The Coaching Days
4 November 1938 Albury Banner and Wodonga Express
(By Will Carter)
Whenever old coaching days are brought up for discussion in the bush to-day it is usually the famous firm of Cobb and Co. that is quoted as the pioneer of passenger transport, but coaches were running over long country stages many years before the advent of Cobb and Co., the original Yankee firm 1862, at Bathurst, after a successful business run in Victoria, where the company originated with Freeman Cobb, an American, as promoter.
Cobb, however, was only briefly associated with the great concern, and it was James Rutherford who mainly directed the business affairs of the new and enterprising firm in New South Wales which, nevertheless, preserved the name of the original firm, Cobb and Co.
Doyle And Levy
Inland settlement quickly followed upon the heels of exploration.
When Hume and Hovell had completed their, noteworthy expedition from Appin to Port Phillip in 1824, crossing the Murrumbidgee, Goobragandra, Tumut and Murray rivers as they pluckily pushed their way through the vast regions, the dense penetralia to the south, untrodden previously by the feet of white men, their glowing report of the country traversed induced many courageous men to seek out a future home for themselves and their young wives, and future offspring.
It was thus that some means of light and speedy, transport had to be found in order that the long and lonely trip to Sydney could be made more expeditiously than by the slow and lumbering bullock dray.
And so, we find coaches running their stages from Goulburn to Campbelltown in the late thirties.
Their bodies were supported on the usual steel springs, which, taking advantage of the ruts and limbs, and rocks and other impediments, too numerous to record, that distinguished the King's highway, known as the Great Southern Road, gave the passengers a rough-and-tumble passage which often produced a condition quite as trying as sea-sickness.
The stages were naturally very long and tedious, owing to flooded streams which were unspanned by bridges at the time. Doyle and Levy's drivers were certainly tough and resourceful men whose courage and endurance must have exceeded even that of their passengers.
Jones And Lupton
Doyle and Levy were succeeded by Jones and Lupton, who, in the fifties, held the mail delivery contract from Sydney to Melbourne.
The terrific drought of 1851, which reduced the Murrumbidgee to a chain of ponds in places, severely taxing the coaching firms.
The Victorian and New South Wales Governments, in the circum- stances, granted the Jones firm a substantial subsidy to help it through.
Roberts And Crane
Roberts and Crane acquired several of Jones and Lupton's lines and, as the gold diggings were now in full swing, with thousands constantly on the move, they quickly made good. 'Ginger' Roberts was a great organiser and full of energy; his career terminated in North Queensland at the age of 86 years.
The drivers of those early days of rough traffic were usually men of interesting personality, who had to hold more than the mere 'ribbons.'
They had to meet all classes of people on the box, from the district court judges, Crown prosecutors, defending barristers, members of Parliament and other Government officials, down to the rooks of the race meetings.
They were expected to inform all and sundry who might make inquiry, as to who was who, and what was what, along the dusty old roads, and, as their sources of information came from authorities with whom they daily came in contact it had to be given and taken for what it was worth.
However, the coachmen of the old days, among whom were 'Brummy,' Ted Armfield, Johnny Patrick, 'Long Jim,' John Curran, Jim Pettingall, Billy Yabsley, Joe Pittman, and men like Jim Lowe and Billy Maloney on the Bathurst-Sofala-Hill End stages in the west, were all good and capable drivers, and each entertaining in his racy descriptions of past incidents along the track of coaching experience.
Cobb And Co.
Cobb and Co. came along in 1862, when their famous old red-and-yellow thorough brace coaches began to cut the opposition lines out.
It was then that price-cutting extraordinary was resorted to, affording the travelling public cheap transit for a time, Cobb and Co. eventually proving too strong financially for the opposition.
At one time Pooley and Malone ran passengers from Goulburn to Cooma and back, a distance of 280 miles, for 10/-. Billy Maloney cut the Bathurst-Sofala fare to half-a-crown, with a free dinner enroute.
Later he cut out the fare and the dinner, taking the passengers for nothing. Cobb and Co. then cutely informed patrons that they were only carrying mails, advising them to apply to Maloney.
That move, terminated price-cutting.
Billy Maloney was a most original type of man.
He possessed a ready Irish wit, too, and could entertain his passengers with his racy stories of the bush.
He composed a song when Cobb and Co. crossed his track, and this he loved to sing on the box while his neddies rattled over the track.
The song ran thus:-
Look Here, Cobb And Co.
'Now, look here, Cobb and Co.,
A lesson take from me;
If you meet me on the track,
Don't you make too free.
For, if you do, you'll surely rue,
You think you do me fine,
But I'm the tip-and-slasher
Of the Tambaroora line.
I can hold and steer them,
And drive them to and fro,
With ribbons well in hand, me bhoys,
I'm bound to make them go.
Wid me foot well on the brake, lads,
I'm sure to make them shine,
For I'm the tip-and-slasher
Of the Tambaroora line.