(Back To 1998 Contents)-A man who touched many hearts
Jerry Cotter and his Hackney
-Anna-Marie O' Sulivan
Nowadays every household has the essential commodity of a car, some may even have two or three however turning back the clock about 50 or 60 years ago this was not the case.
A village in West Cork or any part of rural Ireland were lucky if one or two cars were owned locally by residents
At that time you wouldn't have the choice of various brand names and styles you would have had to make do with the old reliable Cork manufactured Ford Model T which is probably one of the most fondly remembered cars of all time.
For a small village in West Cork, namely Ballingeary, the older generation did indeed have fond memories of the old model T . They were one of the few villages in the area to have their very own registered hackney service , which was owned by Mr. Jerimiah (Jerry) Cotter in the village.
Jerry was born in 1914. He lived a very exciting and carefree childhood with fond memories of growing up in Ballingeary
One of his fondest is the day that Fr. Browne, the well known photographer visited the area On this particular day Fr. Browne took many photos depicting the lives of people living in rural Ireland in that period of time. After a quick chat with Fr. Browne ,Jerry was asked to stand for a photo .The year was 1925 and Jerry was 11 years of age. The picture was to become a classic and was entitled " Taking his first photo". The photo was seen in exhibitions all over Ireland in 1995/96 and is also included in the book "Father Browne 's Photography.
Jerry then made the "Local headlines " and gossip when he purchased his first car in 1932 at the tender age of 18 years . The car was bought from C.A.B. Motors Co Ltd , Copely St. Cork, for the princely sum £ 50 .
In the same year he registered the car for hackney and towards the end of the year he received his plate and badge in Bandon .His badge number was 2868
From the very beginning Jerry had to get accustomed to late night and early morning calls from everyone from locals to doctors and Gardai. This was because Jerry was the only hackney service in the area.
Jerry was on 24 hour call by the Southern Health Board taking Doctors to patients , and patients to clinics and hospitals. Many a night he had to combat dreadful weather conditions such as heavy snow, dense fog and floods to get his passengers to their required destination.
It was once quoted by local man Mr. Tim McCarthy "That Gerry was there for nearly every child in the parish". Tim said that " He was there when they were Born, Christened, when they received their Holy Communion, Confirmation and their Wedding Day , What a record!!!!!!"
He did indeed attend many weddings and funerals and he also had many a story to tell about his days as the local hackney driver.
One particular story that a lot of people would remember is the night that he was travelling to a dance in Ballinvourney with an overloaded car ,as he approached the outskirts of the village he was stopped by the local guard.
As he rolled down the window of the car, it was quiet visible to the guard that Jerry was well over loaded with over six in the car. The guard shone in his flashlight and then said to him " I think you have one too many there Mr. Cotter" To which he replied in a confident and devious tone " Which one Guard? "
What could the Guard say ,he cautioned him and left him drive on.
In his busiest period in the 1940's . He often had a number of trips in one day. Alot of his days consisted of a funeral in the morning , a clinic appointment in the afternoon and maybe taking someone to the bus station in Macroom in the evening.
During this time he was also on call 24 hours for anybody who needed him from the locals to midwifery , Doctors and the Gardai
When the "Feile Dramaiochta Na Mumhan " was held annually in Ballingeary he was used to collect those who would be judging the plays He would collect them in Cork from the train station and he would also drive them around locally during their stay. He became very friendly with all of the judges and one particular friend he made was Seamus Healy who is better known as father to Shay Healy TV presenter and songwriter.
Because of the period of time, there was a shortage of cars being used by the Gardai so as I have mentioned before Jerry was on call for them .His car was their only mode of transport
He was often called upon to drive the Gardai to poitin raids on local farms and to Court Cases in Macroom and in Cork. When the rationing of the petrol was introduced ,He was issued with extra petrol to enable him to continue service to both the Gardai,Southern Heath Board and the public.
Another story he recalls is the day he received a call from the local priest to drive him to a sick call .They were to call to a house in the area where one of the children was ill with meningitis.
As Jerry was unfamiliar with that particular house they asked a local boy to show them the way and they explained to him that they were visiting the house for a sick call.
When they had finished with their visit, they waited for the young helpful boy to sit in again to which he refused they asked him again and he refused claiming he " didn't want to catch the disease " . He then proceeded to run after the car all the ways down the road, until he reached his home. according to Jerry "He was so fit he could have run for Ireland"
Jerry explains that this particular story depicts the fear the people of that time towards illness.
Many stories could be told about Jerry 's hackney days, fond memories relived and many a laugh could be shared. Speaking to many most recalled similar type tales however one close friend of Jerry's had a few extra.
One he told was the night that Jerry was taking a car load to a local dance as they drove on trying to make time, someone remarked that the car seemed to be travelling funny.
" Maybe it was a puncture ", one of the passengers questioned Jerry.
The passengers kept asking Jerry , what was wrong so to relax them he decided to stop the car and check the tyres. He proceeded around the car inspecting each tyre , Then he calmly sat in and started up the car
As he looked back at his passengers he was questioned once again about the suspected puncture.
Jerry turned around and in his calm and convincing tone answered his concerned patrons with the comment " Its OK.....its only a little air coming out of one of the wheels" and then he continued to drive on to their destination.
Sean also had the story about the time Jerry picked up a passenger who spoke the whole journey about the books he had read and how educated he was . He went on to ask Jerry what book he had read recently to which Jerry answered without hesitation , " The Far East".
An additional story told by Sean was the night that Jerry was again travelling to Ballyvourney . He had just fitted new v8 tyres to the car and they had been working out perfectly.
However as the people started to fill in to the car , ( and Jerry was overloaded again) the back mud guard started rubbing against the big wheel , everytime they took a turn.
Nobody let alone Jerry suspected anything was wrong until one of the passengers ("Lisa Dans ") coat started to take fire from the heat of the tyres rubbing of it. this was one journey Jerry would prefer to forget!!!!!!!
Finally I would like say to Jerry or Dada as we know him , " we all love listening to your stories and we hope we will recall many more in the future with you."