Charles Bianconi (1786–1875)
Charles (Carlo) Bianconi was an Italian who transformed passenger transport in Ireland in the decades before the construction of main line railways. He was born at Costa Masnaga in Lombardy, 13 km south-west of Lecce, in a silk working region, where there was a tradition of migration to the British Isles.
He moved to Dublin in 1802 to avoid the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, and initially worked as an engraver and printer. In 1815 he began his first road service in a ‘bian’ or trotting cart, between the towns of Clonmel and Cahir. As his business prospered he provided specially-designed two- and four-wheel vehicles in which passengers sat back-to-back looking at the roadsides, on either side of a central luggage well. Similar vehicles still take visitors on tours of the scenery at Killarney. By 1840 his ‘bians’ were operating some 3000 miles per day. He opened several ‘Bianconi inns’ of which examples remain at Piltown, Co Kilkenny and Killorgin, Co Kerry. Biancon’s services were slowly superseded by railways, but he responded to their opening by provided connecting services from stations to towns that the railways did not serve. He continued to prosper and enjoyed an annual income of £35,000 in the mid-1860s.