A Whimsical Irishman

A well-known rag and bone man in Cardiff more than a 100 years ago was a whimsical Irishman, Tim Donovan. He used to drive his horse, Maid of Killarney, in the shafts of his rag and bone collecting cart and was a popular figure in the 1880s.

On one occasion, in 1888, he drove his mare the 12 miles to Cowbridge, racing everything on the roads on his way to the Glamorgan Hunt Steeplechases.

When he arrived at the Penlline racecourse he ran her in one of the steeplechase events. His ‘racing colours’ were white with a green sash and he rode her in an old top hat! In fact, his white racing jacket was his shirt and the green sash a strip of green tissue paper.

Maid of Killarney, whom he had bought for 25 shillings (£1‑25) and a pint of beer, won easily by two fields after all the other horses had refused to jump the dry ditch obstacle.

The old mare had no speed, but it was said that she could jump like a cat. This must have been treue, for Maid of Killarney won many horse jumping prizes at the Cardiff Horse Show that used to be held in Sophia Gardens against some of the best horses in the country.

©: Brian Lee, Cardiff. He is a well known journalist and local historian.

Published in: The Green Dragon No 3, June 1997