Motor Car and Sheep, 1898

Just when I thought my recent story about a Motor car collision in Blantyre was our town’s earliest mechanised vehicle accident, I’ve found an even earlier one, this time in 1898! This is a story about a vehicle accident, 5 years before trams!

On Monday 24th January 1898, Hamilton man William Muir found himself in the dock in Hamilton Sheriff Court. The charge was reckless driving whilst travelling through Blantyre’s Glasgow Road, a month earlier. He pled not guilty as the trial unfolded and called each witness one by one.

Andrew Arbuckle (butcher) of Joanna Terrace, Blantyre was the first witness and told how on 21st December 1897, he was driving a flock of 25 sheep along Glasgow Road to a grazing field at Bardykes Estate. On the way there, he was overtaken by a motor car. A little later that evening, the motor car was on its return journey, this time roaring down the Toll Brae. Andrew saw the lights of the motorcar some distance away. He shouted 3 times, but the hard road surface ensured the driver could not hear him.

Consequently, the motor car plowed into the sheep, one of which had its leg broken and died. Another two died from their injuries 2 days later. Others were badly injured around their legs. It was absolute carnage, just after half past eight.

Andrew told the court he supposed the car was travelling at 20 or 30 mph, faster than he’d ever seen any vehicle go. The driver made no attempt to slow down and refused to give Andrew his name when asked after the accident.

Then Andrew was cross witnessed. The focus was on Andrew’s comment that the car had been travelling at 20 or 30 mph, when it was proven that the car manufacturer stated the speed of the car was between 6 and 9 mph, the speed limit on Glasgow Road being 10 mph. Andrew’s statement was slowly picked apart bit by bit despite the car running into him and the sheep. There was no fog that night, the sun setting behind the vehicle which was fitted by lights, as confirmed by Andrew himself.

The police constable was next and testified that when he arrived the driver had freely given his name and the vehicle was on the correct side of the road, the the scene was fairly horrific. He then stated that Andrew, driving the sheep was very drunk. This closed the case for prosecution.

James Andrew, foreman engineer of the Motor Car Company was called and confirmed the type of car had a maximum speed of 9mph , thus proving Andrew’s exaggerated statement. There was little else to say knowing Andrew had been drunk whilst walking his sheep. The case fell apart, not proven and the driver, Mr Muir let off!

AI imagines the scene to illustrate this story (thankfully before the accident!)

Leave a Reply