Adelaide - Transport
- Motor Buses
- Electric Trams
- Horse Trams
Cabs and Omnibuses
Coaches and Omnibuses in Adelaide
Human life is under certain circumstances held very cheap in South Australia... Thirty or forty omnibuses racing home along a narrow road and cutting each other out at street corners is [considered to be] the proper way to conclude a picnic...
(Editorial on "Holiday Driving', Register, 22 April 1870, page 4f)
"Then in the late 1850s South Australia witnessed the arrival of the first hansom cabs (the well-known, two-wheel, two-seat, enclosed carriage whose driver sat outside on a high seat at the back and conversed with his passengers through a little trap-door on the roof), but unlike Sydney where hansoms proved extremely popular, in Adelaide they were generally ""unholy"" because of the privacy they afforded flirtatious couples, and so were to be avoided by ""any young man of character"" who was ""wary of coquetting with ill-fame"". Instead, the most common cab to be found on the streets of Adelaide was the waggonette, a four-wheeled, six-passenger, covered vehicle drawn by two horses, with a box seat at the front for the driver and ample room for luggage."
Prior to the opening of the railway to Port Adelaide the mode of transport to the Port was by spring carts. These started from King William Street, thence to Morphett Street, the driver calling out, 'Port, Sir'. If a load was not forthcoming the driver would return to King William Street and repeat the procedure. Then, on the second try, if a load was still absent he would return again and say, 'As there is no load you must get out and wait for an hour.' Some of the drivers of those Port carts were noted figures of the times. Tom Shayle, 'Happy' Horrocks and another called 'Kid Glove' Williams, because his chosen best girl for the time was in the habit of receiving a present of half-a-dozen pairs of kid gloves.
By the late 1870s it was said that the licensed vehicles were unique "both from their extreme ugliness and their utter want of comfort." In King William Street about the Gresham Corner (the present site of the AMP Society) a number of Irish jaunting cars stood which were "with the quadrupeds and drivers, most perfect likenesses of the dilapidated ""turnouts"" which used to play an important part in the famous sketches of John Leech." Subsequently, these vehicles went so much out of repair that their licences were taken away.
A few two-wheeled cabs more like bakers' carts than vehicles for the conveyance of human beings were running; and the four-wheelers on the road were dirty inside and let in the rain in torrents when the weather was wet, while others were shaky and rickety. The worst of these conveyances gradually disappeared as each licensing day, which occurred every six months, came around.
The drivers insisted on having their vehicles full before leaving the stand unless they had stood there the allotted ten minutes, and after departure they were obliged to refuse many on the line of route. In 1874 there were 372 licensed vehicles in Adelaide and 415 in 1878.
One peculiarity was the number of two-horse vehicles engaged in the trade; in other colonies one-horse cabs were normally used for ordinary traffic, and as the number of horses to be maintained was thereby reduced by one-half, the horse was kept in much better condition. The reason for the local departure from this standard was the frequency of trips into the hills which were more remunerative than street trade.
There were a few hansom cabs, some in a dilapidated condition; in Melbourne this type of conveyance retired from the streets when business men left their place of work and was not seen plying at night. This did not happen in Adelaide and it was certain that they were connected "directly or indirectly with proceedings which are no honour to our city." These vehicles would scarcely bear inspection by the light of day and their owners were "importunate, insolent and profane... and are virtually touters for those with whom they have allied themselves."
By 1920 trains, trams and motor cars had made intrusions into the cabman's income but it was the motor buses that hammered the last nail in the industry's coffin; funerals were its only steady source of financial reward together with conveying "drunks" to the watch-house and pay-rolls to and from banks.
In 1900 there were 377 licensed cabmen and by 1 July 1925 only 39 remained. But the cab still retained a certain aura of romance for the it was an ideal match-maker and many an eligible young bachelor regretted the day when he could no longer lounge beside a fair lady on padded seats.
In 1929 Mr D. McDougall who had been a "cabbie" since 1869 reminisced upon the days when skirts swept the ground and legs were called limbs:
In those days cabs stood in the middle of King William Street, and met the old horse cars which used to come down Hindley Street... North Terrace was mostly paddocks... There were no houses in East Adelaide and only wide, open spaces between the Maid and Magpie and Payneham Road.
Those were the days of great hunts when we would be commissioned to drive the grand ladies after the gentlemen on their horses. Well I remember the days of the long skirts, when the girls would have to lift their dresses high when getting into the cab for fear of soiling their skirts.
Then the women wore mutton-chop sleeves and would sit carefully in the farthest corner of my cab, because they were afraid of crushing them. Those were the days when it took many yards of material to make a dress, and such a rustling they made when women got on to the step.
Cabmen were also in demand when the great balls were held. I would call for parties at 8 o'clock, and after driving to the dance would stop until 3 o'clock in the morning. Then would come the drive home through the night, and we would get back to the city just as dawn was breaking.
During the stay of the Duke of Edinburgh in Adelaide the cabmen made a fortune. It must be remembered that there was little other means of conveyance besides our vehicles which were constantly in demand from morning till night.
"Old Time Vehicles" is in the Register,
27 June 1919, page 6f,
1 July 1919, page 9f,
"Public Conveyances and Treatment of Horses" on
6 December 1867, page 2d.
"Colonial Omnibus" is in the Register,
10 January 1856, page 3e.
Details of a "commodious omnibus" built by Mr Crimp of Grenfell Street are in the Register,
26 October 1857, page 2d; also see
4 January 1858, page 2h.
Also see Factories.
Information on the city cab stand is in the Observer,
4 August 1860, page 3b.
Information on hansom cabs is in the Register,
28 and 30 July 1856, pages 3c and 3e.
A hansom cab is described in the Express,
20 July 1864, page 2c,
6 June 1866, page 2e,
17 July 1866, page 2c,
"Cabs and Coaches" is in the Express,
23 June 1870, page 2a,
2 July 1870, page 8e.
For a description of factories see Express,
11 June 1868, page 2c.
Also see Adelaide - Factories and Mills.
"Irish Jaunting Cabs" is in the Register,
17 July 1866, pages 2g-3g.
Cartoons on horse cabs are in The Adelaide Punch,
5 December 1868, page 4,
11 March 1869, page 68.
"Belligerent Cabbies" is in the Register,
26 January 1869, page 2f,
"Licensed Vehicles" on
6 March 1869, page 2c,
"Passengers in Licensed Vehicles" on
6 April 1869, page 3a.
A meeting of coachmakers is reported in the Register,
1 May 1871, page 5c.
The first meeting of the SA Society of Coachmakers is reported in the Register,
7 October 1884, page 5b; also see
27 November 1884, page 6f,
18 and 21 November 1885, pages 7g and 3g.
A history of the Coachmakers' Federation is in The News,
22 November 1928, page 24d.
A fatal omnibus accident is reported upon in the Observer,
17 June 1871, page 12g.
"The Lighting of Vehicles" was of concern in 1871 - see Register,
21 October 1871, page 4f.
An editorial on the city and suburban "Cabs and Coaches" is in the Advertiser,
24 June 1870, page 2e and
"Omnibuses and Cabs" in the Register,
26 and 28 March 1872, pages 5a and 5a. See
5 March 1873, page 5a for information on omnibus accidents; also see
19, 21, 23, 27 and 30 March 1872, pages 3d, 3e, 3d, 2c and 2b,
22 June 1876, page 2b.
"Omnibuses and Cabs" is in the Register,
26 March 1872, page 5a.
The Adelaide Omnibus Company's premises are described in the Advertiser,
7 February 1873, page 3b.
"The Corporation and Licensed Drivers" is in the Observer,
8 February 1873, page 7e,
"Omnibus Accidents" on
8 March 1873, page 13e,
"Lights on Vehicles" on
15 March 1873, page 13e.
A poem, "A Voice From a Four-wheeler" is in the Observer,
21 June 1873, page 14f.
A cabmen's picnic at Netherby Park is reported in the Observer,
4 October 1873, page 7g and
at Gaskmore Park on
17 October 1874, page 7e; also see
28 October 1876, page 12f,
3 November 1877, page 11c,
10 March 1883, page 8a,
22 and 27 March 1889, pages 4a and 7d.
A United Cabmen's Picnic is described in the Register,
27 October 1875, page 7a; also see
25 October 1876, page 7a,
1 November 1877, page 4g,
25 February 1888, page 32e.
A coachbuilders' picnic is reported upon in the Register,
28 November 1904, page 6d.
Of interest in this day and age, where the evils of worshipping "Madam Nicotine" are the subject of considerable debate, one of the council's regulations in respect of licensed omnibuses is of interest:
No driver shall smoke any pipe or cigar while driving or attending upon any licensed carriage.
(Register, 22 January 1874, page 5f.
See Glenelg for another complaint about this "evil".)
22 January 1874, page 5f; also see
9 and 10 February 1880, pages 7c and 6f.
"Kensington and Norwood Cab Stand" is in The Irish Harp,
18 July 1873, page 5c,
21 March 1874, page 3f.
"Juvenile Drivers" is in the Observer,
20 February 1875, page 6e.
A meeting of cabmen is reported in the Express,
14 January 1875, page 2e; also see
20 January 1875, page 3d,
28 June 1875, page 2c.
"The Licensed Cabmen and the Corporation By-Laws" is in the Register,
21 January 1875, page 4f; also see
5 July 1875, page 4f.
"Inspector Shakespeare, Cabmen and the Public" is in the Advertiser,
29 and 30 June 1875, pages 2e and 2g.
His reminiscences are in The Mail,
19 September 1925, page 18a.
An example of cab fares is in the Register,
1 July 1875, page 5f.
"Cabby in Adelaide" is in the Farmers Weekly Messenger,
2 July 1875, page 11b.
"Licensed Vehicles" is in the Register,
11 May 1876, page 4f,
3 June 1876, page 4e.
A "complicated" cab accident is reported in the Observer,
24 March 1877, page 11c.
"An Adelaide Omnibus Driver's Grievance" is in the Register,
27 November 1877, page 5g.
"Public Conveyances" is in the Register,
4, 10 and 14 May 1878, pages 4d-5b-6c, 5d and 6c.
Information on omnibus drivers is in the Advertiser,
3 May 1878, page 6d and
21 and 25 June 1879, pages 4d and 4e,
1 July 1879, page 6d.
"Strange Behaviour of a Cab Driver" is in the Register,
20 July 1878, page 5d.
"Public Conveyances" is in the Register,
6 February 1879, page 6a,
15 February 1879, page 13d.
"Tramways and Omnibuses" is in the Register,
15 May 1879, page 5b.
"Adelaide Cabmen" is in the Express,
21 and 25 June 1879, pages 3b and 2b-3a,
1 July 1879, page 3f.
"Annual Inspection of Licensed Vehicles" is in the Register,
12 July 1879, page 4g; also see
14 October 1879, page 2b (supp.),
12 January 1880, page 4g.
A description of a side-spring top buggy is in the Express,
25 October 1879, page 3c.
"Off by the Coaches" is in the Chronicle,
27 December 1879, page 22f.
"Shelter for Cabmen and Cab Horses" is in the Register,
27 and 29 March 1882, pages 7a and 6d.
"Coachbuilders' Workmanship" is in the Register,
18 July 1882, page 5b.
Barker and Chambers' "carriage repository" is described in the Express,
9 June 1885, page 3e.
A proposed cabdrivers' and draymen's union is discussed in the Register,
29 June 1886, page 5c; also see
23 November 1886, page 5b,
21 December 1886, page 5c.
Also see South Australia - Industrial Relations - Miscellany.
Meetings of cabmen are reported in the Express,
29 June 1886, page 2c,
10 July 1886, page 4b,
24 August 1886, page 2e,
21 December 1886, page 3e; also see
24 January 1888, page 2c,
23 February 1888, page 2c.
"A Cabman's Grievance" is in the Advertiser,
26 and 30 September 1887, pages 3g and 7e.
The funeral of a cabman, John Nash, is reported in the Express,
17 May 1893, page 4c.
The first hansom cab with electric light is discussed in the Register,
24 April 1893, page 5c,
29 April 1893, page 30d.
Lights on vehicles is discussed in the Register,
10 January 1894, page 5a.
An obituary of Richard George, an early coach driver, is in the Register,
12 May 1896, page 7g,
of J.A. Lawton, coachbuilder, on
30 March 1898, page 3i.
Local coachbuilding at John Reid & Co's premises is discussed in the
14 November 1896, page 5e.
Also see Factories and Mills.
"Hard Times for Cabmen" is in the Register,
21 July 1902, page 4e; also see
30 June 1910, page 6d.
"The Cabman" is in the Register,
29 August 1903, page 4e.
Motor cabs are discussed in the Express,
8 and 9 November 1904, pages 4e and 4d.
"Taxi-Cabs for Adelaide" is in the Register,
18 March 1909, page 4f; also see
9 and 31 July 1909, pages 4e and 8h,
31 August 1909, page 4d.
"Adelaide Vehicle Stands" is in the Register,
11 and 14 August 1896, pages 6g and 6g; also see
23 August 1906, page 9a.
"Taximeters for Cabs" is in the Express,
1 February 1907, page 4h.
The first motor-cab licence is detailed in the Register on
22 November 1904, page 4f; also see
8 November 1904, page 6f,
20 December 1904, page 4e.
"Cabstand Telephones" is in the Register,
27 August 1907, page 4d,
"The Cabmen" on
4 September 1907, page 3f.
"Taxi-Cabs for Adelaide" is in the Register,
18 March 1909, page 4f,
9 July 1909, page 4e; also see
14 and 31 August 1909, pages 12g and 4d.
See South Australia - Communications - Telephones
"Taxi Cab Drivers - Strike or Lockout?" is in the Advertiser,
12 and 13 August 1912, pages 11c and 11e; also see
12, 13, 14, 26 and 31 August 1912, pages 6h, 6f-8f, 8d, 9d and 17e.
"Motors versus Cabs" is in the Register,
18 April 1914, page 14h.
"Big Taxis for Adelaide" is in the Register,
12 December 1923, page 6h.
An obituary of G.R. Perry, coachmaker, is in the Observer,
14 July 1906, page 38b,
of James Duncan, coach builder, on
4 July 1908, page 40c.
"The Hansom Cab" is in the Register,
24 October 1910, page 4f.
"A Tale of Woe - How the Cabby Lives" is in the Register,
17 December 1914, page 7b,
"The Lot of the Cabby" on
3 September 1920, page 6g.
Photographs of coaches leaving the GPO are in the Observer,
27 December 1913, page 29.
"Veteran Cabby Retires", the reminiscences of Mr T.H. Moyle, is in The Mail,
27 July 1918, page 5.
"Adelaide's Ancient Cabmen - Cheery but Vanishing Company" is in The Mail,
28 July 1923, page 2g,
"The Passing of the Cab" on
24 October 1925, page 1g,
"Disappearing Cabs" in The News,
6 January 1927, page 15e.
"The Taxi War - City Council By-Laws" is in the Advertiser,
22 and 24 April 1926, pages 14f and 17h,
1 May 1926, page 9e.
Information on the Checker Cab Co is in The News,
25 March 1927, page 5d.
Biographical details of Francis P. Adams, "Adelaide's Famous Coachman", is in the Register,
1 August 1929, page 19d.
"Adelaide Cabmen Drive on the Highway to Oblivion" is in The Mail,
14 December 1929, page 44.