The day I saw two goats nibbling wreaths on the Parnell statue on O’Connell Street
Family Fortunes: In 1940s Dublin, there were a variety of animals one could meet in the streets
“I wish I had a mobile phone when I saw the goats at the Parnell statue.” Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto
One of my most vivid memories of growing up in 1940s and 1950s Dublin was the variety of animals that one could meet in the city streets every day. At that time much of the distribution of goods was still carried out by horse-drawn drays which mixed intimately with the ordinary traffic of the city – trams, buses, cars – a tiny fraction of today’s numbers – and all sorts of bicycles.
So, horses were an everyday sight, and at least in the quieter streets “scutting” on the back of the drays was a favourite sport of youngsters. Even in the centre of the city much of the heavier goods were still delivered by drays. The most impressive of these were the Guinness ones drawn by huge horses.
Many of the pubs had trapdoors in the ceilings of their cellars that opened up on to the pavement of the street above, so that the barrels could be directly loaded into them. It was always a treat to watch the barrels being pushed off the drays to bounce on large cushions on the pavement and then being dropped down into the cellars.
In the city suburbs much of the deliveries of milk, bread and fuel was also done by horse-drawn drays or carts. The milk deliveries were particularly exciting for us as children since often the milk came from small local producers and we knew the horse-drivers and sometimes we could cadge a lift on the cart for a ride to the end of the road.
The milk was in large churns and it was brought in metal cans to the door of each house and poured into the household’s jugs. Measuring tins were used for this and of course a little “tilly” was always added as a top-up.
Cattle themselves were a common sight in some areas. From the cattle market in Prussia Street they were driven on the hoof down the North Circular Road to the North Wall docks for export to England. The rest of the local traffic including the No. 10 tram to the Phoenix Park had to accommodate themselves to the pace and meanderings of the herds.
But my most unusual memory must surely be the time when going home from school down Parnell Square, as I came to the top of O’Connell Street I saw two large goats at the Parnell monument, one standing on its hind legs with its forelegs high up on the base of the column while the other one had lived up to its reputation for agility by climbing up to the plinth on which the statue stands.
Both goats were happily nibbling away at the wreaths which presumably had only recently been solemnly laid there to honour the “Chief”. How I would love to have had a mobile phone with me back then.