Char a Banc Mishap, 1916

On Saturday 26th August 1916, a large ‘Char-a-banc’ left High Blantyre for a summer’s excursion to Dumfries. It was to be a day out for 40 Blantyre miners, a brief respite from hard work, a trip overground, partly funded by Employers. However, it did not go quite to plan.

A Char-a Banc is an early type of large horse drawn or motorised vehicle, capable of carrying many people, a predecessor of a bus. Usually open topped, it had benched seats in rows, the french name meaning exactly that. It was not common on road after the 1920’s. In this story, the vehicle was a newer, motorised one, something only still then catching on.

Such vehicles were frowned on by authorities at the time. They were large, sometimes too big for narrow village streets. No proper legislation existed for them and they were seen as a constant threat to livelihoods where people relied on horses. That day when it arrived in Dumfries, it parked on High Street far longer than the authorities had allowed, and when it finally left making its way down Castle Street, it gathered some considerable speed (perhaps 30mph?)  having to swerve pulling up close to a railing upon the shout of “Pedestrian ahead!”.

Authorities and reporters were quick to comment that when new and more stringent regulations were shortly due to arrive for these type of vehicles, and regulations about the supply of petrol during wartime, these “joy rides” would likely end.

The picture is for illustration only, but the vehicle would have looked similar to this. I can only imagine how uncomfortable such an outing would likely have been compared to modern buses and standards of wheels , suspension and roads.

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