Dublin in twelve hours, and that is a promise

Through the years of kingdom, empire, dominion, republic and continental union, County Mayo has retained the rarely advantageous honour of being among the most westerly outposts of each political entity. The county's distance from the heart of government and its demanding terrain seriously hampered any mode of movement, in and out of Mayo. At the passing of the Acts of Union in 1800, the Crown accepted that responding to sporadic violent opposition to the legislation would be difficult considering a regiment on foot would take six days to travel from Dublin to the west. Correspondence between the British authorities in Dublin and their surrogates in Mayo would therefore be all the more urgent. However, at this time, it took the swift mail coach, running through the night, more than 30 hours to reach the county capital. Logistical challenges existed too for the movement of produce and for travelling men of business. Any coach journey covering 60 miles a day was considered efficient. To reach even Mayo's eastern border by coach from Dublin would have taken two days with good conditions. Land transport, at the turn of the 19th century, was undependable and slow. As a result, long distance travel on the part of most people was simply not undertaken due the many obstacles it raised. 

That all changed with the arrival in Ireland of Carlo Bianconi. The Italian had landed in Ireland in 1802 and had set up a small two car service in Clonmel in 1815. Charles Bianconi (as he was by then known ) began offering cheap and expeditious travelling across extended distances throughout Ireland. Despite the cars being uncovered and open to the harsh Irish elements, the services proved hugely successful as they were scheduled, fast, and many stages on each route had a Bianconi owned inn in which food and lodgings were supplied before the traveller progressed. Bianconi’s horse drawn transport operated in Castlebar from 1836. His Mayo network was extended to include a daily service from Longford to Ballina that ran through Foxford. Bianconi revolutionised movement for the people of Mayo when in August 1851 he announced an ambitious new route that would take a patron from Ballina to Dublin in one day. The two horse car would leave Ballina every morning at 5.45am (except Sunday ) and would progress first to Castlebar, then Westport, Leenane, Letterfrack, and on to Clifden in time for the mail coach from Galway to Dublin and in time for the Westport and Castlebar day coach to Galway railway station. Bianconi's new route announcement was well timed to coincide with the opening of the Galway railway station that same month. In addition to the two horse car, the entrepreneur timetabled a well-equipped four horse coach to leave Westport for Castlebar every morning.  After Castlebar, the coach would pass through Ballinrobe and Shrule on its journey to Galway. The capacity for the four horse coach was 15 passengers, four inside and 11 outside. Bianconi boasted that by availing of his routes, the Mayo traveller could be in Dublin that same evening enjoying an early dinner. 

Bianconi was an exceptional salesman and he realised that his Mayo horse drawn coaches traversed some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland. It was felt his opening up of the remote county would attract men of capital from the cities, in search of a peaceful retreat. Charles Bianconi ran similar well respected services across Ireland and became a very wealthy man. The coach business in general, however, was often criticised. Damages for loss of property and injury to passengers were reported as were jarveys who over emphasised their importance in determining who could travel and who could not. It was also noted that even with all the new coaches running through the county, a letter posted in Swinford for Castlebar, 14 miles away, would take three days to reach its destination. A letter posted in Paris would have reached Castlebar in the same time. Nevertheless, Bianconi’s coach service was an essential element of land transport prior to the arrival of the railway in Mayo in the 1860s.


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