In the 1600s trade tokens were given out by the Crown and were used as a royal licence to do business. If you were a trades or business merchant, you had to obtain this token. Some had dates on them and some had not. In Galway city and county there were 43 merchants listed in the period 1653-1679. By 1680, many of these tokens were replaced by the halfpenny copper coin.
Our photographs today are of two 19th century numismatic souvenirs of our past, which, like the tokens, were minted in the form of coins.
The first is a carter’s ticket from Burke’s Distillery in Quay Street from 1844. Instead of paying each carter per load of whiskey removed from the distillery, or keeping elaborate accounts, the carter would get a token from the gatekeeper each time he delivered a barrel of whiskey from the distillery. Each month he would present himself at the pay office and surrender his tokens for cash. This meant Burkes did not need to have ready cash available, and eliminated a lot of paperwork.
The distillery was known as the ‘Quarter Barrel Distillery’ and was located where Jurys Hotel is today. It was opened in the 1840s and most of its staff would have come from Joyce’s distillery. Burke’s only lasted until the 1860s when a lot of smaller distilleries closed. The opening of the railways meant that larger distilleries could transport their wares to much wider markets at little cost and the smaller outfits could not compete. Our token shows a fanciful adaptation of the Arms of Galway.
Our second illustration is of a ‘tally ticket’ for Persse’s Distillery which was in use from c1870 to 1914 when Persse’s closed. This ticket was manufactured by Parke’s of Dublin and was used as a form of ‘clocking in’, mainly for casual labour. The number 110 was a works number. The workers deposited their tickets on a tray on their way in to work and a ‘tally boy’ would collect them. At the end of the week, payment would be made for the number of days the number was logged in.
The original Persse distillery was located at Distillery Road, Newcastle, and in 1815 there was a Joyce’s distillery in Nuns’ Island. In 1840, Persse took over the Joyce operation and converted it into a woollen mill. Eventually he closed the woollen mill and moved his distillery into Nuns’ Island and developed it into a major business until the competition from the big Dublin distilleries eventually forced him to close in 1914.
The Old Galway Society will host a lecture by Willie Henry in the Victoria Hotel this evening at 8.30pm. The title is “Coffin Ships in the Famine Era” and all are welcome.
Finally we recommend you visit www.galwaylibrary.ie and look at the list of talks and events that the County Library has set up in branch libraries throughout the county. It is very impressive and there should be plenty there to interest you. Your local library will also have the details.