The Creamery at Bunratty and its connection to Nineteenth Century Public Transport.

The Creamery Building at Bunratty
John O'Brien

This building now used as a Pub and Restaurant for much of the twentieth century served as the Creamery for a wide hinterland.

The creamery was established in 1927 as the Bunratty Creamery Co-Op and operated until the 1990s. The cooperative creamery was a hugely significant development in the economy of rural Ireland, where a big proportion of farms were of very modest size, and afforded little more than subsistence income. At the creamery the milk from small producers as well as large farms was processed and provided some cash income and also enabled the purchase of supplies on a localised basis. In the early years of its existence, butter was made here but in later times the butter making was centralised in processing plants.

The creamery was an important meeting hub and social outlet for farmers who otherwise led rather solitary lives. It was a focal point for daily interaction and the exchange of information, whether it was farming and market-related or simple local news. The famous American photographer Dorothea Lange on her working visit to Ireland in the 1950s found that the creamery setting provided much interesting subject matter, and she featured this creamery in her iconic portrayals of Irish rural life.

Bianconi

Before the era of cooperative creameries, this building was a Bianconi staging post. Charles Bianconi operated an extensive and very successful public transport business throughout Ireland beginning in 1815 and going on until the 1870s. In the times before the invention of steam engines, the modes of transport available were very limited; Horse back, Horse-drawn car, coach or caravan, or simply walking. Throughout much of the 1700s the routes serviced by coach services were mainly those radiating out from Dublin.

A countrywide public transport system

However Bianconi was to change all this by providing linking routes off the established ones and opening up most of the country to the advantages of public transport. He leased this building which was previously used as a grain store in the mid 1820s for use as a staging post. By the 1830s, the limerick to Galway mail coach business was operated by Bianconi and it would have stopped here. There were two other daily coaches each way between Limerick and Ennis, some were 8 seaters, others  were 15 seaters and all were painted in the Bianconi colours of Yellow and Crimson, each with a number and a list of destinations served by the company, printed in gold on a red background.

Bians as the vehicles came to be known did not have roofs and passengers sat on outside seats facing the hedgerows. They were seated on horsehair cushions on top of slatted boards. When the weather was wet, passengers were provided with waterproof aprons, and the cushions were changed every two stage stops. The average speeds varied from eight and three quarter miles per hour for the Galway Limerick mail coach down to about seven mph for the larger caravans.

Bianconi was renowned for the quality of his horses, and at the peak of his business, his company had 1300 horses and 100 vehicles, serving 123 towns and 40 intermediate stations, and provided good employment at each location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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