Your article in the September issue of `Motor Sport’ on Mr Laurence Bell and the Peebles Motor Company of Edinburgh has brought to mind one or two points which may be of interest.
Laurence Bell was the engineer in charge of a gas plant in India or Ceylon before returning to this country to take up his appointment at Innerleithen and later founding the Peebles Motor Company in the neighbouring town of Peebles. By 1914 the company were well established in Edinburgh where they were agents for several well known makes of private cars and commercial vehicles. During the 1914-18 war the firm’s office in Edinburgh received a telephone call from the Admiralty to send their best car and driver to South Queensferry to pick up a most important personage. Bell decided to go himself and the important personage proved to be no less than HM King George the Fifth. On the drive back to Edinburgh the King was so impressed with Bell’s careful driving that he requested that the same car and driver be placed at his disposal during his stay in the city. Orbit departure a few days later His Majesty presented Bell with a set of gold cufflinks.
The Peebles Motor Company were one of the first to serve petrol from pumps under cover of a shelter in the forecourt of then large garage at Roseburn, circa 1922, this same location also saw the start of the Scottish Six Days Trial of 1924 in which many makes of light car of the time took part.
The Sunbeam agency for the Edinburgh district was held by the company for many years, this was particularly valuable as Edinburgh was always a Sunbeam stronghold and indeed if one stood at the bottom of the carriage drive in the Waverley Station for a space of half an hour in the mid-thirties it was possible to see examples of almost every Sunbeam model from circa 1912 to date. Landaulettes and limousines bought out of private service were very popular with taxi hirers in the city, 12/16 and 16/20 models being particular favourites the last a 1919 16hp landaulette not being withdrawn until 1946.
When the Peebles Motor Company were taken over by the Scottish Motor Traction Company in 1928, Bell’s colleague John Black also a Peebles man founded the Eastern Motor Company at 52 George Street. Although Black was not an engineer he successfully managed his new company for many years building up an enviable reputation for fair trading. While the Eastern Motor Company were certainly agents they were not the first in Edinburgh by a long way, that honour belongs to Messrs Maxwell & Donaldson of Westfield Avenue who were exhibiting Austin 18/24 models at the Scottish Motor Show of 1908 and were to hold the agency until just after the 1914-18 war when as the Westfield Autocar Company they became Exclusively Morris agents. The Austin agency passed in circa 1922 to Messrs Moir and Baxster Ltd, who were main dealers for this make until their demise a few years ago.
JAMES N. SAVAGE Edinburgh