's own way home.