Vol. 7 No. 3 - 1993
Having been born in the days of horse-drawn transport and the early days of motor transport, I am in a position to look back and record the previous methods of transport and travel that I have personally witnessed, through the eyes of a child, youth and man, in and around my native town of Portadown.
My first recollection of wheeled transport was being taken from my home, Ballyhannon House, into town, a distance of two miles, in a two-wheeled trap, drawn by a horse called "Bob". This was the way I got into Thomas Street National School, along with other members of the family. As we got out of school at different times, it was a case of walking home on "Shanks's Mare", all uphill. The older members of the family rode into town on pedal cycles, as did my Father, who was Manager of the linen manufacturing firm of Spence, Bryson & Cc Ltd whose weaving-factory was bordered by Portmore Street and Meadow Lane.
My recollections of pony and trap transport are getting somewhat dim, but I do remember the pony always having a drink at the watering trough situated in the centre of Edenderry Square; and being given a feed of oats from a "nose-bag", which was put over its ears, any time we had to stop. This kept the animal quiet while it was standing for any length of time,
I can still remember with some embarrassment the pony carrying out its natural function of dunging at intervals. The pungent smell of the issue of hot, steamy dung, a yard from your face, still lives with me.
The pony and trap was also used on Sundays for the transport of the family to Bluestone Methodist Church, a little over a mile away. There was stabling at the rear of the church for the horses during the service.
On the farm many duties were carried out by the horse, such as ploughing, reaping and general transport with the farm cart. These carts were of wooden construction with iron fittings and steel-rimmed wheels. The sides and tail board could be removed to give a clear flat surface for certain loads. The wheels were of wooden-spoke construction, with steel rims which were made a tight fit by heating the rim red hot; as it cooled it contracted, to bind fast to the inner wooden rim.
A special hay cart was used for shifting hay cocks from the fields to the stack yard. The flat surface of the hay cart, which was hinged in front, was dropped down so that the outer end rested on the ground, A rope band was placed round the hay cock, and the two free ends were attached to a roller which was revolved by the action of levers at either end, operating a pawl and ratch system which drew the hay cock up the sloped float. When the hay cock was in position the float was moved to its horizontal position for transport to the stack yard.
Before the Ulster railway system was constructed through to Portadown, with continuation lines to west and south, passenger transport by horse drawn coach was the usual mode of travel. The main towns had their staging posts for servicing man and beast. The coaching inn for Portadown was the Imperial Hotel in High Street, on the site now occupied by Wellworths Super Valu.
Stage coaches were normally drawn by four horses with first class passengers inside and the rest on the outside at the mercy of every type of weather. The roads were mere tracks and became quagmires in wet wintry weather.
Robb's Ferry and the one at Bannfoot. The latter even ferried cars across the river at a point immediately before connecting with Lough Neagh,
Canal barges were towed by horses, which could draw a barge load of over 30 tons as against less than a ton on land. From the Point of Whitecoat on the Bann, the barges were poled down to Portadown with 40 foot poles. Steam-powered tow boats were used to tow a string of barges across Lough Neagh and up the Bann to Portadown.
As a child I can remember seeing barges loaded with turf and towed by tug boat, off-loading at Hamilton Robb's weaving factory quay.
Much has been written in former Reviews about the rail connection which linked
There have already been several articles in past Reviews on the inland navigation of barges or lighters. Briefly, the Newry Navigation canal ran from the Point of Whitecoat on the Bann just south of Portadown to the town of Newry, 18 miles distant. A ship canal connected Newry to the open sea at Warrenpoint on Carlingford Lough.