A Pioneer Journey

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A reader, Mr. P.J.N. Bussell of Penarth, has sent us details of a journey accomplished by his grandfather, Mr. Eli Evans, in September 1901 in an 8-h.p. Daimler. It may have been the first motor car in Wales and it certainly made a satisfactory long journey in that then-remote part of Britain.

The Daimler belonged to Mr. Penrose Thomas and he was accompanied on the tour in question by Mr. Evans, Mr. J.C. Corvin and someone referred to as Ashley. The party left Swansea Station at 11.05 a.m. on September 7th and, going via Pontardulais, Cross Hands and Llandeilo, had reached Pumpsaint by 2.30 p.m. Here lunch was taken, at the Dolaucothi Arms. The journey then proceeded through Lampeter, Derri Ormonde, Tregaron, Strata Florida, Ystradmeurig, Trawscoed, Llanilar and Llanrhystyd, to Aberystwyth, where the night was spent at the Red Lion and Goderddau Arms Hotels. The travellers had arrived at their destination at 7.10 p.m., after a day’s drive of 106 miles.

The following day, a Sunday, they left the seaside town at 10.15 and drove through Talybont, Taliesin, Glandyfi and Machynlleth (well known to modern rally drivers), to Corns, skirting the “toy railway” for 8 1/2 miles. They reached Corris after 2 hr. 10 mm. Passing Corris Lake at the foot of Cader Idris (which Motor Sport “conquered” some years ago in a Range Rover), the autocarists arrived at Dolgellau for lunch, at the Golden Lion, by 1.30. They left at 2.40, to enjoy a drive which Ruskin has described as “the prettiest in the Kingdom”, arriving at Barmouth by 3.30. That day’s drive concluded at the George Hotel at Criccieth by 5.45 p.m. totalling 120 miles.

So the tour went on. The Daimler doesn’t appear to have been pushed unduly, but on the third day it covered 86 miles. After a late start, due to taking a pre-breakfast walk, the route was retraced to the Aberglaslyn Pass and then went via Dinas, Pen-y-Gwryd, east of Snowdon, and Llanberis Lake, for lunch at the Royal Oak, and then to Caernarfon, Menai Bridge, Bangor and Llandegal (“Lord Penrhyn’s model village; semi-detached houses”), to Betws-y-Coed. The night was spent at another Royal Oak there, reached after 7 hr. 55 mm. from starting out, in spite of stops to admire the scenery, buy petrol in Bangor (in 1901, note), visit Caernarfon Castle, stop at the Goat Hotel at Beddgelert and at the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel, and spend 45 minutes over lunch. As they also walked across the Menai Bridge into Anglesey and returned to the George Hotel (where the Duke of Wellington stayed in 1851), and looked at the “tubular” bridge spanning the Straights, which took 40 minutes, the Daimler did very well.

Because of rain and taking a wrong turning, the Tuesday’s run didn’t really get going until 12.30 p.m., from Llanrwst. But by 1.30 they were at Conway, where Plasrnawr and Conway Castle were visited and lunch was taken at the Castle Hotel (are the oil paintings still panelling the dining room?). Leaving at 2.30 the round trip back to Betws-y-Coed was completed by 5.30. The next day was easier, the Daimler being driven to Bala for an afternoon’s fishing. The party put up at the Royal Hotel, built in 1685. The Thursday was spent at the Merioneth Agricultural Show at Bala.

On the Friday they were off again, starting with an hour’s run before breakfast (I assume in the Daimler, not on foot). Leaving Bala at 10.45, Corwen was reached, via Llandrillo, by 12.15 and after lunch at the Owen Glendwr Hotel, the journey was resumed at 3.45. They were in the Glyn Valley Hotel at 5.30, having stopped for 15 minutes at Llangollen. Saturday was less strenuous, with a run up the Llanarmon Valley and back to Glyn, and in the afternoon a run out to Ruabon and Wynnstay Park and back. The Daimler was employed on the Sunday for a visit to Oswestry (tea at the Wynnstay Arms) and an oak tree 43 ft. in diameter was inspected at Pontfadog. Finally, on the Monday, ten days after setting out, the Daimler left Glyn at 10 a.m, and got to Oswestry at 11.05, where Mr. Evans caught the 11.43 train to Cardiff. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Gorvon drove on to Bala, where presumably they spent more of their holiday. The Daimler had by then done well over 400 miles (the distances are not quoted for every day, so it was more likely more than 450 miles) and there is no reference to any mechanical trouble. Admittedly a Daimler had been driven from John o’ Groats to Land’s End in 1897 and in 1900 the 1,000-Mile Trial had taken place successfully. But this is different from this tour, with four persons on a privately-owned, solid-tyred veteran in a part of the land unfrequented by motor cars.

I have given the itinerary of this journey in some detail, as Welsh VCC members may like to emulate part of it. The Daimler was one of the first British cars in serious production and I was wondering the other day how many of these remarkably reliable early models have survived. The person to ask was Joan Das of the VCC. She tells me that nine VCC members own pre-1901 examples. Of these, four are 1897 models, including E.D. Woolley’s well-known car which still has tiller-steering and hot-tube ignition. There is an 1899 car in Mr. Black’s Yorkshire collection and Lord Montagu’s famous Daimler is thought to be of this age. Finally, we have three 1900 models. Conversions to wheel-steering and electric ignition will inevitably have been made in some cases, not necessarily by the present owners, of course. But it is splendid that so many really early cars of this illustrious British make survive in this country and it occurs to me that one day it would be nice to make the acquaintance of some of them.—W.B.