Roscommon people and the Bianconi connection

Pauline Scott It brought news and indeed newspapers to every corner of the county long before the Roscommon People was even thought of, and this week local historian John Kerrigan has established a connection between the enterprise of the famous Charles Bianconi and Roscommon’s newest newspaper. The archway at the top of Harrison Centre, as it fronts out onto the Square, provides a clue to the connection. While much of the traffic is now pedestrian, in bygone days it was the Bianconi stagecoaches that could be found making their way down the street which is now home to Harrison Centre. Through his examination of the maps which accompany Griffith’s Valuation of 1856, John has discovered that the Bianconi stables in Roscommon were located on what is now the left hand side of the street as one travels towards Tesco and indeed a wall to the rear of the Roscommon People premises at No. 4 Harrison Centre still bears implements once probably used to hang harnesses from the weary horses. The map is not the only evidence. The accompanying lists for Griffiths Valuation gives details of the townland and occupiers. At number 20 on Main Street, Charles Bianconi is listed as the occupier, having the office and yard leased from Patrick Banahan. The property had an annual rateable valuation of €10. Charles Bianconi was a formidable entrepreneur in Ireland in the early 19th century. Born Carlo Bianconi in Costa Masnaga in Italy on September 24th, 1786, he moved to Ireland in 1802, at the age of just 15. He worked as a hawker and picture seller in Waterford and Clonmel, an introduction to business which was to stand him in good stead.  He recognised the need for transport between various provincial towns and established a network of stagecoaches. The routes were established from July 1815 onwards and the coaches were known as ‘Bianconi coaches’. The timing was fortunate. After the Napoleonic wars, the price of horses halved and forage was cheap. In the beginning the cars could carry four to six passengers, but as the business developed, so too did the passenger numbers and in latter years the stagecoaches could carry up to 16 passengers. By 1843 he had 100 vehicles on the road and a daily mileage of 3,800 miles. Fervent Catholic He was a fervent Catholic and a close friend of Daniel O’Connell. He was twice elected Mayor of Clonmel.  After making his money on this form of transport, he also recognised that the railway would spell the demise of his business and invested heavily in rail stock before selling his company on liberal terms to his agent and employees in 1865. The Roscommon business was probably at its busiest in the 1850s, before the opening of the Great Northern and Western Railway line between Athlone and Roscommon on February 13th 1860. Charles Bianconi died in September 1875, sixty years after the first Bianconi coaches ran. He is buried at Boherlahan, Co. Tipperary.