The sun was shining brightly on that Saturday afternoon in August 1955. It was the start of the Bank Holiday weekend and I like everybody else was hoping for a pleasant break from work.
At the time I was a Junior Clerical Officer employed by Coras Iompair Eireann in Limerick and as the 5 day week had not yet come into being, I was working that afternoon from 2p.m. to 6 p.m. to complete my 51/2 day week.
At 5p.m. as I was winding down the Livestock loading the porter and another man entered the office and the porter said ‘Sir, we have a Bull for Binghamstown’.
‘Binghamstown’ I said where is that? The man who accompanied the porter said ‘it is in Mayo way beyond Belmullet. Before dealing with the Bull’s journey, let me give you some information on the Bull.
He was owned by the Dept of Agriculture and was part of what was known as the Travelling Bull Scheme. He was in fact one of a group of Roaming Romeos who at that time traversed the country to increase the bovine population.
In 1956 Artificial Insemination had not yet been in general usage and the natural method of procreation was still in full swing as was their Eco Friendliness by their use of Public Transport.
As I pondered how I was going to tackle the problems associated with the transport of a bull over a Bank Holiday Weekend from Limerick to Binghamstown, I could not understand why the bull’s next performance was not in Tipperary or some other venue closer to Limerick. I was reminded of the crazy schedules of the Dance Bands at that time any of which in the course of their 6 day work week Tuesday through Sunday would criss cross the country playing Letterkenny,Limerick,Dundalk Dingle,Westport, and Waterford in that or some similar madcap geographic spread..
But back to the Bull. Throughout his Marathon Journey he needed to be fed and watered and the bedding in the Cattle Truck had to be replaced and the dung removed. The various train drivers and train guards on the journey had to ensure that there was no rough shunting, in fact nothing could be done that would damage his masculinity.
Now in 1955 there were no faxes, telexes emails or mobile phones and the telephone
system in operation was primitive. Before this bull could leave Limerick I had to
make contact with Ballybrophy Station and North Wall Dublin to put the arrangements
in train for his safe passage. Ballybrophy was not too difficult as being a station
on the Dublin-
At North Wall I was not so lucky. Firstly, making contact was most difficult and when I did the person at the other end of the phone was most unsympathetic to the bull in transit.A fter an outburst of expletives and a tirade of abuse for daring to land him with this problem at such a late hour late on the Saturday of a Bank Holiday Weekend when as he said he should be knocking back pints he went on to issue threats of what he wouldn’t do to the bull including making him fit only for Guard Duty in a Bovine Harem if he failed to get a colleague to come on duty in the early hours of Sunday morning to deal with the bull’s needs. Regarding the arrangements to be made beyond North Wall, he would not get involved and left it up to me to sort that out. Luckily, I had no difficulty at the intermediate stations as those to whom I spoke were of similar mind to the Station Master at Ballybrophy. They were all men with an affinity to farming and they appreciated the value of the contribution of farming to the local economy.
My final obstacle was encountered at Ballina. Here, the onward journey by road had to be arranged. Unfortunatel,y the Station Master was on leave and was replaced by a Relief Clerk who like the Bulls in the Travelling Bull Scheme belonged to a group of Travelling Gap Fillers drafted in to Stations in the event of Illness or Annual Leave of the resident staff.
On explaining to the Relief Clerk about the arrangements he had to make for the final leg of the journey from Ballina to Binghamstown he feigned ignorance of the names of local lorry drivers who provided services to C.I.E. from time to time on a contractual basis saying that it was his first time relieving in Ballina and he could not help. He was he said more interested in getting ready for the local hop where he might meet a Juliet than worrying about the Bovine Romeo en route to Binghamstown.
While pleading with him to assist, he hung up on me and despite my efforts to re-
At my wits end, I phoned the local Garda Station and asked if they could provide the names of a few lorry owners who transported livestock and to their credit they came up trumps.
Lady Luck smiled on me as the first call I made produced a willing carrier to transport Romeo to his Juliet in Binghamstown. Because the trip would be undertaken on Sunday, the carrier requested a premium payment to which I agreed even though I did not have the authority to do so and would likely have to pay the excess from my own pocket when the bill arrived. But I felt that the loss of a few pounds was nothing compared to the contribution I was making to facilitate the romantic meeting of the Travelling Tarbh and the Bellingham Beauty.
I never heard anything about the excess payment or if the Romantic Union produced an Issue. However the odds are that there are descendants of theTravelling Romeo and the Bellingham Beauty alive and well in Ireland today, oblivious to the Herculean efforts of a Junior Clerical Officer employed by C.I.E.in Limerick to bring their ancestors together on a Sunny Bank Holiday Weekend in August 1955.[c] J.C. 2009.
Poet, author, folklorist and traditional music aficionado, with a penchant for holding forth at length on the little vignettes and foibles of human nature that so many others pass by unnoted, Mattie Lennon’s writings are always entertaining and informative.