For a change, I’m on the inside of my Thursday Doors this week. McCarthy’s Bar is part of the Old Imperial Hotel, one of the oldest accommodation establishments in the historic town of Youghal, County Cork. The hotel was built in the 18th Century and was used as a stage coach stop on one of the Bianconi lines.
Carlo Bianconi was born in Tregolo, near Como in Italy, on September 24th. 1786. He was a wild youth, not very scholarly, so his father paid for him to be sent on an eighteen month apprenticeship to the art dealer Andrea Faroni. In 1801, along with three other young apprentices, Faroni and Bianconi crossed the French Alps and traversed France on foot, eventually arriving in Dublin in 1802. They were fortunate that their long journey was not in vain, as a fear of continental invasion, at the time, caused the British government to increase restrictions on the admission of foreigners.
They set up shop near what is now the Temple Bar area of Dublin and sixteen year old Bianconi continued to serve his apprenticeship as a street picture-seller. Every Monday his employer, Faroni, would send Carlo down south into rural Ireland with just four pence in his pocket, to cover his expenses until his return on Saturday. We know from the records that he was arrested in Passage East, Co Waterford and held in jail overnight, for selling pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte, Britain’s number one enemy at the time.
Carlo anglicized his name to Charles and in 1804, on the termination of his eighteen month apprenticeship, he decided not to return home but took to the road selling pictures and frames for himself, carrying his wares in a large box, strapped to his shoulders. He eventually settled in Tipperary, serving twice as mayor of Clonmel. He was a very enterprising man and became famous for his innovations in transport.
Bianconi was the founder of public transportation in Ireland, at a time preceding railways, and established regular horse-drawn carriage services on various routes from about 1815 onward. These were known as Bianconi Coaches and the first service, Clonmel to Cahir, took five to eight hours by boat but only two hours by Bianconi’s carriage. Travel on a Bian, as they were called, cost a penny farthing a mile and over the next 30 years a huge network of transport and communications was established, with Clonmel, Co Tipperary as its hub. In 1833 the Long Car went into production from Bianconi’s coach building premises in Clonmel, enabling him to carry up to twenty passengers, along with cargo and mail deliveries for both British and Irish Post Offices.
With the advent of railway in 1834 Bianconi realized that his coaching business had a limited future. He immediately began to buy shares in the different rail lines as they were being built and began selling off his coaches and long carts to his employees.
Inside McCarthy’s the doorway leading you from the bar to the bistro, with its traditional stained glass screens, is the original and about 200 years old. Bianconi himself might even have walked through them.
You can see the reflection of the entrance doors in the mirror over a beautiful old cast iron fireplace, which is lit every day in cold weather. I just love those tiles, too.
The wooden ceilings are gorgeous and the old tiled floor is just beautiful. In fact, I love everything about this place, especially the food. We had a full Irish breakfast after taking a long brisk walk on the beach.
Thanks for stopping by to view my Thursday Doors this week, I hope that last image hasn’t left your mouth watering too much. There are lots more doors in various locations to see on Norm’s blog by clicking the blue ‘frog’ link at the end of his post. Feel free to add some doors of your own, anytime from Thursday to Saturday each week.