Thursday, 5 November 2020

The Red Cow Inn - A Carlow Merchant's Token

© The Trustees of the British Museum

From stumbling around in the local history of pubs, taverns and inns I'd previously come across mentions of The Red Cow Inn in Carlow, but by chance today I came across this photograph of a related merchant token on the British Museum website (plus a second one shown below). It is from 1657 and was struck for a gentleman call John Masters who seemingly owned said inn in town, the site of which wrapped around the corner of Dublin Street into Tullow Street in Carlow, excluding it actual corner itself.

I had first come across the coin as mentioned in Carlow: The Manor and Town, 1674-1721 by Thomas King and a previous online dig brought up a more detailed commentary in On Merchants' Tokens Struck in the Towns of Carlow, Bagnalstown and Tullow published by Robert Malcomson in 1869, so it is a well known black and white woodcut image to local historians but I'm unsure how many people have seen a photograph of it in the virtual flesh, so to speak.

It reads 'JOHN MASTERS 1657' and '1 D' (1 Penny) on one side and 'IN CARTHELOUGH' [sic] and an image of a horned red cow on the other. It was made from brass according to Malcomson.

John Masters was 'portrieve' (portreeve) of Carlow -  a kind of high-ranking town official - again according to Malcomson, and we know from Thomas King's book that Masters owned the Red Cow Inn, so although that looks a bull like I'm pretty sure it's meant to represent a cow.

I wonder did Mr Masters also have a brightly painted or carved sign with a red bull hanging from his premises? I would like to think so...


Please note this image is © The Trustees of the British Museum and shared via Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) from The British Museum website. please don't use it without proper attribution and a link back to my site if you've found it first here.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

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