Thursday, January 04, 2007

Transport Pioneers - The Robinson Family: a further note

Photo: Passenger vehicle used by Robinson Bros Motor Service, Kempsey.

As I dig into New England's past, I find it interesting that the influence of certain families keeps on recurring in particular sectors.

In earlier posts I spoke of the Robinsons and Virtues in the context of New England Airways and the development of civil aviation in New England and beyond (see stocktake on transport posts). Now reading Marie Neil's Valley of the Macleay (Wentworth Book, Sydney 1972 pp-79-80) I found out that the Robinson family's connection with New England actually began in the Macleay Valley.

Around 1859 George Robinson came to the Macleay Valley, soon after selecting land at Jerseyville in the Macleay delta downstream from Kempsey. He and his brother John ran a river boat service for some years (river transport was critical to Valley transport and communication) until the partnership was dissolved and George became a storekeeper at Jerseyville.

No less than four of George's sons were to become well-known in the early days of motor transport on the North Coast.

George A Robinson who was to go on to found New England Airways began conveying passengers in a sulky or buggy. In 1910 he began a charter service using a two cylinder Talbot car (and here) followed by a four cylinder Clement Bayard (here, in French I'm afraid) used to provide a twice weekly passenger service to Taree.

In 1911 George A acquired a vehicle capable of carrying ten to twelve passengers on the run and was joined in the venture by brother William T Robinson. George A was to move to Lismore and leave the partnership, although I am not sure of the exact chronology of events since Robinson Bros also (I think) operated out of Lismore.

William carried the business on, adding more vehicles and extending runs to Newcastle and Grafton before he too left the district, moving to Grafton where he later became mayor.

In addition to George and William, Walter and Albert Robinson also became involved in land transport, running early mail and passenger services between Kempsey and South West Rocks.

These early days of motor transport could be strenuous and adventurous. The often heavily laden cars travelled over unformed dirt roads that were often rough, dusty when dry, boggy when wet.

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