“Invincible” makes a visit home after 54 years

Back in the 1930’s, Davy O’Connor was then a well known and very successful “Contractor” based in Philipstown in County Wexford.  His machinery included seven threshing mills, a saw bed and four Ransom and three Burrell Steam Traction Engines to drive them. Davy provided services in timber cutting, saw milling, and during the summer harvest his Threshing Mills were running flat out.

Crews of men would follow the threshing mills around the county which from what I can gather was an occasion for party, song and dance which went hand in hand with the tireless job of feeding the engines with water and coal and pitching up the sheaves of corn to feed the continuous demand of the threshing machine. The threshed straw was then made into “Ricks” for storage and supply to the farm over the winter months.

Richard O'Connors with Burrell Engine "Queen of Hearts"

Davy’s son Richard (Richie) worked with his father during this period of steam power.  The steam engines were gradually becoming redundant and diesel machines replaced them. Five of the seven engines ended up in Hammond Lane scrap yard where they were unceremoniously cut into pieces.

Two of the engines survived this fate. One, “Queen of Hearts”, a Burrell built in Tetford, UK in 1914, shares a space with two of the Threshing Mills it once drove in the farm shed waiting patiently for someone to bring it back to its original glory. An intense project going forward. The other “Invincible”, also a Burrell, was bought by James Glynn of Carlow in 1966 and rebuilt.

Richard O'Connors family with "Invincable"

On an occasion this year (2022) in September, Noel Glynn, and sons Trevor and Nial, brought “Invincible” down to Richie O’Connor’s farm for Richie to see it going once again in his Haggard after 60 years.  The engine was fired up, the smell of burning coal, the distinct sound of the engine and the blast of the whistle changed the quiet, empty haggard into a live glimpse of the a past era. All the O’Connor family were out, the grandchildren getting a glimpse at what Grandad worked with, probably not with understanding bur rather infatuation and awe at the monster they were standing next to. The excitement and a few memory tears made this occasion so very special.

Richard O'Connors family and friends with "Invincable"

I made a number of photographs to record this nostalgic event. Richard and his wife Kay, their children, the extended family and the grandchildren. Then there were the extended groups with Noel and Chris Glynn and their sons Trevor and Nial and daughter Lucy.

The photograph that has summed up the occasion is when the “Invincible” leaves the farm (top image), navigating through the eight foot high round stone pillars onto the road. Richard and his working partner for over four decades, Henry Harpur, stand to say good bye once again to an engine that was so much part of their lives. On the engine, Trevor Glynn at the wheel and Nial Glynn giving a hearty wave to Richard and Henry as the engine heads out on its journey till the next time.