They plodded the streets of New Farm moving the goods that we needed and consumed on a continual basis.
I particularly remember them working through the World War II era. The nation was desperately short of petrol because it all came from overseas and there was a massive demand for it to keep army, navy and air operations functioning. Here was an alternative that needed only water, hay and chaff to keep working.
There were lots in harness working around the sugar refinery, the wharfs and the wool stores, amongst other businesses. All that hard work called for a dunk of water from time to time. Near the kerb between the footpath and gutter at the corner of Merthyr Road and James Street (outside the current day office of Councillor Vicki Howard) stood a horse-drinking trough.It was about seven feet long with a bowl-shaped bottom, the water level being controlled by a float valve housed under a steel-lidded box. Wicked boys on their way to New Farm State School would lift the lid and hold down the float valve ball allowing water to flow into and over the sides of the trough.
A young boy would get to know the particular horses and their carts. For instance, at the sugar refinery there was a single horse pulling a cart which had a tipping body. This would allow the cart to be positioned under an outlet which discharged a waste product from the refining process straight into the cart. It was brown coloured, semi-solid and quite often warm. When the cart was loaded, it would be driven to a patch opposite Dodge Brothers (in Sydney St?) where the waste was discharged onto the ground. This process was repeated countless times a day.
Also seen locally were the horse-drawn bread carts of McMahon’s Bakery which worked from Terrace Street. J. Jackson & Sons’ red and yellow drays were always around the wharf areas. At the Bulimba Brewery in Brunswick Street, I remember a lone horse with its cart standing patiently under a waste material chute. I do hope he was not allowed to eat the hops!
When Fay Rayner lived in Welsby Street in the 1950s, she well remembers the fellow who came with his horse and cart collecting everyone’s empty bottles. No doubt the stalwart steeds from Cowin’s stables in Villiers Street next to the Holy Spirit School would have horsey tales galore to tell if they could talk and were still there.
Last but not least, though the early 1860s were a bit before my time, what about the race track which was once down near the Powerhouse?