Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Point Chevalier bus drivers' feud

Travelling to or from Pt Chevalier Beach on the early 1920s could have meant you were suddenly in the midst of a rather fiery transport feud. 

Frederick John Williamson’s Pt Chevalier Bus Service began 21 December 1919, after the liquidation of the earlier Motor Bus Company. Percy Adelbert Lupton’s bus service to the beach began around the same time. By April 1921, Lupton had the first of a few clashes with his rival’s bus company -- a stoush which ended up in court. 

Trade rivalry in the motor bus transport run between Point Chevalier and the city was stated to be behind charges against Percy Lupton, of negligent driving of his bus, and of assault. Both Lupton and Lionel [Hector Bates] Kelly, the informant, admitted the rivalry, but claimed that it was a thing apart from the charges. Kelly stated that as he was driving his bus along the road, he was overtaken by Lupton's bus, which was rushed past his vehicle without the horn being sounded, and was then swerved so abruptly in front of him that in order to avoid damage to his machine by collision he had to turn sharply to the left, and struck a lamp post on the path. Lupton stated that he sounded his horn and did not cut across sharply in front of the other bus. He suggested that unskilful driving was the reason for Kelly's bus colliding with the lamp post. After considering the evidence on both sides, the magistrate fined defendant £3 and costs. 
The second charge, heard separately, was to the effect that some days after the incident of the lamp-post, Lupton assaulted Kelly by getting on his bus and striking him. Kelly testified to that effect, stating he tried to push Lupton away with his foot. Lupton's version was that after just avoiding an accident owing to Kelly stopping his bus sharply in front of his and in the track of his, he went merely to tell Kelly that sort of thing would have to cease, and he was kicked by Kelly. The magistrate informed Lupton that his action was provocative, when he might have taken other proceedings, and fined him 20/ and costs.

Auckland Star 30 April 1921

Percy Lupton was still carrying out his bus service to the beach, apparently having seen off his 1921 rival Kelly. On 29 January 1923, however, on the second day of a beach and queen carnival held by the Pt Chevalier Sailing Club over Anniversary Weekend, “numerous races and competitions, mock courts, baby shows, and castle building competitions for the children. Jazzing will be held on both nights. Admission will be free”, Lupton found that a number of other outside operators took advantage of the crowds attracted to the events. He lost his cool again. 

Percy Lupton, motor-bus proprietor, denied having committed mischief by wilfully damaging a motor-bus, the property of Horace Southgate, to the extent of £1 15s 10d. Defendant ran a regular service between the tram terminus and Point Chevalier, but on January 29, when a beach carnival was being held, other vehicles were plying for hire on that route. Evidence was given that complainant's bus had been left standing at the dead end of a road. Lupton backed his bus near to it, looked round, and then, giving his steering wheel a turn, deliberately backed into the other bus. It was stated that defendant resented any other bus drivers doing business at Point Chevalier. Defendant contended that plaintiff's bus was on the wrong side of the road and he did not see it. Defendant was fined £5 and costs, in default seven days' imprisonment.
 NZ Herald 8 March 1923

Then in May 1923, Lupton’s earliest rivalry for the route with Williamson came to a head – and yet another court hearing.

What was described as another episode in a feud of old-standing resulted in the appearance in the Police Court this morning of two bus-men, Frederick John Williamson, proprietor, of Point Chevalier, and Arthur Flynn, driver for a rival proprietor named Lupton, each being charged with the use of threatening behaviour in Great North Road on May 12. Williamson's story was that he left Point Chevalier beach for Grey Lynn with a few passengers at 6.35 p.m. Lupton's bus came along behind, and passed at a very fast rate of speed, cutting across the front of Williamson's bus, with the result that the last-named had to turn sharply to the left to avoid a collision. Flynn was the driver, and Williamson felt sure that this had been done deliberately. Later, words passed between the two and Flynn struck Williamson in the face. Flynn, witness asserted, was drunk—swearing, and in Williamson's opinion, was not in a fit state to drive a bus. The whole of the trouble arose out of Lupton's practice of running a special bus at 6.33 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, from Point Chevalier. Flynn declared that his bus had skidded and accidently cut in front of Williamson's bus, causing the last-named to pull up. It was Williamson's fault for driving too near the middle of the road. He denied having used obscene language, and denied likewise that he was drunk. He hit Williamson only when the last-named pushed him. "He said he would throw me away if I did not go away."

"There will be a fatality out there yet if this sort of thing continues," remarked Mr J E Wilson, SM. Flvnn was fined £2, and the information against Wllllamson was dismissed. The magistrate observed that there would be an end to the trouble if the parties were refused licenses.

Auckland Star 15 June 1923

 Lupton lost his licence, and was declared bankrupt in December 1923. 

The bankrupt's statement set out that he started a motor-bus service at Point Chevalier in 1919 with two Ford vehicles. One of these was damaged beyond repair in an accident at Waikumcte, and its loss was a severe blow to the business. Later he purchased two larger buses on the hire purchase system, but he was unable to maintain regular payments, and they were returned to the motor dealer. The failure of the business was attributed by bankrupt to lack of capital, competition and sickness.

NZ Herald 21 December 1923

Williamson nearly lost his licence as well in June 1923, but Auckland City Council’s decision was overturned by the courts in November.

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