The TowerBus Company

A Tower Bus Company Bus Click for Larger image
One of the Tower Bus CompaniesBuses
This has been contributed by Ted Spendlove who lives in Eire ,the Robert jnr referred to is one of the sons of Robert and Sarah.
With thanks to Cyril Mcintyre of Buseirann and Barry Millar (www.Dublinbuses.com) for highlighting several errors.
The Tower Bus Company

In 1923 Robert and Sarah Spendlove formed the Tower Bus Company Ltd. They were obviously entrepreneurs, as at this time Dublin was recovering from the devastating effects of the First World War, the war of Independence and the Civil War which followed. Dublin lay in ruins, day to day business was at a low ebb, to set up a new business particularly a bus company needed courage and foresight. They purchased six Crossleys which were originally Black and Tan tenders, they removed the bodies and replaced them with bus bodies. Later they purchased British army vehicles at auction in Gormanstown, these where K. type carriers. More about the Black and Tans later.

The first bus commenced operating in April 1924.

They were small by present day standards, sixteen, twenty two and thirty six seaters, in addition to Crossleys and Karriers there were Dennis and some A.E.C. charabancs in all twenty six buses. Up to 1925 all the buses had solid wheels, some were then fitted with pneumatic tyres. At one stage they imported a double decker from England, the Dublin Metropolitan Police Carriage Office refused to licence this bus, I have no doubt that the reason for this refusal was because the Tram Companies had the D.M.P. in their pockets, (possibly brown envelopes were the order of the day then) the Tram Companies realised that the buses could put them out of business. There was open warfare between the Tower buses and the Lucan trams, this was a bitter war with no holds barred, the buses would operate a few minutes ahead of the trams and pick up their passengers. The Lucan trams were operated by the Lucan Electric Railway Company. The tram company took the Tower Bus Company to court, they lost their case culminating in the trams ceasing operations on the 29th January 1925.
It was the only bus company in Dublin that took on the Lucan trams and put them out of business.

Routes operated included Lucan, Cellbridge, Leixlip, Maynooth, Clane, Kilcock, Summerhill, Rathmoylan, Prosperous and Trim, the city terminus was at Parkgate Street. The Tower Bus Company was a cross between a city and country service. In addition to The Tower Buses there was a small bus company called The Vulcan which was owned by a Mr Bryne, it was the first bus company to operate the Lucan route, very little is known about this company.

BUS V TRAM WAR

Tower Bus drivers would frequently drive along side a tram jeer the driver then accelerate. When the Vulcan buses were running on the Lucan route races between Tower and Vulcan buses were common, no doubt putting passengers lives at risk. The Tower buses won this battle, the trams were their next victim.

Problems also faced by the trams were the restrictions of operating on a single line to Lucan, there was double tracks know as loops at certain points to enable them to pass, there were loops opposite the Chapelizod Park Gate, the Mullingar House, the bottom of Ballyfermot Hill, opposite Belgrove, the top of Palmerstown Hill and the main street in Palmerstown. Incidentally the Lucan trams started again in 1928 when a new wider track was laid down and faster and more comfortable trams were put into service.

The reason the tramway to Lucan was reopened was not for commercial reasons as it was not a viable route for trams. When the Dublin United Tramway Company sought permission from Dublin Corporation to operate buses in Dublin they were granted permission on the condition that they reopened the Lucan Tramway. A new track was laid at the standard gauge of 5 feet 3 inches and was connected to the line at Parkgate Street which served the city centre. New trams were designed and built specially for the Lucan route, This type of tram was always know as the Lucan Tram.

The Tower Bus Company ceased operating around  February 1931 .

The demise of the Tower Bus Company may have been caused by competition from the General or at that time the Spendlove family may have been splitting up and each one going their own way in life.
 
 

BELGROVE FILLING STATION

Ted is not sure when the Belgrove filling station opened, it was certainly one of the first filling stations in the country, in those days cars and filling stations were far and few between. Teds father told him they were buying Russian (ROP) petrol for four pence per gallon, this would have about right as later than this petrol retailed at one shilling and two pence per gallon including government tax. Ted has seen an old vitreous enamel garage sign showing this price. In addition to selling petrol and oil, it was also a place to have your radio battery charged, and of course repair your punctures, which were frequent due to poor road surfaces and horse shoe nails.

There is only one original Tower bus in existence. The story behind this bus is that it was kept in its original condition in the garage in Belgrove when Robert jnr was alive, as it was common knowledge that Belgrove would be left to Ted Spendlove when uncle Bob died, it was always his intention to restore the bus to its original condition.

When Robert jnr died Belgrove was left to Jack, but this is another story. When Jack took over Belgrove the bus disappeared, it transpired he had given it to the travellers simply to get rid of it, some time later Ted saw it in a field near Palmerstown, before Ted could buy it back the body was sold to a man from Dundrum who used it as a garden shed for his children to play in. Some how Jimmy Boland from Clondalkin found it and bought a few parts off it for another vehicle that he was refurbishing. Some time later the travellers arrived outside his garage in Clondalkin offering him the chassis, he asked what they were going to do with it and they replied that unless he bought it from them they were going to bring it to Hammond Lane Foundry and sell it for scrap. Fortunately he bought it from them for the princely sum of £3-10-00 it then lay in his garage till a film crew filming Ryans Daughter contacted him looking for a period bus and a Black and Tan tender, Jimmy told them that he had an original bus minus its body. Jimmy Boland and the film crew went to Dundrum to buy back the original bus body, when the owner realised it was to be used to make a film, he probably smelled money and asked for five thousand POUNDS for it. The film crew refused to pay that amount, they later had an exact replica built. It was then used in filming both Ryan's Daughter and Michael Collins.

When Ted contacted Jimmy about the whereabouts of the bus he was told that he had sold it to a private collection in Alderly Edge near Manchester it was with difficulty that Ted traced him only to discover that he had died. It was more detective work tracing his son Andrew. Ted eventually traced him and he kindly arranged to allow Ted to photograph it.

THE LUCAN TRAMS

The Dublin & Lucan Steam Tramway laid the first tram line from Conyngham Road to Chapelizod, the first steam tram arrived in Chapelizod on the 1st June 1881, the line was then extended to Palmerstown in November of that year. The first tram to reach Lucan arrived on the 20th February 1883. The line was then extended to Leixlip the first tram arriving in Leixlip in June 1890. In October 1897 the line to Leixlip was closed and the terminus reverted to Lucan. In 1900 the line was electrified and the gauge was widened to three feet six inches from the old gauge of three feet. Electricity for this route was generated at Fonthill near Lucan, this building still stands, it is now a factory. The company was then known as the Dublin and Lucan Electric Railway. This route closed on the 29th January 1925. It was reopened on the 14th May 1928 when the first tram operated as far as Chapelizod, on the 27th May the line was fully operational to Lucan.

Seats on the top deck where always constructed from wood as in the early days all trams were open topped. The backs of the seats were reversible so as to enable passengers to face which ever direction they pleased. The seats were known as knife edge, that is they were slated, this prevented water from accumulating on them.

For many years tram drivers were exposed to the elements, regardless of weather conditions they had to keep the trams running.
 
 

DOING THE BONA - FIDE

Sundays always saw Dubliners doing the bona-fide, this arose from the licensing laws which allowed persons who could prove that they had travelled more than three miles from the city to drink for longer periods than city pub hours. In other works you were a bona-fide traveller. A well know pub where you could do the bona-fide was the Deadman Murrays. Every Sunday saw the trams packed with Dublin Boozers, okay on the outward journey but a different story later on the return, this created problems for conductors on the trams, with rowdy passengers, a point was reached when the tram companies had to put two conductors on each tram to deal with this problem. Revellers were obliged to pay their fares before boarding, they were not allowed downstairs, the reason was that many of them became sick and needless to say heaved their stomach contents all over the place, it was easier to clean the top deck than the saloon downstairs. Many of the trams were open topped and it was easier to hose down the top deck which was fitted with wooden seats.

Another problem was when the revellers could reach out from the rear of the tram and pull the rope which held the trolley, this left the tram without power.

BLACK AND TANS

In January 1920 the R.I.C. recruited demobilised British soldiers into a force later to be know as the Black and Tans (so called due to the colour of their uniforms).

The Black and Tans were an auxiliary police force akin to the German Gestapo during World War Two. A law unto themselves, they were sent to Ireland with the sole purpose of hunting down and destroying the I.R.A. and their supporters, to this end their brutality knew no bounds, they were feared by Nationalist's throughout Ireland. No doubt the Crossley tender that was later to become a Tower bus could tell many a story of raids on Nationalist's homes where they would kick down the door and drag some unfortunate to an untimely death.

BELGROVE

Belgrove may have been used as a barracks for the Royal Irish Constabulary as there were bars on all of the basement windows, also Ted has recollections of his Father mentioning this. It is on record that The Knights Hospitallers established a leper hospital near the road between Chapelizod and Palmerstown, when at that time they owned a large tract of land extending as far as the railway bridge near our old farm in Ballyfermot, no doubt that at one time they owned the lands attached to Belgrove. In front of Belgrove house there was a small hillock with a large walnut tree, when this was levelled for housing a large quantity of human bones were uncovered, most certainly the burial ground for lepers, probably due to the nature of their disease and their poverty they would have buried in unconsecrated ground. Ted wonders if the walnut tree was planted to protect the grave of the lepers. Belgrove may have the site of the leper hospital as it was rebuilt in 1850.

The bus garage in Belgrove was built like a small aircraft hanger, it had a capacity to hold over twenty buses, bear in mind that buses were small by present day standards.

There was a very large plum and apple orchard attached to Belgrove, and on the opposite side of the main road a sand and gravel pit. In later years the gravel pit was used for dumping dry sewage collected from the Phoenix Park gate lodges. Robert jnr had a contract with the Board of Works to collect the contents of dry toilets in the gate lodges and dispose of it. It was collected by horse and cart, which became know as the sh-t house express. Robert jnr also kept milch cows and delivered milk in Chapelizod, the milk was delivered on a carrier bicycle.