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HOME > Classical Novels > Money-making men > CHAPTER III. CHARLES BIANCONI, THE IRISH CAR-MAN.
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 The life of a self-made man is at all times a deeply interesting study.  We like to see how he mastered surrounding circumstances, with what bravery he met fate, and how he fared when he had triumphed and become strong.  Such a man is not always a model to be held up for .  Often there is a hardness and coarseness about him which is , and an assumption of greatness on account of success, which, in good society at any rate, will be resented.  When the late Mr. Peabody was honoured with a statue under the shadow of the Royal Exchange, and within the heart of the City, it was said by some ill-natured Yankee, that if England wished to statues to such men, there were plenty of rich men America could supply us with for that purpose; and certainly it is not in the true interests of humanity that we should get into the habit of paying too much to worshippers of the Golden it will be much to be deprecated if that be the worship of the future; but it is a danger in these levelling days, when democracy is coming more and more to the front, against which the preacher and the moralist must ever guard the nation.  At all times the tone of public thought must be pitched low, and when rank has lost its prestige, the danger of being swamped by vulgar plutocrats is immensely increased.  As was to be expected, Mrs. O’Connell is very proud of her father, and, as was also to be expected, the father was very proud of himself.  He was a very man.  He even could not spell the word money properly; but no man knew better what it meant, and no man could have ever anticipated that he would have secured so much of it as he did.  As a boy he had the reputation of being stupid, and also wild; and p. 69it seems to have been with the view of getting rid of him that his father sent him from his home in the Lombard Highlands, in company with one Andrea Faroni, to England, where he was to learn to become a in prints, , and eye-glasses.  It was a fortunate thing for Charles Bianconi that Favoni brought him instead to Ireland.  In London—the great cold world of London—it would have fared hard with the poor Italian lad.  In Dublin and the country round, the good-looking foreigner, with his bright eyes and his civil tongue, met with a warm reception—a reception all the more warm, inasmuch as he was of the Irish faith; but even then it is strange how he as he did.  Without knowing a word of the language, and with fourpence in his pocket to pay expenses, he was sent out into the country on the Monday morning with two pounds’ worth of prints to sell, and with the understanding that he was to be back by Saturday night; but the lad had made up his mind to be a somebody, and he was as good as his word; and he had not been long in Ireland before he hit on the idea which led him to fame and fortune.  
One of his first lessons in Ireland was, he tells us, the great difference between the pedlar to tramp on foot, and his more fortunate fellow who could post or ride on horseback.  When he became a small shopkeeper at Carrick, the need of was brought home to him in a still more forcible manner.  “I supplied,” he writes, “my Carrick shop with gold-leaf from Waterford, going down in Tom Mahony’s boat to buy it.  Carrick-on-Suir is twelve or thirteen miles from Waterford by land, but the of the river make it twenty-four by water.  This boat, then, was the only public conveyance.  The time of its departure had to depend upon the tide, and it took four or five hours to make the journey.”  One day, going to Waterford by the boat, Bianconi got with the wet, and was laid up with cold and pleurisy for a couple of months.  This Irish experience was putting him in the right track; and in 1815, when good horses were to be had cheap, in consequence of the peace, he had the courage to start his cars, running at first between Carrick and Clonmel, a distance of some twelve miles.  At first Bianconi only carrying the poorer people.  There was the aristocratic mail-coach for the people of quality; but greatness was thrust upon him.  p. 70In 1830 he carried the mails direct from the post-office, and had bought up some leading coaching lines.  In his latter years he had 1,400 horses at work, and daily covered 3,800 miles.  Still further, to give the reader an idea of the extent of his business, we may note there were 140 stations for the change of horses, and that these latter consumed from 3,000 to 4,000 tons of hay, and from 30,000 to 40,000 barrels of oats .  In England Bianconi could never have made his fortune in this way.  In Ireland he appeared at the right time, and was the right man in the right place.
As a to Ireland it is almost impossible to Bianconi’s usefulness.  The farmer who drove spent three days in making his market; when the cars came into operation one day was sufficient, saving two clear days and expense of his horse.  Another good object gained was the opening up the resources of the interior of the country.  And lastly, there was the civilising effects of the intercommunion created among classes of the country, by means of travelling together on one or other of the Bianconi cars.  The way in which the system was organised ensured its success, “I take my drivers,” said Mr. Bianconi at the meeting of the British Association for the of Science, “from the lowest grade of the establishment.  They are progressively advanced, according to their respective merits, as opportunity offers, and they know that nothing can deprive them of these rewards, and also of a pension of their full wages in cases of old age or accident, unless it be their own and conduct.”  The whole establishment must have had a beneficial influence over a large area.  Any man found guilty of uttering a falsehood, however , was instantly dismissed, and this consequently insured truth, accuracy, and punctuality.  It must be remembered, too, at the time in which Mr. Bianconi commenced his career, the county of Tipperary was much disorganised, owing to the maladministration of the laws, and to the almost total of the bond which ought to have united the upper and classes of society.  At that time the Catholics were generally looked down upon as beings of an inferior race.  A Catholic was not permitted to buy or become of land.  In his very short , Mr. Bianconi thus describes the of the Roman Catholics:—
“One of the of which the Catholics used to tell p. 71me, was the unfair way in which the Catholics were treated in Clonmel.  Amongst others, they relate a practice then in existence.  The Protestant shopkeepers, upon a certain day, used to go about the town a tax upon their Catholic neighbours who attempted to open shops within the town walls of Clonmel.  They used to from each individual from two to four guineas, which they called intrusion money.  My informants especially praised an old Mrs. Ryan, now dead, who boldly refused to comply with their demands.  The tax-makers, therefore, seized her goods.  She afterwards recovered them at law, and her spirited conduct led to the of this .  We Catholics had at one time to pay a tax upon all bought merchandise, while our more favoured Protestant and fellow-townsmen were saved not only from a needless , but from the contact with such a class as the toll-gatherers.  In the house, 112, Main Street, was the news-room, which I joined.  I was greatly struck by the loud and talk constantly going on between a Mr. Jephson and a Sir Richard Jones, and two more of their set, whereas I and my fellow-Papists were not allowed to speak above a whisper.  This I resolved not to submit to; for I could see no reason why, when I had paid my money in a public place, I should not share all equal rights.  Others followed my example; and as we all, Protestants and Papists, indulged in equally noisy , a stranger entering our news-room would have been puzzled to say which party were the privileged of the code.”
Irish like, Mr. Bianconi managed now and then to have his joke.  One day, when he was sending home in a large wooden case a very superior looking-glass, an old lady asked what was in the box thus carefully conveyed.  “The of the union,” was Bianconi’s reply.  The old woman’s delight and knew no bounds.  She knelt down on her knees in the middle of the road, to thank God for having preserved her so long, that at last, in her old days, she should have seen the Repeal of the union.  As another illustration, we quote the story of the car:—
“His first attempt he thought was going to be a failure; scarcely anybody went by car.  People were used to along on foot, and they continued to do, thus saving their money, which was more valuable than their time.  Another p. 72man would have abandoned the ; but Mr. Bianconi did nothing of the kind.  He started an opposition car, at a cheaper rate, which was not known to be his—not even by the rival drivers, who raced against each other for the foremost place.  The excitement of the contest, the cheapness of the fare, the occasional free lifts given to passengers, soon began to attract a paying public, and before very long both the cars every day came in full.  He had bought a great, strong, yellow horse, as he called him, to run in the opposition car; he gave, he said, £20 for the animal.  One evening his own recognised driver came to him in great pride and excitement.  ‘You know the great, big, yallah horse under the opposition car?  Well, sir, he’ll never run another yard.  I broke his heart this night.  I raced him from beyant Moore-o’-Barns, and he’ll never thravel agin.’  Mr. Bianconi told me he was obliged to show the greatest gratification at the loss of his beast; but it gave him enough of the opposition car, which there and then came to an end, like the poor horse.  The habit of travelling on a car increased among a people when they had become alive to its advantage.”
The main principle on which Bianconi acted was never to despise poor people, or small interests.  “His great enterprise,” wrote Dr. Cook Taylor, “arose from the problems, how to make a two-wheeled car pay while running for the accommodation of poor districts and poor people, as regularly as the mail-coaches did for the rich; and when that was solved, how to regulate a system of traffic by a network of cars, the cars increasing in size as the traffic required, from the short one-horse car, holding six people, to the long four-horse car, holding twenty people.”  One extract more will give the reader Mr. Bianconi’s secret of money-making:—
“I remember when I was earning a shilling a day in Clonmel, I used to live upon eightpence, and that did not prevent the people from making me their mayor.  I did the same at Cashel and at Thurles, and that does not prevent me from at present living between the towns, on a property of seven miles , and on which I pay her £7 2s. 6d. per year, or from being a J.P. or a D.L.
“It gives me sincere pleasure in seeing you follow the sound principle of having your wants within your means.  Don’t be fond of changes.  It is better for you to be at the head of a small republic than at the foot of a great one.”
p. 73Mrs. O’Connell writes:—
“I may add, as a , what my father once said to a young Yorkshireman, ‘Keep before the wheels, young man, or they will run over you.  Always keep before the wheels.’”
In his way, Mr. Bianconi was a religious man.  He and his priest were always on good terms.  He did not run his cars on a Sunday, because the Irish, being a religious people, will not travel for business on that day.  He also found his horses worked better for one day’s rest in seven.  With Daniel O’Connell he was on the most intimate terms, and Sheil was often a guest at his house.  He was an out-and-out Liberal, and always maintained that when the Tory landlords saw that they would fail to get one of their own party into parliament, they encouraged their to vote for the Home Rule , in the hope of the steady-going Liberal who could afford to be honest.  “I have known,” writes Mrs. O’Connell, “a great Protestant land-owner boast of having given tacit support to the ultra-Liberal candidate, in the hope that he could thereby cause in the Liberal benches.”
It is not pleasant to read that Bianconi, true friend to Ireland as he was, narrowly escaped the penalty too generally attached to ownership of land in Ireland.  It was said that he was marked out to be shot!—it was even thought that the deed had been planned and attempted, and only by the parish priest, who asked him to take a seat in his gig on his way home from Cashel.  Bianconi had driven in from Longfield in his own carriage, but he accepted the priest’s invitation and went back with him.  It seems there are two roads leading from Cashel towards Longfield House, and the priest chose the longer of the two.  “Why do you take this road?” said Bianconi.  “I prefer it,” replied the priest, and nothing more was said about it then; but it was suspected that the old priest had heard something, or got some warning, for it afterwards became known that a party of men had that night been watching on the other road.  Happily for the credit of Ireland, Bianconi expired peacefully in 1873, at a ripe old age, as is manifest when we state that he was born in 1786.  One of his last acts was characteristic.  Struck with , he discovered, about a week before his death an error of eightpence in the for poor-rates out of a large rent cheque.  Verily, of such is the kingdom p. 74of Mammon.  Mrs. O’Connell, however, has done her best to make her father’s memory ; but she is a in the art of book-making, and we must take the will for the deed.  Let us hope her countrymen will study the example she holds out to them of a man , and careful, and economical, and eager for the main chance.  It is such men Ireland needs far more than for Home Rule.  In the colonies no one learns more readily the value of than the Irishman, or gives us a finer example of how to reap the golden harvest which it ensures; but in his native land the Irishman loves more to spend money than earn it.  Sir Thomas Dargan, the great railway , was, however, one of those exceptions which teach us how, even in his native land, the poorest Irishman may a fortune.  Young Dargan received a good education, and after leaving school was placed in a surveyor’s office.  With little beyond this training, and a character for the strictest integrity, he left Ireland to push his fortunes.  His first employment was under Telford, who was then engaged in constructing the Holyhead Road.  When this was completed Dargan returned to Ireland, and in several , in which he was fortunate enough to gain sufficient to form the of that princely fortune which entitled him to the of a millionaire.  After the highly successful result of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Mr. Dargan, with the view of developing the industrial resources of his native country, and with a certainly without parallel in one who had been “the architect of his own fortune,” resolved on founding an Industrial Exhibition in Dublin, and placed £20,000 in the hands of a committee, consisting of the leading citizens, and empowered them to erect a building, and to defray all the necessary expenses connected with the , on the sole condition that no begging-box should be handed found for further contributions.  He undertook, moreover, to advance whatever additional sums might be required to carry the enterprise to a successful issue.  In fact, before the Exhibition opened (May 12, 1853), Mr. Dargan’s advances are said not to have fallen far short of £100,000.

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