Postal Services In County Kilkenny
Edward J. Law (2015)
In England and Ireland there was no general system of postage before 1635. In that year the Royal post was opened to the public in return for a payment for each letter carried. In Kilkenny a postal service was in being by 1663 when Peter Blacknall, the city’s Postmaster, complained of ill-treatment he had received for refusing to deliver letters until his dues for postage had been paid. Through the remainder of the 17th and much of the 18th century, numbers of letters would have been small, the cost putting the service beyond the pockets of most of the people.
Some of the larger towns, particularly those which lay on the routes of the mail-coaches, had post offices from an early date, Gowran was served from the 1740s, and Thomastown, from the 1760s. The presence in an area of influential individuals would have encouraged the establishment of Post Offices. This was the case at Whitehall, near Gowran, the present Paulstown, where an office was established in 1842 at the request of neighbouring gentry. However, many of the smaller villages would not have had an office until well into the 19th century. Luke’s Well had to rely on the mails being sent by messenger from Mullinavat into the 1880s, and although Ballyhale had a letterbox for outgoing mail its incoming post was handled at Knocktopher. The location of a village or town would also have had an impact on the levels of service. As late as 1845 the Castlecomer mail was still being conveyed to Carlow from where it was sent on to Dublin. The transfer to Carlow was by a ‘runner’, or postboy, employed by the Post Office authorities, who ran the 11 miles, and returned in the same manner at 3 in the morning with the Carlow Bag.
In Kilkenny city the early Post Office was located in the home of the Postmaster, and when he died or retired a change of location often took place. The office was, at various times, in Patrick Street, on the Parade, at John’s Bridge, in Rose Inn Street and in High Street. And in 1896 a branch office was established at John Street, the successor to which is the present Post Office in Johns Green.
Until the 1850s the timing of the posts revolved around the arrival and departure times of the mail coaches. The office opened at 7.30 in the morning and closed at 9 at night, hours which were needed as cash had to be paid over with the letters. This changed in May 1840 when postage stamps were introduced and letters, with stamps affixed, could be put into the Post Office letter-box at any time. After 1852 the timing of the posts came to be more reliant on the timetable of the railway than those of the mail coaches.
The city had several long-serving Postmasters. Edward Cronyn held office for some 30 years from 1781, and Robert Drought Mathews for about 20 years to 1845. Michael Banim, brother and literary partner of John Banim, was appointed Postmaster in 1856 and held the position for 18 years, until his retirement in 1873. John Goslin who succeeded Banim had been Chief Clerk for at least 30 years.
It was in Banim’s time, in 1857, that two metal “silent receivers” were provided for the city. These pillar-boxes, as we now know them, were erected at the railway terminus and in Irishtown, for the convenience of the public in those distant parts of the town. Whilst the great benefit of the silent receivers was generally appreciated, one citizen having walked into one on a dark night, renamed them the silent deceivers.