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When the first driver was caught speeding in Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 20:52 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 20:52 29 April 2019

Decades after his conviction for speeding, Bertie Miller (far right) with pals.

Decades after his conviction for speeding, Bertie Miller (far right) with pals.

Archant

Four thousand miles away from "home" in Canada, where they have lived since 1957, ex-Yarmouthians Danny and Marjorie Daniels continue to take an interest in matters pertaining to their birthplace.

A link with home: expatriate Danny Daniels with his car in Canada in 1994, index-plated EX10.A link with home: expatriate Danny Daniels with his car in Canada in 1994, index-plated EX10.

So envisage their delight when they spotted in their local daily newspaper a feature not only reminding them of Yarmouth and but also touching on a subject occasionally aired in this column.

That Canadian newspaper's weekly motoring article recalled speed records established by “legendary English MG racer Lt-Col 'Goldie' Gardiner” who, in a special aerodynamic MG streamliner on Utah's Bonneville salt flats, posted six international and ten American speed records in 1951, returning the following year to set 21 new ones, and in 1957 reached 245mph with an innovative MG racer.

Why is Danny telling me this? “Because the 1951 car had the registration number EX135, and the 1957 model was EX181. I don't know if these were actually Great Yarmouth registered numbers but, even if not, they should have been!

“Can you imagine them zooming down Southtown Road at that speed?”

The Daimler car in which Bertie Miller drove too fast in Yarmouth, pictured outside the Columbia tavern. He is not at the wheel. Picture: Daniel MillerThe Daimler car in which Bertie Miller drove too fast in Yarmouth, pictured outside the Columbia tavern. He is not at the wheel. Picture: Daniel Miller

To their credit, the Daniels' car in Canada carries a registration number EX10, in homage to their home town.

Yarmouth was allocated its own vehicle registration letters long ago - EX. One, a 1900 Daimler (EX10 - the registration on the Daniels' Canadian car), regularly participates in the annual London to Brighton veteran car rally.

But hold on: a flash-back is imminent! A chugging engine and parp-parping hooter. Yes, it's Bertie Miller in his Daimler, proud to have been the first in Yarmouth to be fined for speeding!

Bertie, of St George's Road, came before Yarmouth magistrates in 1899 for driving “furiously to the common danger of the public” and “threatening life and limb” by travelling at 12mph in the £400 Daimler - 4mph over the 8mph limit.

An early Reynolds coach named Enchantress ready to leave Great Yarmouth's Marine Parade, taking passengers on an outing. Picture: Miller familyAn early Reynolds coach named Enchantress ready to leave Great Yarmouth's Marine Parade, taking passengers on an outing. Picture: Miller family

“The motor car in trouble at last”, proclaimed a newspaper headline.

In court, the prosecution alleged that not only had Miller's speed endangered people and horse-drawn vehicles on the busy sea-front but it also had breached motoring etiquette, for 3mph was reckoned to be adequate in town!

Although young Bertie was said by his solicitor in court to possess a certificate of competency from Daimler after months of tuition, he achieved not only a police record but also a motoring one, being fined ten shillings (50p), including costs.

As for that Daimler he was driving, there has always been a figurative question mark over its actual classification because some reports of the court hearing described it as a motor car while others referred to it as a charabanc because it had seven or eight seats.

There is some credence for the charabanc claim because the Miller family introduced this passenger-carrying vehicle to Yarmouth, and it became a popular form of transport not only here but far and wide, chiefly as operating sight-seeing trips in comparative comfort for eager passengers who hitherto had been limited to horse-drawn carriages whose range was restricted.

In those pioneering years, the fare for a journey along today's Golden Mile (between the Britannia and Wellington Piers) would have cost each passenger an old sixpence - that sounds pricey for that era, but they probably considered it worth it for the thrill of motorised travel. And anyway, the operators were investing heavily in the novelty that was swiftly to become commonplace.

The Miller, Aldred and Turner families were pioneers of the charabanc trade hereabouts, operating until the 1939-45 war.

The Millers are believed to have sold their business to the Caister-based Reynolds family coach operator who carried it on until last year.

I doubt if EX plates are ever offered for sale, but I was tempted very briefly when I spotted PEG74 listed in a national newspaper - I decided having it on my car would blow my Peggotty anonymity.

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