Sharon Brown, Curator of Land Transport for National Museums Liverpool, pays tribute to Liverpool carter Jimmy Doran.
Jimmy Doran (27th February, 1931 – 24th May, 2011)
I first met Jimmy Doran at precisely 11am on 20th January 1999. He had telephoned me a few days earlier with the ominous line “I’ve got something I want to talk to you about.”
This ‘something’ turned out to be the history of the Liverpool Carter and their horses. Jimmy and his friends, all former Carters, wanted to put up a monument to the Liverpool Working Horse in the city centre and had started a fundraising campaign. From that first meeting I was hooked – on the project, but also on the Carters (ask anyone in my office!)
Little did we know back then that this dream would take 11 years and a lot of hard work and heartache to achieve – and many, many meetings. I interviewed all the Carters about their working lives and, from 2006 when we became a Registered Charity, we met monthly at the museum. They were the best meetings ever - I never failed to learn something new and always had a great laugh. The Carters knowledge of Liverpool was second to none, they knew everyone and had many hilarious tales to tell.
Jimmy especially kept me entertained with his stories about various jobs, horses, fallings out, arguments and friendships, and all the stuff that a happy working life are made up of. Jimmy lived his early life above the stables in Mould Street (there were four stables on this one street), he was in and out of the stables helping out with the horses while his parents were at work. He called the stables ‘his saviour’ as they kept him occupied and out of trouble. His first job was as a smithy lad, near Love Lane, were he spent six months walking the horses that had been shod back down to the carters on the docks. His first job as a ’pony lad’ was at John Taylor’s where he says he learned his trade.
Jimmy went on to work for many local firms and then moved onto steamers, driving a Sentinel Steam Tractor, then onto wagons but nothing was ever the same after the horses.
When asked if he had a favourite horse this is was his response: “There was only Jimmy. He was a really good horse, a toughie you know I really liked him. I worked with him for four years, I cried when I left him.”
Jimmy worked tirelessly to get the monument up, he organised Charity Nights and wrote endless letters to people he thought should help. (He was also always threatening to play the mouth organ at any events we organised. It became an in-joke with us all pretending to be horrified and trying to discourage him - but I do regret that I never actually heard him play it!) He was always on the phone to the Echo and coming up with ideas for making more money. He was a charmer and always had a twinkle in his eye, focused on his goal, and he got there in the end.
The monument ‘Waiting’ sculpted by Judy Boyt, was proudly unveiled outside the Museum of Liverpool on 1st May 2010. It will be seen by thousands of visitors flocking to the Museum when it opens and I am sure that they, like me, will fall in love with it. It is a beautiful and touching testament to the Working Horse and the loyal Carters like my friend, Jimmy Doran. I will miss him very much.