West Coast Motors: 100 years of bringing people together (Part I)

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Down Memory Lane

A century after Campbeltown-based coach operator West Coast Motors was founded, bus enthusiast Lawrence Macduff, who splits his time between Kilmarnock and Dunoon, has penned a commemorate article delving into the company’s history from 1921 to the present day.

The piece, and several photographs also supplied by Lawrence, will be published in the Courier over the next few weeks.

There cannot be too many businesses in the whole of Argyll which have been able to celebrate 100 years of continuous trading.

Of these, West Coast Motors, as the principal bus service provider not only for residents of Kintyre but nowadays for the majority of Argyll folks, has a very conspicuous profile simply by the very nature of what it does.

If its family founders were alive today, I’m sure they would feel a sense of great pride at the achievements of their progeny in building the West Coast business into the major transport enterprise it now is.

By way of an introduction, this writer is not a native of the ‘Wee Toon’ but my cousin first came to live in Campbeltown in 1961 and thus I have a great affinity with the area.

Furthermore, since boyhood, I’ve had a deep-rooted interest in ‘the buses’, not just in Kintyre but across the western seaboard and the western and northern isles.

Thus it was that this enthusiast, following a 36-year career in banking – including two weeks’ duty in Campbeltown 40 years ago – came to take up bus driving professionally when I retired in 2000; if you are going to be smitten with a hobby that has also become your job, you might as well go the whole hog.

I have been involved in bus preservation for more than 30 years. My preserved 1967 MacBraynes coach was built for the Campbeltown–Glasgow service in 1967, and was joined in 2020 by my now restored West Coast Motors DAF service coach that spent a chunk of its working life in Campbeltown.

And, so, to this brief historical commentary. So much has happened within a century in every walk of life and West Coast Motors’ history reflects this.

Space can only allow me to touch on the bare details over such an extended period but for anyone who would like to know more, Venture Publications and writer Ian Stubbs in 2013 released an excellent history of West Coast’s operations with its title A celebration of 90 years’ service.

I believe the publisher still has some copies in stock, and it may also be obtainable second-hand. I have referred to this excellent record in providing information for this historical résumé.

A further detailed company history is being prepared, though the rapidity with which West Coast’s evolution takes place means that it is hard to ever regard any such work as complete!

Suffice it to say that John, David and William Craig, having formed a garage repair business just after the end of the First World War, then ventured into the realms of road passenger transport in February 1921 by launching a service between Campbeltown and Tarbert to compete with Duncan Ramsay, an existing operator on this route.

The Post Office then put out to tender its mail contract to meet the steamer at Tarbert. It was secured by what became the second of the famous Kintyre passenger transport company names, A & P McConnachie.

Further new operators joined the fray and, as was common in those days, intense competition occurred everywhere in the country until regulatory route licensing was introduced in 1930 with the arrival of the Road Traffic Act.

Post Office mails and parcels contracts formed a key part of the Kintyre service network; in a similar but much further reaching geographical spread, the now famous MacBraynes organisation of those times similarly carried parcels and mails to destinations across the western seaboard and western isles in its own fleet of buses and motor ships.

In the mid-1930s,West Coast Motors obtained a contract to convey mails and parcels to and from Campbeltown and Glasgow. This was renewed at succeeding intervals and continued right up until 2011.

The vans and light trucks later used were every bit as smartly turned out as the coaches, and were an excellent advert for the company.

To be continued in next week’s Courier.

What a difference 10 years make! This 1937 Leyland Cub is depicted at the old Post Office at Clachan. It had a fully enclosed heated saloon and comfortable seats even though local roads would still offer a bumpy ride at times.
What a difference 10 years make! This 1937 Leyland Cub is depicted at the old Post Office at Clachan. It had a fully enclosed heated saloon and comfortable seats even though local roads would still offer a bumpy ride at times.