Charles Bianconi

‘Charles Bianconi was a … good salesman. He was always good at developing his brand. He got engravings done on his cars, and no one else was doing anything like that. Bianconi was, you might say, the Ryanair of the early 19th century.’

David Dickson, Irish Times, 4 July 2015

Charles Bianconi was the first to establish a cheap and regular form of public transport in Ireland. Bianconi was born in 1786 in Tregolo, near Como in northern Italy. His family hoped he would become a priest, but instead he moved to Ireland where he worked with fellow Italians as an engraver and print seller first in Dublin but, by 1815, he was based in Clonmel. Realising that there was money to be made providing reliable transport between market towns and that there was a cheap supply of strong horses available because of the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he set up his own business. The first Bianconi Car travelled between Clonmel and Cahir in Co. Tipperary in July 1815, a journey that was 16km and took just over two hours.

Bianconi’s business was an enormous success and his routes spread across the country. He had factories making coaches in Clonmel and later in Galway and Sligo and coaching inns sprang up around the country to cater for those using ‘Bians’, as his coaches became known. By the mid 1840s Bianconi had 100 ‘Bians’ and 1,400 horses providing services to and from 120 towns and cities. 

Above: Photograph and signature of Charles Bianconi
Above: Bianconi Car – Cahir-Clonmel Day Car
Above: Bianconi Car

Bianconi was a firm supporter of the Presentation Sisters in Clonmel. When they moved to the new convent designed by Sr Magdalen he transported them all there, four at a time, in his carriage. He also donated artwork for the convent and money to build the walls surrounding the gardens. The Bianconi link to the Presentation Sisters was continued through his daughter Mary Ann. In the 1890s she wrote a series of articles about Nano Nagle for The Irish Catholic. Her husband Morgan John O’Connell was a nephew of Daniel O’Connell and MP for Kerry from the 1830s-1850s. He also had family ties to Elizabeth Coppinger and Eleanor Fitzsimons who were two of the first Ursuline Sisters brought to Ireland by Nano Nagle in 1771.

Above: Getting Ready, Hearn’s Hotel Clonmel: Car Travelling in the South of Ireland in 1856, Engraver: John Harris the Younger, after Michael Angelo Hayes