Jaysus, me Jarvey!

From a Jaunting Car to Civil War: Arthur Griffith arriving at the 2nd Dáil, 1921

The photograph shows a not unusual scene in Dublin in the 1920s. A single passenger sitting sideways on a side car pulled by a single horse and driven by a coachman – called a Jarvey in Ireland. The passenger in this case was Arthur Griffith, soon to succeed De Valera as president of the Irish Republic, arriving at UCD Earlsfort Terrace for the treaty debates probably in late December 1921. The photograph was taken by W. D Hogan, a prolific and talented photographer of the period; he is credited with some of the last images of Michael Collins. This photo first appeared in a memorial brochure for Griffith and Michael Collins in 1922 and a copy was given to UCD library by the Publicity Department of Fine Gael in 1954.

Arthur Griffith, December 1921

Arthur Griffith arriving at UCD Earlsfort Terrace for the treaty debates, December 1921

The period of 1921-1922 was a period of great change in Ireland. Griffith, the President, would soon be dead as would Michael Collins, Chairman of the Irish Republic; a body which would itself soon give way to the Irish Free State.

It was a period of transition too in the Dublin cab hire trade. The other ‘star’ of the photograph, the side-car or jaunting car, was still very much in use. Cabs and cars were still regulated directly by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and underwritten by a vast body of bye laws and legislation that controlled both vehicles and drivers and specified, for example, that every driver of a carriage … shall at all times be perfectly sober, clean in his person, and of decent apparel … However, by the 1920’s horses were definitely giving way to horse power. Despite the resistance of Jarvies and a militant ‘Anti-Taxicabs Association’, the first motor taxis made their appearance on November 1, 1911 and could charge (a hefty) 10 pence per mile.

Contemporary horse-drawn carriages

Contemporary horse-drawn carriages, Grand Canal Place, Dublin (Copyright PL Chadwick)

The scarcity of petrol during the ‘Emergency‘ (1939-1946) gave the Jarvies and their horses a temporary reprieve and the Dublin Carriage Bye Laws of 1946 still declares that drivers shall not ‘ feed their horses in any public thoroughfare except from nose-bags’. By the 1950s however, numbers were dwindling. In an RTE news report in 1962, Kevin O’Kelly spoke to what must have been one of the last of the horse drawn Jarvies, Michael Murphy.

This century has seen some return of the horse drawn vehicles to the city in the form of excursion tours around Stephen’s Green but these are strictly for tourists. They are wonderful celebrations of nostalgia and the picturesque but are very removed from the utility and function of the single horse, side-car and jarvey that brought Griffith to the Dáil just a little over one hundred years ago.

  • This post was researched and written by Eugene Roche, Assistant Librarian, UCD Special Collections.

Dublin Metropolis Police District (1872). Abstract of the statute laws in force relating to carriages, carts and horses plying within the police district of Dublin …
Dublin : printed by Alexander Thom. UCD Special Collections (29.S.42)

Hogan, W.D. (1921). [Photograph of Arthur Griffith arriving at Earlsfort Terrace in a sidecar with jarvey].Dublin : W. D.Hogan. UCD Special Collections 48.P.4/20

Kearns K. C. (1997) Dublin Street Life and Lore – An Oral History of Dublin’s Streets and their Inhabitants: The Recollections of Dublin’s Tram Drivers, Lamplighters and Street Dealers. Dublin : Gill & Macmillan

O’Brien, J. V. (1982) Dear dirty Dublin : a city in distress, 1899-1916. Berkeley : University of California Press. James Joyce Library 941.83 OBR

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