The Village Hackneys of Yesteryear by James Reddiough
In the Ireland of fifty to sixty years ago there were very few cars and people had to walk, cycle or go by cart to the town and village to shop. Then along came the motor car to the small villages now as far back as the 1930’s and 1940’s there were hackneys in the villages and they cost a few shillings to hire. There were three hackneys in the villages or two at least usually operated in most cases by a private enterprise or else by a merchant who controlled the businesses of the village.
The village hackney expanded and grew in the 1950’a and 1960’s and they were neighbours who had bought a car and operated a social and voluntary driver who brought the people from place to place for a small fee and this was usually the lad or girl who worked, had a few pounds and could buy a car and then the fare from the passengers helped to pay for the car and its upkeep.
For example one young lady worked in an office in the town and she would come out on her lunch hour on Friday and bring the older women from her village and charge them fare and then bring them home again in the evening. This is part of the social history of every town land and yet very little has been written about it.
Emigration is another part of every village in Ireland and the long distance drivers were part of the life of the men and women who took the boat to England each year. Instead of getting a bus or train there were those people who preferred to pool their resources and hire a hackney to bring them to the train or boat in Dublin and on the return journey would pull in at Heuston Station or Westland Row and see who had come in and they would offer their services to bring them home to Mayo. Such was the nature of the trade at the time.
Another popular activity was going for the day’s pilgrimage to Knock and the people would hire the hackney a few days in advance and then come the big day they would all be collected by the local hackney driver and they would spend the day in Knock paying a fare to the driver and possibly paying for his meal also for the time he had to spend in Knock. The driver used to bring people to mass on a Sunday also.
In the august of 1942 people used to cycle to Knock thirty years later this would be unheard of and this writer as a very young child in the early 1970’s would remember the local lady aforementioned bringing us to Knock hand having a bottler of coke and bag of chips for the day and the sun of course was always shining on a bright Summer’s day. There were trips to the seaside too again just for the sake of comparisons there were the canterers or buds of an earlier era that went to the seaside resort by ass and cart but again the rural hackney soon took over. Speaking of summer there was the dancing season too during the Ballroom era and the rural hackney driver would load up his car and charge for the petrol and bring revellers to the dances around the area in the villages and towns.
The rural or local access hackney licence was introduced in December 2013 to make transport more accessible to people in remote areas and this is a revival of the former era, it has not seen a major take up because people have cars now but for those who don’t or for one reason or another would like to use the hackney it deserves the support of the community and the powers that be. The idea of the voluntary or designated driver is being explored all over rural Ireland and this is worth watching for the future.