The next morning, although it was not yet day, another crowd of beggars surrounded our travelling car. Hunger drives these poor people to their daily melancholy work before the dawn. I did not, however, discover amongst them Mary Sullivan's flower-decorated hat. Perhaps she is better off, as she lives with her sister, and can sleep and smoke somewhat longer than others of her profession. Among these beggars was an old man, more than usually miserable in appearance, who was pushed about in a little car. His weak, whining voice constantly joined the din of the rest in a melancholy song, which consisted of these words: Hundred and five years old! Blind and weak, and a hundred and five years old! His miserable appearance gained the victory over the rest, and he received the little we were able to bestow. As I was getting up on the car, I perceived that the little boy who pushed on the old man's car, shook him, and informed him that a gentleman had thrown something into it. God bless him! long life to him! God save his honour! God carry him home! These good wishes, which this old living century murmured out in a trembling voice, accompanied us on our journey.
These blessings were the only thing worthy of remark on our entire journey from Bantry to Cork, a distance of about fifty miles, and through a somewhat desolate and uninteresting country, not much better cultivated than Kerry, and devoid of the interesting variety which the mountains and valleys and steep precipices there afford. It is in a mountainous country alone that a wilderness can be at all attractive, and a plain can only please when it is highly cultivated. The single exception to this on our whole route was the little town of Bandon, situated on the Bandon river, and whose environs are well planted with trees, and adorned with neat country-seats. Bandon, I was told, is as famous in the
p.160south of Ireland for the tranquillity and loyalty of its citizens as Londonderry (or Derry, as the Irish usually call it,) is in the north. Why Bandon is so tranquil and loyal I know not; but with respect to Londonderry the reason may probably be found in its origin, the town having been founded by a colony from London, by whom the germ of its loyalty may have been transported from the city of the Thames. Loyal Derry is the appellation by which it is generally known throughout Ireland.
The next best thing on this road, after the blessings of the beggars, is the cheapness of travelling upon it. The charge for these fifty miles is only three shillings and sixpence, being less than a penny a mile; while from Killarney to Bantry, which is but half that distance, we had to pay double the amount. The latter road, being, as I have said, only recently opened, the intercourse was not yet very great, and there was no opposition coach; while between Bantry and Cork there was a great opposition. Here two rival cars had been established, and were mutually endeavouring to exceed one another in speed and cheapness. This opposition, however, had only existed about two years, and previous to that time the proprietor of the single car that travelled the road charged double and treble the present fares. Thus, even in its remotest parts, Ireland is every day deriving greater benefits, and becoming more animated, by the speculating and enterprising spirit of the English.
The principal proprietor and chief improver of cars, throughout the whole of Ireland, is an Italian named Bianconi, whose extensive enterprises entitle him to particular notice, especially as he is one of the rare instances in which a foreigner has beaten the English in speculation within their own territories. This remarkable man, by whose horses and cars one can now travel through the greater part of Ireland, came over here a little Italian boy, like many who are to be found in all the towns of the United Kingdom, to make a livelihood either by selling plaster images, or playing a barrel-organ. As he was a frugal and industrious lad, his images produced him some money, which he expended in other wares. His stock soon became so extensive, that he was no longer able to drag about his goods on his own back, as heretofore: he therefore purchased a donkey and a cart, such as are quite common in Ireland. The donkey, however, was not sufficiently quick for him, so he eventually bought a horse; and as he did not require its constant use, and had no idea of feeding it for nothing, he occasionally let out the animal to others for money and fair words. He now found that the hiring of his horse brought him more money in the end than the sale of his little wares: he
p.161therefore resolved to buy another, so as to be able to hire out one, and to employ the other in carrying on his own business. At the same time he made an improvement in his car, arranging it so that, beside his wares, he could take up one or two passengers on the road. In short, in this way he by degrees established himself as a proprietor of public cars, in the town of Clonmel, which lies to the north-east of Cork. At first he only traversed the districts around Clonmel, as far as Cork, Kilkenny, &c., for which purpose he built those large, convenient, and open cars, resting on springs, which I have already described. By means of their long seats, on which an undefined number of passengers might be stowed, he was able to fix a very low fare. He therefore assisted in the establishment of a number of other cars, to run in connexion with his own; and travelled, or rather made his drivers travel, many roads on which no regular mode of conveyance for passengers had previously existed. In this mode, by purchasing horse after horse, building additional cars, and taking more drivers into his service, he gradually extended all over Ireland a chain of diligence-cars which is elsewhere unequalled in extensiveness and utility. He now possesses no fewer than 600 of these large cars, and 1500 horses, all of which are constantly employed. Some assert that he has 900 cars and 2000 horses; and even Mr. Bianconi himself may probably not know the precise number. He is now a great and a wealthy man, and is esteemed by all his adopted countrymen, not more for his intelligence than for his benevolence.
Mr. Bianconi has also had small maps of Ireland engraved, on which the various roads travelled by his cars are distinctly marked; and artists have been further employed in dignifying his enterprises by engraving a series of well-executed copper-plates, entitled The Bianconi Cars, prints from which are to be seen all over Ireland. In one is represented the loading of one of these strange carriages, and the travellers taking their seats; in the second, their arrival at one of the Bianconi inns; in the third, the passengers are overtaken by a storm; in the fourth, the four horses, with their lengthy appendage of carriage, luggage, and passengers, are spiritedly galloping up a hill; in the fifth, the horses are being changed in the midst of a landscape of heath and bog, whilst the passengers are jumping off their seats to obtain exercise or refreshment; and in others similar characteristic incidents are pourtrayed.
Which is the road to Kerry? exclaimed my companion in a jeering tone to some Kerrymen who met us near Cork, their little horses guided by long straw bridles, and adorned with coarsely-plaited
p.162straw saddles. The people here in Cork seem to take great pleasure in making themselves merry at the expense of these good-humoured and oddly-equipped mountaineers, who bring the produce of their farms and dairies to this market.