Saturday, May 18, 2013

Decorative handmade ceramic Celtic horse tile

12 x12 relief carved, custom hand painted, ceramic Celtic tripple horse tile.
There was a time in North American history between manpower and wailing fire engines when sturdy horses got men and gear to the scene of a fire. In 1832 the New York city Mutual Hook and Ladder fire fighting company was short of men to pull the fire wagon due to an outbreak of yellow fever, so they invested in a horse for the job. This met with much criticism from other stations and that first fire horse was insulted and sorely abused. This may have been the end of it, however with the new weighty fire equipment coming out it was clear that more than mere manpower would be needed. Initially the horses were grudgingly accepted, but eventually became much revered and loved members of their fire stations and very popular with the public. Fire horses had to be strong, sturdy and fearless, able to pull heavy equipment up and down hills at breakneck speed and stand calmly as men rushed about and fire raged around them. Horses were carefully evaluated and rigorously trained, with only a handful out of every 100 horses that fit the size and weight requirements making the grade. Over time many stations added horse ambulances to their facilities as well. Fire stations became an efficient team of man, horse and dog. The quintessential fire dogs, Dalmatians, a canine breed with exceptional stamina combined with exceptional loyalty guarded horses and equipment and ran with the team barking to clear the way. A life of pounding the streets took it's toll and the average fire horse was retired from working after only four or five years, often to a milder work hauling milk trucks and the like. In the 1920's new mechanized equipment, cheaper to operate than horses began to replace them, even though at the time it was less reliable than horses and frequently broke down. In 1922 more than 50,000 people gathered to watch Peter, Jim, Tom, Babe and Rusty of the Detroit fire brigade make their last charge to a false alarm before being retired. The last of the fire horses to be replaced, Bill and Doll in Fredricton New Brunswick were retired in 1938.  Firefighter Bill O'Neil who was their caretaker said " I adored them, I never had to touch a whip, They knew what to do and almost where to go. The old fire station just isn't the same without the pair, believe me."

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