Thursday, December 10, 2009

Avondale bus crash, 1926

Many years ago, probably the mid to late 1980s, I photocopied a couple of photos from the vertical files held at Avondale Library, back when I was first starting out on my craze involving the gathering of my suburb's history. This is one of them: identified only as a crash on Great North Road, 1920s, possibly involving a milk truck. It was copied so long ago, the sheet is fullscap rather than A4.

I filed it away under Miscellaneous and moved on.

The other day, doing some fill-in research into the history of the recent building in Avondale which burned down I spotted a news article from July 1926 about a bus crash in Avondale, on the Great North Road. I followed it through, and that one of the buses involved is the same as in the photograph. This was just one of two Progressive Bus Company vehicles involved in an accident which injured nine people on 11 July 1926.

As Great North Road turns towards the Avondale township even these days from the city end, there is a sharp turn. I hesitate to cross there, as it's a bit of a blind corner. It is close to the spot where I took these photos of a mural traffic box. Back in 1926, Ash Street extension didn't exist, the Avondale Bowling Club still owned the land west of Great North Road where the road would go through, and a steep bank meant the main road was a hazard to the incautious driver.

Bus drivers in those days chose to stick to the centre of the road to avoid a capsize over the bank. Unfortunately on that day in 1926, two buses tried to use the centre of the road at the same time, between the Bowling Club and Hoyes and Jeff's coal shed.

The bus shown above was the one bound for New Lynn, driven by Jack Shorter. The windows on the right side were completely shattered, spraying the passengers inside with glass. It was the other one which was hit hardest by the side-on  collision, driven by George Bacon. It had the whole of its right side completely ripped away, and in the shock of the collision the driver lost control, heading forward and hitting a power pole.

Rain at the time wouldn't have helped with visibility. Most of the passengers were only lightly injured by flying debris and glass. Several motor cars passing through shortly afterward had their tyres punctured. Two of the passengers remained in Auckland Hospital at least until after the next day.

So, not a milk truck crash after all. The moral here is: keep those mysterious local history photos, folks. You never know when the real story will catch up with them.

Edited 16 November 2015.

Thanks to the admins at the Friends of Waikumete Facebook page -- I now know that:

"Henry Ernest Hardy died in Auckland Hospital from severe injuries to his head and face on July 14th 1926, aged 49. Mr. Hardy's son, Herbert had minor injuries. Mr Murdoch McKenzie, of Kelston House, New Lynn had his right arm broken. The bus drivers were Jack Shorter and George Bacon. George Bacon was found guilty of negligent driving causing death. He was fined 50 pounds and his licence was cancelled for 3 years, in lieu of a 9 month prison sentence with hard labour due to his unblemished record. Henry Ernest Hardy was a carpenter. He is buried in Anglican Division E, Row 9, Plot 122," Waikumete Cemetery. The image above republished with their permission.

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