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Remembering the Liverpool carters

14 May 2018 by Sharon

horse statue with garlands of paper flowers draped around it

Monument to the working horse decorated with paper flowers

Every year at the Museum of Liverpool we hold an afternoon of events and activities to celebrate the work of the Liverpool carters and their horses, linked to the traditional carters’ May Day celebrations. Our 2018 event took place under a lovely blue sky. Our talks on ‘Animals in the First World War’ and ‘Liverpool Parades and Shows’ were well attended and everyone enjoyed making colourful paper flowers for our memorial ceremony.

Frank Short has supported the event every year with his display of magnificent model carts. With a family background in carting Frank has always been fascinated by both horses and carts and spends many, many hours on his models. This year he has expanded into modelling clay figures to accompany the carts – with impressive results.

man with models and horse brasses on display on the table in front of him

Frank Short with some of his models

One of our visitors, Mr John Shea arrived for the event with some horse brasses that belonged to his father Johnny Shea, who was a Liverpool Carter. Along with the brasses, which he has donated to the museum, John also brought two poems he had written in memory of his father and the carter’s way of life. They are very moving and a nostalgic look back at a lost way of life. Thanks John for bringing them along.

The Carter’s Lament
Never will we see again
The mighty shires take the strain
To haul and pull their heavy loads
To see and hear their hooves sparking
On setts and cobbles now that are car parking
And famous names that are no more
Crutchley’s, Harper’s, Davie’s, Rimmers
And others by the score
Gentle giants, mighty horses
Have given way to modern forces
So never will we see again
The mighty shires take the strain

model of a carter with his horse and cart

The Days End
The sun’s last rays of light are sinking
As the mighty horse stops drinking
With a snort and a shake of its mighty head
Away to his stall he is gently led
With curry comb and dandy brush
Young stable lad waits to earn his crust
Whoa now, whoa now, steady steady.
The carter’s voice gently calms
The mighty horse who looks alarmed
Good boy, good boy, as he strokes its withers
And as if by magic it stops and shivers
Snorting gently away its led
Back to its stall to be groomed and fed
The echo of its iron shod hooves seem to say
This is the end of another busy day.

What a great day and a great way to remember the carters and horses and the outstanding contribution they made to the development of our wonderful city. Look out for next year’s event!

If you can’t wait until then, you can always see Waiting: The monument to the Liverpool working horse on the quayside by the Museum of Liverpool and fnd out more about the Liverpool carters in The Great Port gallery.

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