John Walsh and Edenhill House in Sligo
John Walsh's Royal Mail and Day Car service on Corcoran's Mall, Sligo.

John Walsh and Edenhill House in Sligo

Charles Bianconi revolutionised public transport in Ireland with the use of horses and carriages. He established a network of routes, which covered most of the country.
 
John Walsh was apprenticed to Bianconi as a boy after he finished National School and trained in the transport business in Clonmel, Tipperary. He was promoted as an Agent and ran the Western transport route. In 1859, he married and was transferred to Sligo and eventually bought the route from Bianconi. 
 
After the opening of the railway from Longford to Sligo in 1862, the coach business declined but using Bianconi’s business model, Walsh diversified and started to run a popular Summer route from Sligo to Bundoran. In 1865, he redesigned the existing carriage known as a ‘Bians’ to make it lighter, which increased the speed of the service.
 
Walsh considered Bianconi his mentor and when he passed away in 1875, he wrote to Bianconi’s daughter as she was writing a biography of her father, below is a copy of the letter that appeared in the 1878 book. 
 
Walsh became Mayor of Sligo in 1880. In 1883, his seventeen year old daughter Kate died of an illness at Edenhill House, followed by his wife Bridget Mary in 1890 aged fifty. Walsh himself passed away in 1894 aged fifty-nine. Walsh’s son, twenty-one year old, William passed away in 1895 of Typhoid Fever at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, his remains were returned to Sligo by train and he was buried in the family plot at Sligo Cemetery.
Edenhil House in Sligo town
His former Victorian home Edenhill House built circa 1878 is currently up for sale. According to the Estate Agent listing, this house is not a protected structure although it does appear on the Sligo County Council protected structure list, perhaps it has since been removed..? I hope it is bought by someone with an appreciation for the Victorian architecture and the heritage value of this property and that it won’t be demolished.

Edenhill and Marymount both display on the Cassini 6 inch map from circa 1890s to 1915.

Edenhill House map sligo
Edenhill and Marymount houses appear on the Cassini map (circa 1890 - 1915) - OSI

It’s a shame that buildings like this aren’t appreciated and are left to decay. If we demolish all the old buildings and build carbon copy glass blocks, the town loses its unique character and becomes like a cookie-cutter apartment block seen in every other town. There is a place for new modern architecture but it shouldn’t be at a cost to our built heritage. It’s not that long ago in the past that Markievicz House (Charlemont/Ardmore) was set to be demolished, which I still think would make a great location for HSE civil ceremonies and shouldn’t be left empty.

John Walsh's Royal Mail and Day Car service on Corcoran's Mall, Sligo.

An extract from 'Charles Bianconi - A biography 1786 - 1875 by his daughter Mrs Morgan John O'Connell.'

I will here insert the narrative of Mr. John Walsh, who first entered into my father’s service as a boy, just after he had left the National School, and who is now so deservedly respected by all that know him, that any further praise of mine would be needless. He and his
partner, Mr. Kennedy O’Brien, who was literally born in the establishment, purchased the Western lines from my father.

Sligo, January 15th, 1876.

Dear Mrs. O’Connell, In compliance with your wish, I now give you a brief sketch of my connection with the late Mr. Bianconi, whose death I deeply deplore; for, though he was kind to all, he seemed to take quite a fatherly interest in me.

On this day twenty-six years ago my father took me to Longfield. I was then only a boy, not sixteen years old. I was shown into the parlour where Mr. Bianconi was alone, and he said to me, ‘John, I am going to send you to Clonmel to learn the business, and I will make a man of you. The first thing you will do when you go there is to buy a saucepan. You will see the women going round the town every morning with cans of milk on their heads, buy a pennyworth of new milk and add a mug of water to it, boil that and get a twopenny loaf ; and, By the Hokey ! you will have a breakfast fit for any man.

Now, as to wages, I will not give you much money, as it would only spoil you, I will give you half-a-crown a-week, to begin with ! It was with feelings of delight I started the next morning on the early car. I was free, and would have to go to school no more, little dreaming I had a great deal more to learn. I arrived in Clonmel in due time, and after going through a few streets, we pulled up at the office, next to Mr. Hearn’s Hotel. My ideas of the establishment became at once confused, and I was lost in amazement at the magnitude of the place, as I was shown round it. At the back of the hotel and office was a large yard, on the right was the harness- room, where five men were busy working, higher up there were three forges with eight smiths, all of them busy with their irons, on the left was the timber- shop, where a foreman and his wheel-wrights were engaged, above that were the hospital stables, capable of holding sixteen horses, and in a loft over the stables and timber shop two men were always at work making new cars, and another man painting them. 

Mr. Quirk, a good and kind man, superintended this department. I was next brought to a square yard on the other side of the street, where forty horses stood in charge of six grooms, and I soon afterwards learned that all these horses went out every day and others came back in their places. Cars drawn by three and coaches drawn by four horses came in and went out so fast, that for days I was bewildered and did not know what to think. There were four came from and went out to Waterford, three to Tipperary, three to Gooldscross, one to Cork, one to Kilkenny, one to Youghal, and one to Fethard.

I must candidly acknowledge that I did nothing, nor was I able to do anything for a long time, though in about a fortnight Mr. Bianconi told my father I was a great fellow, and that my wages were to be doubled from that day. Soon after I was raised to eight and then to ten shillings, for merit I did not possess. And as I became useful, on the retirement of Mr. Quirk to Mount Mellery, I was raised to twelve shillings a week, at which it remained for a long time.

The opening of the railway from Tipperary to Clonmel, and ultimately to Waterford, reduced us so  much, that the agent, Mr. Connell, retired. The whole management was then entrusted to me. In about four months, thinking I was forgotten, I told Mr. Bianconi that when I was no good he raised my wages fast enough, but now when I was doing everything he forgot me. He said to me, ‘I am glad you reminded me of it, you will now have fifteen shillings
a week from the time Mr. Connell left.’

On the 24th of April 1854, I was sent as agent to Athenry, in the county Galway, at 1 a week, where an immense trade was done on the Westport line with passengers, parcels, and fish. I was very contented for about eighteen months, when I applied for a change, and was promised Sligo. But Mr. Bianconi was induced to change his mind, and he told me in Longfield I was to go back again to Athenry, which I refused to do. He insisted that I should, and that I should have an increase of pay from the time I was twelve months there. I asked how much, but he would not tell me until I should be there two years. Of course I went back, and when the time had expired, I had a letter to say that my salary was to  be 60 a-year, to date from a twelve months after I had been there.

On one of my visits afterwards to Longfield, Mr. Bianconi asked me if it was true that I was going to  be married. I told him it was not. He then asked was there anything about a certain lady, and if she had a lot of money. I said she had money. ‘But ” you would not marry her,’ he said. I said, ‘ No.’ 

‘That’s right,’ said he, ‘never marry for money, but marry for love.’

My long and faithful service at that station, five years, was rewarded. In 1859 I did get married, and was then moved to Sligo, where a large field was open to me. We had thirty-three horses standing in charge of six grooms, a long car came from and went out daily to Enniskillen, one to Strabane for Derry, one to Westport, one to Bellaghy, and three coaches to Mullingar and Longford, meeting the train to Dublin, on one of which the far-famed guard, M’Clusky, traveiled. I could not attempt to describe the ready wit or the good-humoured jokes with which he made up stories suitable for his passengers. For the days that he was to be on the coach seats were often secured a week beforehand, so popular was he with the travellers.

In July, 1862, the workmen were removed from Longford to Sligo ; and, as I had always made strong representations against building the cars so heavy, I hoped to be able to remodel them, but, strange to say, Mr. Bianconi would not consent, and it was only in May, 1865, when he saw one of a light weight that I had just finished building, and I had proved to him that it was as strong as one of the old kind, which was once and a half as heavy, that he consented to have all the others made lighter. The opening of the railway from Longford to Sligo did away with our coach line, but I soon found that it made an opening for a summer car to Bundoran, and having put my views before Mr. Bianconi, he immediately sent me the horses asked for, and was so well pleased with the result that he ordered me to charge him with commission on the receipts in addition to my salary, a thing unprecedented in the establishment. 

In the year 1866 he wrote to Mr. O’Brien, the travelling agent, to meet him here in Sligo, and when we had talked over business, he said, ‘I have brought ye together to know would ye buy all my establishment to the north and west of the line between Dublin and Galway.’ We agreed to do so, but his own accident,  which happened soon afterwards, put an end to the arrangement. However, he sent for us in March, 1867, and sold to us the portion we each required at our own price. Mine extended from Westport, in Mayo, to Letterkenny, in County Donegal, and after  the purchase was made out, Mr. Bianconi said his terms were half the money in hand, and the other half in monthly instalments. I told him that in that case I could not treat with him. He said, ‘What do you mean ? You have money.’ I said, ‘ If I have, I am not going to give it to you. If you expect ever to be repaid you must not only trust to our word, but you must give us plenty of money to work the lines.’ He paused for a long time, and kept looking at me. Then he said, ‘John, you are right ; it shall be as you say. It is needless to add that he did so, and long after I had paid him back he would try to force me to take money I did not want, and he always manifested that interest in my business which caused me to apply to him in any cases of difficulty for his advice, which was cheerfully given, and which I am sorry to say I shall miss for the future.

I must apologise, dear Mrs. O’Connell, for the length of this letter, but I had to touch on the various stages to show that he fulfilled his promise when he said that he would make a man of me.

Your faithful servant,

John Walsh

Sources:

Newspaper Archives

Sligo Champion

Charles Bianconi – A biography 1786 – 1875 by his daughter Mrs Morgan John O’Connell – London, Chapman and Hall, 1878.

NLI.ie – Lawrence Collection

Google/maps

National Archaeolgical Survey of Ireland

OSI