Dublin's Horse-Drawn Carriages, in Photos


Paddy Harris has used his stables in Smithfield for more than 20 years. “I was around animals all my life,” he says, “and all these places years and years ago, were holding pens for the cattle market in Smithfield.” There’s talk of the stables being be sold in the new year, he says.

Outlines of hooves sprayed black for a funeral service outside stables near North Strand. One remaining avenue for regular work as a carriage driver in Dublin is with horse-drawn funerals, which requires specialised carriages, equipment, horses, and separate licenses.

Paddy Harris’ horse, Christine, who he has owned for more than 10 years. “My grandkids can come in and walk around her, underneath her, anything. She’s super.” Harris is searching for a new stable for Christine, as he’s unsure about the future of his current one.

The past seven months have been quiet for Harris and Christine because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Two people just came over to me yesterday and asked me, ‘How old is the horse?’ and ‘What’s her name?’ and that. But no one has money now,” he says.

Harris wants to see a licensing authority reinstated to ensure that tours are given responsibly, and the horses’ welfare is properly monitored. “We need something like the plate on the back of your carriage – and if they haven’t got that then they’re taken off the road. Years ago, when you came on the green and you hadn’t got your plate on you, you were gone,” he says.

Harris prepares Christine, a half-breed mix between a trotting horse and a gypsy horse, for a carriage trip into town to meet friends and, hopefully, to find customers. Nowadays, though, he’s spending more on bedding and feed for the horses than he’s making.

Christine shuffles in front of the camera. But she’s exceptionally gentle and patient, says Harris. “Messing with the lads the other week, I put a facemask on her.”

Paddy washes and brushes Christine. “There were always horses in the family. Years ago, when I was young, my mother and her sisters used to have a donkey,” he says. “A relation of my grandfather’s had a donkey and he used to give it to my mother to go up the Greenhills Road and pick the shamrocks.”

Stella, who belongs to a friend of Harris’ son watches from her stable as he lays out fresh bedding for Christine. It’s been impossible to make any money since the pandemic hit. “Overall you wouldn’t be saving anything. There’s 20 quid yesterday for these three bags of bedding. That roll of hay is nearly gone, we have to get more before the weekend – that’s €50,” Harris says.

Paddy Harris, or Padser to his friends, says that some of the cobwebs in his stables are likely older than he is. Diminishing space for parking on St Stephen’s Green, normally one of their busiest areas, is another setback for carriage drivers. Where they had parked for generations is now under the Luas line.

Harris’ carriages in his stables in Smithfield. According to Harris, he was given a quote for insurance at an increased rate of 170 percent of what he had been previously paying

Harris holds a photograph of him and his two sons on horseback. “My son that drives the taxi used to have a carriage as well, and my other son, he had a horse and carriage too. I bought him a horse when he was young and he never looked back either. It’s great for kids.” There’s nothing else out there, I can’t give it up,” says Harris with a sigh, as he preps Christine for a trip into town. Harris, who can’t drive a car, sets off in his carriage to meet his friends at St Stephen’s Green.

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Author:

Hugh Quigley: Hugh Quigley is a Dublin-based freelance documentary photographer and photojournalist, who grew up in rural Tipperary. His work focuses on humanity’s attempts to control, utilize, and co-exist with the natural world. He has published two photobooks, Laws of the Leash and Hospes.

Reader responses

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Patricia Doyle
at 23 December at 22:45

Where can we contribute money?

Mia P
at 3 January at 18:04

Same question as Patricia Doyle’s: Where can contributions be sent directly to Mr. Harris for Christine’s expenses?

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