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Irelands Rural Postman


Irelands Rural Postman

“Oh how the world has changed! From walking miles on foot, hitching a lift on a passing cart to bicycles and vans. Don’t even mention those blasted Eircodes!” said Donal, retired postman.

The postman delivers more than just the post – he delivers news, gossip, information and companionship. He was a fountain of knowledge – ‘sher, doesn’t he know everyone inside the county bounds? And a few the other side…’

The Irish Postman was dreaded and welcomed in equal measures. Through the hard years the postman brought telegrams, which were mostly the bearer of bad news. This was even more evident in rural Ireland. Farming families often went weeks without another person darkening their door. Some people lived ‘out in the sticks’, in other words in a remote location and their post would be left in the local shop or pub – whichever they frequented. In many cases the shop and pub were the same establishment!

The history of the postman is rooted in people and places. People relocated; human nature being what it is, the need for reassurance and information back and forth led to post in all forms. Here in Ireland post gave us an insight into the bravery of emigrants in their new lives. In many instances post was the only communication between emigrants and the families they left at home.

As life evolved so too did the role of the postman. The twentieth century saw many of these changes put into action. The early twentieth century saw the postman walk or use a donkey and cart. Bicycles were introduced and welcomed with open arms! They are still vGrandad_hurley_Postman_circa_1950.jpgery important to postal workers. Vans and cars became part of the postal fleet in the 1960s and 1970s, and continue to be a huge part of the postal system.

My granddad Donncha walked his postal route in Ballingeary. His time as the local postman was one of great pride. Every day he put his satchel across his chest, filled with letters and postcards, and often little packages. He then set off on his route to deliver them without doubt being a born-and-bred local was an advantage – he knew everyone and every address, and everyone knew the postman – Donncha Hurley. (picture circa. 1950)

Path of the Irish postie

‘Post boys’ were in fact men delivering the post. They were badly paid and often attacked. Most walked their routes; those lucky enough to have their own horses rode them on their route. In 1789 the Mail Coach was introduced. Before the introduction of the post-box in Find us on facebook lee valley ireland New Dublin city postmen walked the streets ringing a bell to get attention and collect the post. They were called ‘bellmen’. In the cities postmen used bicycles, in rural areas they used a donkey and cart to get around.

The fear is that technology will kill the postal service. Emails, e-cards and social media are ways people can stay in contact and share their lives through text messages, photos and video. I don’t believe this will happen in our life-times but who knows – back in the 1950s could any of us have predicted email?



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  • (caitriona hurley)
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