TRANSPORT MEMORIES OF THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY
– E.D. Parry
Being of an old age and having lived in Aberaeron throughout my life, my thoughts often bring back memories of those days of childhood in the 20s and 30s which make me realise the colossal changes that have happened in transport services during my lifetime and which have led up to the hectic lifestyle of the present era.
In those far-off days the horse and cart were to be seen prominently on the roads; the railway was in existence, and the shipping trade continued to bring cargoes into the harbour. However, during this period mechanised vehicles were slowly emerging and the old services declining, to be later replaced by the motorised vehicles. Over the years these have increased to such an extent that, as we all know, they have by today swamped the roads of the cities, towns and countryside, causing immense problems in relation to safety in travelling, parking and road maintenance. It brings to mind a statement made in The House of Commons in the 1950s by a famous statesman when he said in a speech,
I have always considered that the substitution of the internal combustion engine for the horse marked a very gloomy milestone in the progress of mankind.
I wonder what would be his assessment of the situation as it is today, if he had been alive 50 years later!
During the 20s there were so few cars on the roads that we, the children, were able to play on the main streets and, should a car come along, we would step aside to let the car go by and then continue with our play! As few people owned cars in those days, public transport was the popular way to travel. Jones Bros. were one of the early bus services to Aberystwyth. Meurig Jenkins also had a service to New Quay which was taken over in 1925 by the Crossville. At this time other bus services started – James of Ammanford and the Western Welsh in 1928. JR Adams ran a service from New quay in 1932. I can also remember travelling to Cardiff on the Gough’s buses of Ammanford, leaving Aberaeron at 5.30 in the evening and arriving in Cardiff at 8.30 p.m. – return ticket costing 15/- (old money, equivalent to 75p) – a thrilling journey for a youngster in those days.
Charabancs took the Sunday school trips, which was one of the most exciting days of the year. Destinations in various years were Devils Bridge, Llandrindod, Tenby and Porthcawl. The trip to Llandrindod is well remembered because of the heavy rain and, with the nonexistence of side panels, gave a soaking to those sitting at the ends of the bench seats, but the trip was enjoyed by all.
Of course, roads in the pre-war years were dangerous. Up until then (1920s) they had been travelled on by horse-drawn vans and carts. The stony roads and dangerous bends were easier to cope with at the speed of the horse; the motorised vehicles with greater speed made bends more dangerous. There were two notorious bends on the approach roads to Aberaeron – S-bends at Allt Hengeraint on the Lampeter road and at Clogfryn on the Cardigan road. A bus containing a concert party approached the bend at too fast a speed and went over the hedge. That happened in the early 30s. Luckily it came to rest against the stump of a tree which prevented it going down over the cliffs to the sea. Fortunately, all the passengers got out safely. These bends were straightened and mad safer soon after. One of the more serious accidents that I remember occurred at Chancery. After visiting the warships at Aberystwyth in the 1920s we came on the return journey to the scene of a serious accident. Two motorcyclists with pillion passengers had collided head-on, killing three. Being the first on the scene we had to return to the nearest public phone kiosk to notify the police.
Road signs were few and far between. Driving tests were introduced about 1936 and road signs were beginning to be erected at about the same time. The local bank manager bought a new car and, on taking a trip to Aberystwyth, saw a new sign on the outskirts of Llanon – a 30 mph speed-limit sign. On his return to Aberaeron, he was heard to say in the Snooker Room, What a ridiculous sign to put up – you had to travel through the village at 30 mph. His normal travelling speed was 25 mph. He cooled down when told the true purpose of the sign!
Father bought our first family car in 1937 at Henly’s. London – an Austin 10, less than a year old and under 1,000 mileage. It cost £96.
In the 1930s four Aberaeron footballers visited the Motor Show in Earls Court, London. On the return journey suddenly they saw a wheel rolling down the road in front of them. On stopping to inspect, they found that it had come off their own car!
The never-to-be forgotten trip by my brother and myself in 1939, the day before war broke out, was on our return from a week’s visit to Bradford, where we had visited woollen mills.
As we were nearing Liverpool, we noticed that the car battery had stopped charging. As it was six o’clock in the evening, all the garages were closed. We were anxious as to whether the battery was sufficiently charged to get us home. The ‘blackout’ had been introduced and head lamps had been banned. We had to travel on the ‘dip’ lights. Luckily it was a very bright moonlit night and we got home safely around midnight.
As I have already mentioned, one of the greatest changes in our lifetime has been that relating to transport. In the period of my childhood and my schooldays the staff and many of the pupils from the surrounding areas had to have lodgings in the town, as there was no convenient transport to take them home. How different transport services are in this modern age! It has come to the point where every family has a car which provides a conveyance for every occasion. Motorised vehicles have transformed public transport, business requirements and all essential services and even changed funeral procedures.
Some of us can remember the time of horse-drawn hearses, and also have the memory of the funeral of a well-known and highly respected citizen in the mid-20s. Only men attended public funerals in those days. As the funeral service in the house drew to a close, men gathered in front of the horse-drawn hears and led the way to the cemetery with the cortege following. Immediately, on moving off the ‘codwr canu’ (leader of the singing) would start off the singing of the hymn O fryniau Caersalem ceir gweled…etc. and all the other men would join in. They would then walk along the silent streets – few cars in those days – and proceed towards the cemetery, with houses having their blinds drawn as a mark of respect. Every so often the singing would be repeated as the procession made the way up the hill towards Clogfryn corner. As they turned the corner the sound of singing would gradually fade away and went out of the hearing of the town below.
Also comes back the memory of laying straw outside a house in Alban Square to lessen the noise of clattering horses and carts passing the house where the resident lay seriously ill and was not expected to survive.
3 June 2011
Extract from transcript of recorded interview with ED Parry, 2007
We played a lot of that on the main road. There was no traffic – very few cars around. We
used to play on the roads and, if a car came, we stood on one side and then went back to the game.
The farmers all brought their horse and carts into the town. Every pub had stables and the horse was put in the stables and the carts parked outside. There was a pub next to the Black Lion in my day, the White Lion. (now Lyndhurst) and I don’t know if people notice it but there is a ring on the pavement opposite the house and I often wonder why and I guess it was a ring to fasten the horse to park outside the pub and it is still there.