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Monday, 10 October 2011

A Slow Stagecoach Journey - Nov, 1846: Travel Tuesday

Images of stage coaches on Christmas cards look colourful, dashing and rather romantic, but what was the reality like for our ancestors travelling 165 years ago?

A news item in the local newspaper "The Border Watch" of 19th November 1846 paints a rather different picture of the reality of stagecoach travel.

“A SLOW COACH. – The Edinburgh and Hawick coach, which left Princes Street, Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon at 4pm  did not reach the Bridge Inn, Galashiels, until about 10pm; thus accomplishing the distance of thirty-two miles in the astonishing period of six hours!   

The pace was such that an ordinary pedestrian would have found little difficulty in keeping up with the coach. The road was by no means heavy, although in some places newly laid with metal. The coachman did his duty well with whip and voice, constantly urging forward his jaded steeds, and employing the box seat passenger to assist him with a spare thong.

But it was all of no avail. The animals would not move one foot faster than another. Up hill or down hill there was little perceptible difference, and several times the vehicle came to a dead halt, almost on a level.

The coach was full from Edinburgh, but a passenger having been let down on the road, another person was taken up. In spite of the loud remonstrances of the passengers, a second was buckled on behind, and a third was allowed standing room beside him. It appears there is now no restriction as to the number a stage coach may carry, and consequently three poor miserable horses were forced to drag, throughout a weary stage of fifteen miles, a heavy coach loaded with eighteen or twenty persons.

If there is any law against cruelty to animals, surely it must apply to a case like this. Whatever grievances attend railway travelling, it will be something, at least, to get rid of this wholesome horse murder.”

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