Monday, September 29, 2008

Laurence Teirney: A 19th Century Hellraiser of the Roads

Some names from the 19th-century omnibus business that were based in the Whau or Avondale in the last half of the 19th century have survived to be recounted in past histories of the district, such as Challenge of the Whau (1994). We have known of Patterson's, the Northern Omnibus Company, Andrews, Potters, and Pooley's.

But, one forgotten driver could almost certainly, given the strength of two news reports from way back then, be termed as the most infamous. Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, I bring you tales of Mr Laurence Teirney, omnibus driver of the Whau.

Those who had to conduct business in Auckland City in the late 1870s used the horse buses, or omnibuses, that plied the routes either along the Great North Road or along New North Road between the City and the Whau and further west.

One of the horse bus drivers of the time was a Laurence Teirney, from out of the Whau district.

(I found some biographical information on Mr Teirney from his descendants. His first name and surname appear in differing forms in the newspapers and other records. As the family today spell their name as "Teirney", I have tried to continue that in the narration).

Mr Teirney apparently had an aversion to other users of the rutted roads passing him along the way. And he had a quick, pugnacious temper, going by what the newspapers of the day relate.

An article in the NZ Herald, 7th November1879 tells us:

“An accident occurred in Symonds St between 7 and 8 pm, which imperilled the safety of at least 1 person. A gentleman named Frost was driving a buggy, coming into town from the Whau by the New North Road, and passed the Whau bus coming in the same direction, and driven by Lawrence Tierney.

“The driver of the buggy kept close to the left side of the road after passing the omnibus. Tierney, in turn, improved his pace so as to pass the buggy, and the consequence was a violent collision, which smashed the lighter vehicle. Mr Frost was thrown out but beyond being covered with mud and a little shaken by the fall he has sustained no serious injuries. The damage done to the buggy is estimated at £20.”
(Article originally found by Mike Butler).

This may have merely been a case of Teirney having a really bad day. However. I found another report from 17 January 1882.

"Obstructing a Thoroughfare -- Rival Omnibus Men.
"Lawrence Tierney was charged with obstructing the passage of Patrick Collins, Henry Holloway and others on the Great North Road on 23 December 1881."
It seems that Patrick Collins,another Whau driver, had left the City before Mr Teirney and Teirney caught up with him at the Whau Hotel. Teirney left 5 minutes before Collins, and Collins caught up with him at New Lynn "near the stables where he stopped."

Collins called to Teirney to "give room to pass, but he (Tierney) kept to the centre of the road." Collins then drew his bus onto a siding and tried to pass Teirney's bus that way, but Teirney thwarted the attempt by drawing across himself, preventing Collins from getting any further.

Then Teirney used his bus and horses to block the middle of the Whau Bridge, causing Collins to pull up short.
"(Teirney) stopped there for half a minute, and stopped again at the end of the bridge, and then started to gallop up the hill (toward the Whau township) before (Collins) got up to him."
Teirney had been charged with obstructing a public carriageway under the Public Works Act of the time, but was discharged without conviction of that charge due to a technicality -- the police had chosen the wrong part of the Public Works Act on which to lay the charge.

The Herald report did not stop there, however.

Teirney was next charged with "conduct calculated to provoke a breach of the peace."

He was accused of taking off his shirt at the Whau, and challenging Collins to a fight. "Mr Lennox," the report advised, "who was subpoened, was unable to come in. He was an important witness, but he was suffering from an injury." According to Teirney, Collins picked the fight first, and he was backed up by a Charles H Smith and William Armstrong. Still, he was convicted and fined 20/- and costs of £1-4/-.

No comments:

Post a Comment