Thursday, 23 January 2014

“From our Photographic Collection”, by Pat Harvey


THE EARLY MOTORIST


                                                                                Ref P057: A couple of early motorists with their car

Some of you will remember Gordon Christie, a true St Andrean who had great depth of knowledge of all things relating to St Andrews. He was 94 years old when he died in 2009.

The business, Christie Brothers, was established in 1908 by Gordon’s Father and Uncle, James and Jack Christie, who were initially cycle builders. They made the “Bell Rock Cycle”. Producing a hand made cycle was a very skilled and time consuming job. By 1921 Christie Brothers’ garage in Bridge Street was a very busy place. They became motor engineers, cycle repairers and retail agents for Triumph and A.J.S. Motor Cycles. They also sold petrol.

The Museum has benefited greatly from Gordon Christie by way of photographs and from information on a wide variety of subjects.

Have you ever thought about how and where early motorists obtained the fuel for their vehicles?  In 1980 a school teacher wrote to Gordon asking this question. This was his reply:-

“Early motorists had difficulty in buying petrol until a London oil refining company ironically named Carless, Capeland and Leonard started a light benzene (or benzoline) and named it “petrol”, borrowing from the French word pétrole.

My late father and Mr Wilson (Wilson’s Garage) would send off a letter ordering the petrol from this London firm. It was sold to them in four two gallon sealed cans. The cans fitted into a wooden box. The boxes were sent off by rail to St Andrews and were delivered by the local horse-drawn railway lorry to their garages.

I remember in the early 1920’s the three Petrol Companies’ motor lorries delivering the cans of petrol at my father’s garage. They were:-

   Pratts – green cans 

   Shell – red cans

   British Petroleum, known as BP – green cans with a yellow shield.

In the middle of the 1920s garages went over to manual pumps. At the top part of the pump were two glass containers. The operator pumped petrol up into one of the containers with an oscillating handle, then emptied that into the car’s tank while pumping up petrol to fill the other container. This was a slow method of refuelling.”

 
Now we know!