If I had a pound for everybody who said that Sam Turner had asked their Grandfather to go into business with them I would be quite satisfied. It was probably true. What was also true is that they didn’t. Sampson Bratt wouldn’t support Granddad either saying that buses would take trade away from the village which of course was true. Setting up a bus company couldn’t have been easy, after all it was a new idea.
Brown Edge was a different place just after the First War. My grandmother Pepper lived at Brown Knowles (the old golf course at Bradeley) and walked to Brown Edge with a friend when she was a girl. She had to turn back at Barrie’s Bank (just outside Laughing Cottage) because a group of women came out and stoned them, telling them to go home as they were likely to take their men away! So Brown Edge was quite isolated.
Sam eventually raised the funds from a loan from The British Wagon Company and bought a Charabanc with wooden seats and canvas roof that had served in the First War. He parked it at the bottom of Jobs Pool. Just before my Uncle Edwin died a couple of years ago, he told me of the excitement on the village when people saw it on that first morning, and how as a small boy in 1921, he ran down from the Rocks (where they lived) to proudly sit inside. He slept inside it all night! It was green and cream which remained the company colours until the end. The colours were changed for the “deckers” in the late fifties to Tudor Maroon as this was easier to keep clean.
To pay for the bus Sam changed his job from working at Whitfield to welding chains at the chain works at Ford Green where the pay was more and his shifts were different which enabled him to run the buses. Sam was descended from a long line of Master Blacksmiths from Longsdon so I suppose this also appealed as perhaps did the allocation of two quarts of ale per day bought over to the welders from “The Ford” Public House. Good job they didn’t have breathalysers then!
The early days saw him fetching and carrying miners from Whitfield to Brown Edge which the company continued to do for the next 70 years. Two nice stories that I have been told relate to the relationship he had with the colliers. One told me that Sam always gave them a fag when they got on the bus (miners couldn’t carry “contraband” cigarettes and matches on their person) This clearly was a good way to build business. Frankie Holdcroft told me that he used to collect money and act as conductor and found a five pound note tucked in the money bag and told Sam. Sam said it had been there for a while and was waiting to see who would tell him first, and did he want a job!
Whitfield pit has many memories for me personally because as soon as I could walk until I went to school my Uncle Edwin used to take me on the bus at dinner time to drop off the miners on noon’s and to pick up the men on days. This is how I learned to drive as the conductor would stand me on the front seat with the little window open and Uncle Edwin would say “listen to the engine and tell me when to change gear” I don’t know what the miners thought as we lurched up Duke Bank. What I did find out though was that with an AEC engine if you got it wrong, the engine was so finely balanced that it would go backwards so you had 4 reverse gears and one very slow forward gear!
I also had memories of sitting on the knee of the driver of the cage of the Hesketh Pit and seeing the cable run out from this great engine. I wasn’t sure about this as it must be unlikely for a child to be taken in this dangerous environment, but I was telling this to John Chadwick and he said it was true, as it was he who operated the cage. He of course lived opposite the garage that Granddad built in 1926 in High Lane. This wasn’t our first garage as he used to park where the Cross Edge Road is now and also where the Post Office is now situated. I don’t know which garage it was but i have been told many times that one was made of oil drums and planks and that it was blown away in a gale!
Sam was supported in his business venture by his wife Harriet Tomkinson the daughter of Daniel (Tunny) Tomkinson and Alice Mountford. She was the cousin of Mrs Sam Bratt, Mrs Basnett, Mrs Berrisford and Lottie Hayes which just typifies the Brown Edge community where outsiders call us in-breds and my family tree research has shown this to be true. There are more Mountfords, Sheldons & Sharratts in my family than you can imagine.
Shortly after the charabanc, Sam bought another bus and retired the old bus (it was a hen cote when I was a boy in the back garden) This new bus was soon added to when he bought Lee Burges’s business from him
He left the Chain Works and started running a Public Service vehicle to Burslem (which changed to Hanley shortly after) and taking the Mill Girls to Leek which again conveniently had different shifts than the miners.
The trip to Leek wasn’t easy. Uncle Gordon once told me that people
were frightened when the bus used to go “round the corkscrew” and that some caught the train to Endon and then caught the bus up to Brown Edge. It was quite a while before I realised that The Corkscrew was the name of the road before the New Cutting was made at Longsdon.
Harriet Turner died in 1954 and Sam died shortly afterward and on his death certificate the official cause of death is “Died of a broken heart” The business was carried on by their 4 sons and daughter.
I have a photograph of Uncle Gordon as a young man at Ilam in front of two buses on a Sunday Mystery Trip He said that was the first time a bus had been down there and to get back all the passengers had to get out and push the bus up Bloor pastures because it was too steep. He had lots of stories like that. He used to love driving, he hardly ever looked at the road just looking round at the scenery and talking to passengers!
On one Llandudno trip he went off to Conway and tried to get across the bridge there only to find out that it was too sharp a bend at the end to cross. A helpful local told him that no bus had ever crossed the bridge and he would have to wait until they built the proposed new bridge! So
Uncle Gordon got out of the bus had a good look, reversed back, turned round and reversed over the bridge and managed to turn the corner, much to the dismay of the locals.
I could say so much more about the business I was born into and loved. The memories of incidents that happened keep flooding back, the local dialect that was used, as well as the knowledge and wisdom that was passed from Sam to his four sons Gordon, Edwin, Alan, Roy and his Daughter Olwyn all of whom have passed away now.
One thing typifies the hard working no nonsense attitude of these people is when Uncle Gordon was stopped in Leek by a police woman when he was bringing the Mill Girls home. It was, and is, illegal to drive a bus while smoking (I don’t know how Frankie Frost survived all those years driving for us, as he never had a fag out of his mouth) and he invariably had a cigar or pipe going. It was pointed out to him by the police woman that he couldn’t smoke his pipe and he replied. “Arr arv get shees om mar feyt but ar anner wokin” which roughly translated means “my pipe isn’t lit and there isn’t a law against that, so if you don’t mind I will proceed on my way thank you very much”
I still get people calling at “The Garage” or dropping notes in telling me of what is happening to the buses. One is supposedly in USA painted red, another was in Germany but has been bought back to the Potteries where it is going to be restored and painted up in our colours and another is in a yard on the Wirral which again is supposedly going to be restored so perhaps my final journey will indeed be possibly like my first (back from Leek Hospital) on one of Sammy Turner’s Buses