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.


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.

In 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.

The 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.

As 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The Blacksmith  

When the load was delivered the Carman could go asleep in the cart and the horse would find it's own way home.
The Carman took great care of his best friend - the Horse

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