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Background: Mr W. Thomas took over his father's carrier's business and spent all his life in Trafalgar House. Thomas's was one of two rival carriers and transport businesses that occupied the property in North Street and Trafalgar Square that stretches from the entrance to the Parish Hall to the start of the broad pavement leading to The Square. The other was Tidball's. White's Directory 1878 lists three carriers - George Lee, Mark Thomas, John Tidball. Soon after the Great war the two businesses merged to become The Witheridge Transport Company Ltd. This took place at some date between 1919 and 1922 and all the members of the two families had shares. Mrs Thomas recalls that "Charlie Maire's Foden" also formed part of the merger. "West Country Diary" in the Western Morning News of November 13th, 1964, states that the firm was acquired in the 1930's by Greenslades.


W.T. started driving the carrier's horse van at the age of eleven. On one occasion he drove in winter with his young brother Ern to Tiverton, but when he had completed his errands, snow was falling heavily and he was advised in Tiverton to apply soft soap to the horses shoes and hooves so the snow would not clog them. Never the less, they got stuck coming up Morchard Woods and got the help of an additional pair of horses to pull them to the top. They got home safe with Ern asleep under the canvas at the back. On another occasion, W.T (aged 11) drove to Nomansland on the way to Tiverton with his mother who called on a house there and came out with a stout lady passenger. This lady either couldn't see young W.T or thought him beneath her notice, and called out "where's the boss then?" W.T. replied "jump up Missus, I'm the boss." "You'll do boy" said the lady.

M.T. states that W.T. never killed anything in the course of his driving career, but on one occasion the bus was so jolted on a rough road that a baby on its mothers lap was thrown clean through the window. The baby came to no harm but the driver stopped the bus so sharply that he was thrown onto the steering wheel and had to be taken to hospital.

W.T used to drive to Lapford Station with butter and eggs and take them by train to Exeter.

M.T. and W.T. woke up in one morning to hear voices in the street; "who's that chattering?" "T'is the outing and we've overslept." W.T just out of bed, calls out "nearly ready", but still had to feed and harness up the horses.

In the twenties there were rival firms in Molton and Tiverton (where a firm called Croscols had just started), but "they didn't come to Witheridge; they didn't dare."

In the early buses carbide lights were provided, These "were all right so long as the water didn't get in." If it did, the lights used to go out and "someone stood on the running board and struck matches if they wanted to see where they were."

In chapel when "Oh what transport of delight" was played W.T. used to nudge M.T. in the ribs.

Other Information From M.T.: Bus bodies were originally built by a firm in Salisbury, and later in Tiverton. At one time there were "a Rec, a small Dennis, a big Leyland, a big Dennis, and two Ford cars." Old Greenslade who ran the butter Factory was known as "Bill Butterdabs" and was very short. "If you saw a car coming with nobody driving, it was Bill Butterdabs."

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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