rocky road from Shercock to Dublin
was a far away place from Shercock in the 1940s and
the sixty-mile trip took considerable time; the maximum
speed of most vehicles was about 30 miles per hour. If you
wished to travel to the big city you had the option of travelling
by bus or by hackney car or on youre bike. The possibility
of getting a lift in a lorry on certain days also existed.
The saying at the time was, - you could hike it, bike
it, or bus it. By Brendan Murray
With the exception of Dr. Burke, nobody in town owned a
car, nor could they afford the trip to Dublin by hackney
service. Paddy McGorry and Patsy Cassidy owned the two hackney
cars seen daily around the town and they were hired mainly
for short trips. The 1940s was definitely not an era of
affluence and prosperity.
The bus for Dublin departed on weekday mornings from outside
OMahonys pub and returned each night at 9.30pm. It
was then garaged in the galvanised iron shed opposite Myless
orchid on the Bailieboro road. The bus route to Dublin was
via Bailieboro, Mullagh, Moynalty, Kells, Navan, Dunshaughlin
and Dunboyne. Though, the journey was comfortable, it was
slow; passengers were picked up at depots in towns, and
anywhere else along the route. There were no Express Buses
in those days.
The cheapest and best modus operandi was to get a lift in
one of the two locally owned trucks that transported goods
to and from Dublin twice a week. Of course, you had to be
friendly with the driver and discreetly book your lift in
advance. Benny Wallace drove a Bedford truck for the McEntee
group of businesses; his truck was nicknamed the SS
Wallace, and his colleagues refered to Benny himself
as the skipper of the SS Wallace. Johnny Markey
drove a similar truck for the Pete Burns Enterprises. Anybody
lucky enough to get a lift with either of these kind gentlemen
would be sure not to be left stranded if they were delayed
or got lost in the big city. Benny and Johnny would wait
The initial part of the truck route differed from the bus
route; the trucks travelled via Kingscourt, Nobber and Kells
compared to the bus route via Bailieboro. Travelling by
truck was the more enjoyable option because the drivers
delivered parcels or messages to certain business premises
on route, some of which happened to be watering holes
where both driver and passenger were warmly welcomed and
sampled the refreshments and perhaps used the house facilities.
One day in the month of October 1941 my father got a lift
to Dublin in Johnny Markeys truck and on my mothers
insistence he agreed to take me with him. As we climbed
into Johnnys truck early that morning, Johnny positioned
a cushion between the driver and passenger seats for me
to sit and a toy gun was revealed under the cushion. Johnny
put it in his jacket pocket, remarking that his youngest
son had spent the previous evening searching for it. It
was under his nose, he remarked adding, hell
be delighted that I found it - it was a present for his
Our first call was to Garlands pub in Kingscourt where
both Johnny and my father each had a glass of ale and I
was treated to lemonade. As we were departing, the proprietor
asked Johnny if he was transporting potatoes to the Dublin
market. Johnny replied in the affirmative. The proprietor
responded, Be careful. I thought this response
unnecessary as Johnny had a reputation for careful driving.
As the journey progressed, the conversation between my father
and Johnny became relaxed and affable and by way of conversation
my father said to him, I suppose, Johnny, you miss
owning the business yourself.
Not particularly, Johnny replied and added When
I left the French army, I started the small trucking business
but the strike that time finished me and he continued
philosophically, Best forgotten, Im happy with
what Ive got.
What was it like in the French army? my father
asked and he added, You were very young then.
I was indeed; life was tough; I still remember some
experiences very vividly; there were times that were frightening,
Johnny replied pensively.
Did you drive a truck in the army enquired my
I did, replied Johnny and he added, I
remember driving at 50 miles an hour in retreat.
To my young mind, the word retreat meant reverse
so I had difficulty in understanding Johnnys comment
because he was now driving forward at only 30 miles an hour.
I thought that perhaps he should turn around and start reversing
to enable us to get to Dublin 20 miles an hour faster; granted
the lorry was carrying a big load of potatoes which slowed
us down a bit.
On that occasion when we were retreating, Johnny
continued, a young French soldier was with me in
the passenger seat and as I leaned back when changing gear
a bullet went past me and hit him in the temple. He just
said mére, which means mother
he was dead in a few seconds; He was just a kid, only 18
Can you speak French, Mr Markey, can you speak it
better than the school master, Mr McCann, I asked.
Johnny looked at me with compassion and understanding in
his eyes and replied - Yes Brian, I can speak it better
than the Master; I learned it the hard way.
The answer amazed me because I had thought that nobody in
the world knew more about anything than our schoolmaster.
Whats the most important French word,
Thats a very good question he replied
and he looked at my father before saying Well, it
depends on the circumstances, but in my experience the most
important word is ami which means friend
and he continued, I was once guarding a small group
of prisoners of war when enemy gunfire started in the nearby
hills and at that very moment I heard the sound of running
footsteps behind me; I thought that some prisoners were
escaping so I turned quickly and fired; To my horror, I
realised that I had shot at a French officer; he was running
to his unit in the hills; my bullet had blown a button off
his lapel. He stopped and waved his hands frantically at
me as he shouted ami, ami, ami. I was half expecting
to be court-martialled for that mistake but I never heard
a word about it afterwards. The word friend
was a very important word that day and I suppose it still
is, reflected Johnny.
I looked side ways at Johnny and began to realise that there
was more to this light framed smallish man than met the
eye; his brown dusty sports coat, open neck shirt and battered
cap, jauntily pushed back from his forehead gave him a relaxed
casual air which was deceptive; he seemed to enjoy my fathers
company. They understood each other.
We had now entered the main street in Moynalty. Johnny pulled
up his truck outside a pub and said to my father,
I have a message for here. We can have a drink and hear
The tall dark haired affable man behind the bar welcomed
Johnny and my father and served a glass of ale to each of
them; I was treated to lemonade. We were about to leave
when the man called Johnny to one side saying, Johnny
Ive got a bit of news that might be very important;
it might be best if you took a small detour on the road
He continued speaking quietly to Johnny as my father and
I left the pub. Johnny joined us outside and told my father
that the proprietor had advised him of action being taken
by objectors to the transportation of potatoes to the Dublin
market from outside their territory. Seemingly
these objectors were stopping and turning back trucks on
the normal route; allegedly they had stopped a driver that
morning and spilled his truckload of potatoes onto the roadside.
We will play it safe and take a little detour; not
to worry, said Johnny casually. He drove on for some
time and then changing gear turned off the main road and
drove along the detour route, ... a very bumpy stony road.
Suddenly when we came around a bend, a heavy ladder and
some barrels had been placed across the road, so we were
forced to stop. Eight tough looking men immediately confronted
us. A blocky heavy-set man brandishing a shotgun came towards
the lorry and as he approached I could see Johnny looking
hard at him and assessing the situation. Lowering the drivers
window Johnny said, Whats up governor
and added casually Has some lunatic escaped from somewhere
or what? Were OK.
Mister, you turn that truck around; were not
allowing loads of spuds through, the man barked as
he approached we have to confiscate your load; its
part of our protest.
Loads of potatoes already confiscated could
be seen strewn along the roadside.
But Im only a driver and I understand your -
as Johnny was speaking his right hand was pushing down the
truck door handle while simultaneously his left hand was
withdrawing the toy gun from his jacket pocket; the man
was now about two yards away. Cut the chat and start
turning he interrupted as he continued to approach.
Okay, guv, okay, youre the boss; just give me
a - Johnny broke off mid sentence as turning sharply
he kicked the door open. The door flew open with force hitting
the man hard in the face and chest. He staggered backwards
letting his gun fall. Johnny jumped out and held the toy
gun to his head shouting language embellished with all sorts
of expletives; he screamed Hands up the lot of ye.
If any man moves, Ill blow his head off.
They obeyed, and then Johnny shouted, Two of ye remove
that ladder and clear the way.
No one moved - they all looked shell-shocked. Do it
or Ill blow his head off, Johnny repeated adding
some expletives, some of which were no doubt were in the
Two men rushed forward and moved the ladder and two barrels
Johnny quickly climbed back into the truck still keeping
the men covered with his toy gun and speaking to the man
who was hit by the door, You join your men over there
- leave the gun. The man obeyed.
The engine of the truck was still running. Johnny put the
truck in gear and drove off still brandishing his toy gun
out the truck window and shouting numerous expletives. Soon
we were doing 50 miles per hour - the same speed he had
done in retreat in the French army.
There was silence as we drove the next four or five miles
and then Johnny laughed and said to my father Ted,
I think we should take a different route on the way home.
I agree entirely, replied my father, Maybe via
Wexford or the Isle of Mann; those fellows might be waiting
for us on the way back. You should buy a few caps for that
gun of yours, just in case.
Both Johnny and my father laughed and I joined in the laughter.
My day in Dublin was wonderful. My father did his business
and we met Johnny at 6pm. We had tea in a small restaurant
owned by a friend of Johnnys from Northlands (a townland
situated half way between Shercock and Kingscourt). We left
Dublin at about 7.30pm. As we drove from the city, beautiful
neon lights in red, yellow, and orange shone through the
darkness, flashing signs of Bovril, Chivers
Jams, and Birds Custard.
We drove home via a circular route avoiding the area of
our morning encounter. It was about 1.30am when we arrived
back in Gartlands Pub in Kingscourt where we were warmly
greeted. Johnny quietly informed the proprietor of our adventures
that morning. We were treated to refreshments on the house.
Lemonade was out of stock so I was treated to my first glass
of peppermint cordial.
It was about 3.00am when my father and I alighted from Johnnys
truck outside our home, we crept quietly into the house
and to bed.
Next morning at breakfast my mother referring to our very
late arrival home, asked me if I had a great day in Dublin.
We had a great day, my father interrupted before
I could reply.
But ye were very late, did something happen?
We got a puncture he responded as he discreetly
winked at me.
I think I might go to Dublin next month do so some
Christmas shopping, she said.
You should go by bus. If the truck gets a puncture
only God-knows what time youd get home at, he
Id like to go in Johnnys truck every time,
its great fun, I said.
Taken from Breffni Blue