Going out to work in Ireland 1947 | Season 3 – Episode 71
Wheels Oct 06, 2023
In this episode we bring you back to 1947 with a first-hand account from the then 14-year-old Sean Furlong working at his first job for The Dublin Laundry Company, located at Dartry and Milltown, Dublin. Sean recounts his laundry delivery route through Co. Kildare aboard a Morris Commercial 7-ton and how lingering to watch the mighty Maedb G.S.R. 800 got him into trouble. In 1959 Sean would go on to establish Furlong’s Coach Hire in Dundrum, Dublin.
LEAVING THE DEPOT
In Sean’s words, ‘As the trustful Morris commercial 7-ton sped towards the plains of Kildare on that May morning of 1947, loaded to the roof with fresh smelling laundry, consisting of bagwash, fully finished and huge hampers of hotel linen, the snow-capped Dublin and Wicklow mountains, glistened in the sunlight. The early hours of the next morning, would see us returning the same road, loaded with foul smelling laundry.
RATIONS FOR THE DAY
In the meantime, a hard day’s work lay ahead of us, with little sustenance, rather than a chunk of Gur cake, some broken biscuits, a small bottle of lemonade and five Woodbines, would see us through until we got our tea for free at Osberstown House Hotel, at 8:00 that evening.
The villages and towns of Blackchurch, Red Cow, Rathcoole, Johnstown, Kil, Naas and Sallins and all the points in between had to be served, as Kildare was a once-a-week delivery run and collection.
THE VAN BOYS
To a 14-year-old boy, who just got his first job, the future looked rosy. As I was big for my age, I was allotted to the “Country Van” as I could carry hampers on my back and all for £1-2 shillings and 6 pence per week. If I worked hard and was diligent at my work, I might become a laundry man for the Dublin Milltown laundry.
As there were two van boys, and providing we sorted our parcels right, the day would pass without incident, providing you didn’t break your neck jumping off the running boards of the moving van, as you had to do.
THE DUBLIN EXPRESS
So, the next day went without incident, until about seven o’clock that evening. I left the van with two parcels for two customers. One of the parcels contained a dozen starched detachable little collers for an old gent who lived in a house with a half mile drive to it. So having delivered and collected the collers, I made my way to the next customer, the Station Master at Sallins station. At the station I heard the telegraph bell ringing the signal box, I knew a train was due, so I asked the Station Master what type it was? “You’re in luck son’” he said, “It’s the Dublin Express and it’s headed by the Maedb”.
As a keen railway fan, I knew that the Maedb was one of the three best locomotives ever built at Inchicore in 1939 for the GSR (Great Southern Railway).
They were named after former Queens of Ireland, Maedb (800), Maċa (801) and Táilte (802). They used eight tons of coal and 5,000 gallons of water on the run from Cork to Dublin and could reach a speed of 100 miles an hour, weighed 92 tons and hauling 550 tons.
The Driver and Fireman on the footplate were my heroes. I went as near as I dared to the edge of the platform to see this wonderful example of Irish engineering rush through the station at 80 mph. The platform furniture, the weighing scales, and the chocolate dispensing machine would put River Dance to shame as it sped through. And to think that twenty minutes later, it would gently kiss the buffers at Kingsbridge Station (Heuston).
Through the smell of hot metal, steam and coal dust, I bent down to pick up the collers. To my dismay, I spotted them like wasps in a whirlwind halfway to Hazelhatch. The slipstream had caught them, and so were my chances of ever becoming a Van man.
The week went slowly by until the following Thursday as we were loading the van for Kildare. The Tannoy blared out that I was to go to Mr. Benson’s office. Meekly knocking on his door, he roared out “Where are Charley Kelly’s collers?” I had no option but to tell him. “You’ll not watch any trains in my time”, he said. How much do you get a week? £1-2/6 I replied. “Right, until the collers are paid for, 2 and 6 will be stopped out of your wages each week.
PAYING MY DEBT
It was like Lent twice in the one year. In those days, money was scarce. The pound was handed up at home and so for the next five weeks, I would miss my twice weekly visit to the cinema and have to cut down on the Woodbines and the four pence wafers.
Forty years later I encountered Maedb in the Ulster Transport Museum, looking good as ever. The laundry van is in the transport museum at Howth Castle.
This is the story of Sean Furlong – Retired Coach Driver and Guide
Information sources and photo credits:
Alf van Beem
Irish Railway Modeller
Irish Rail Trains
Brittas Bay Antiques
Dublin City Public Libraries – Michael Corcoran
Ernie’s Railway Archive
HB Ice Cream
National Museum of Ireland – Valentine Photographic Collection
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum