Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Lord Mayor's Coach

The front of the coach
Click on any image for a larger version

There I was in the old Council Chamber in City Hall, waiting for the start of a lunchtime talk on the digitisation of the UCD Folklore Archive, when Greg Young invited me to join him after the talk to check out the Lord Mayor's Coach. His walking group had lined up an appointment to be shown the coach which is stored at the Council's depot in Ringsend.

Mick the Coach

So, after two bus journeys and a long walk, we hit the waterworks just as the official walk were approaching from the other direction. We joined up and went to meet Mick Kinahan who was going to show us the coach and tell us all about it.

Mick is now retired, but up to recently he was, among other things, in charge of the coach, and, more than that, he was responsible for getting the coach back to its present condition. Apparently, there were bits of it all over the place and the coach still needs another small piece to make the job complete.

It is lovingly, and expensively, looked after and stored in a special temperature controlled room at the depot. A far cry from the impression given in this piece of shite reporting last year.

The coach was originally drawn by six horses with a postillion (rider-driver) on the leading pair and a coachman seated at the front of the coach. These days it is drawn by only two horses.

I'll try and keep the text relatively short for the rest of this post and hope you enjoy the pictures. I can't show you a side view of the coach as its storage space is quite confined, but you can check it out in the first link above.

There is an almost life size carving at each of the four corners of the coach. The one above is Justice, but for some reason her scales are folded on her knee. Perhaps they would bounce around too much when the coach is moving, or, like the statue at the entrance to Dublin Castle, there may be a deeper symbolism involved.

This lady has the horn of plenty (cornucopia) and, unlike the other three, has one breast exposed.

Her ladyship has a different horn, packed with dosh to overflowing. There appear to be some very real coins there below the gilt, but that's another story.

The last of the four has her sword sheathed and also sports a lily or a sheaf or corn. Not quite swords into ploughshares but I'm sure that must be the sentiment.

Then there's all the stuff around the top. At the front, the keys of the city and a hat that I assume represents that worn by the mayor in days of yore.

At the back, we have the folded scales of justice again.

At each of the four corners we have an angel. Horrible looking creatures, but this seems to have been a fashion of the times. Cherubs abound, I've seen them on the Jersey mace and in paintings.

At the side, two more of them, with the city sword and mace along with the three flaming towers for Dublin and the harp for the nation as a whole.

And a slightly more formal set of arms, mercifully angel-free.

Mick explains the workings of the coach from the inside. He needs the window open to communicate, and, indeed, so would the Lord Mayor have, in order to hear the acclaim of his people and wave his hand out the window. They were all hises in those days.

However, if the natives (sorry, citizens) got stroppy and started throwing rotten eggs and tomatoes, or tried to open the door and pull out the mayor, he had the perfect defence. There is a window, like the old train windows with the strap, which he can pull up, and in so doing the outer door handle is disabled. You couldn't be up to those fellas.

Each of the coach doors has a painting.

The one above shows the statue of King Billy in College Green and the side of the then Irish Parliament building (now the Bank of Ireland)

There is also a painting at the back of the coach. I'm not sure whether this portrays the welcoming of the king or the mayor but no doubt, it too is full of symbolism.

The suspension is something else. The cabin is suspended, independently of the main chassis, by leaf springs and leather straps and it could almost sway in the wind it's so sensitive. I had the privilege of getting up inside the cabin and it is really something. I got a bit overcome, waving to my loyal supporters on the outside. They reciprocated with enthusiastic smiles and gestures of loyalty and gratitude. Not an egg or tomato in sight.

But back to symbolism, what is this snake doing in the inner suspension of the cabin? I thought St. Patrick sorted them out over a century earlier.

This, I think, is an Irish wolfhound in the outer cabin suspension. A native species at least.

If you're curious about all this symbolism, I gather there's a guy doing a paper on it which will be published in the not too distant future. Can't wait myself.

The group of walkers and talkers who kindly invited me to share their visit. Greg is the one beside Mick.


  1. That would be Mick Kinahan, also a stalwart of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland's Dublin branch, much involved in canal clean-ups and other voluntary activities.


  2. Thanks Brian. Yes, the same. I didn't get his surname, but I'll add it in now.

    He mentioned the waterways and a number of upcoming events.

    Hope all well with you.