New book shines spotlight on Carmarthenshire bus firms rivalry

A new book by a West Wales author, who focuses on transport and its history locally, reveals a rivalry between two Carmarthenshire bus firms which started in the early 1900s.

Vernon Morgan, who lives in Llanelli describes himself as a historian, author, bus enthusiast and restorer of vintage cars.

His latest book and his ninth so far, is called The Laugharne Rivals.

It recounts the rivalry that sparked between the Williams and Ebsworth brothers who were both jostling to provide new and emerging bus services in the Laugharne area. which over the years saw them going toe-to-toe in rolling out services as far as Tenby to the west and Carmarthen to the east.

The book is called The Laugharne Rivals and as Vernon explains: “The convoluted history of Tudor Williams Brothers, who had Pioneer Buses and their rivals Ebsworth Brothers, can only be told together due to the to the extraordinary events of their very bitter challenge.”

For just over a decade from 1908 to 1919 Tudor Williams ran regular horse-drawn six-seater wagon passenger services between Laugharne and St Clears – specifically the train station in St Clears, and to Pendine in the summer months.

By 1913 they were successful and even obtained a Post Office license to carry mail.

In 1914 the brothers were offering car transport and after the First World War, a bus was introduced into the fleet and his two younger brothers joined the business.

It was this success after the war that caught the attention of the Ebsworth brothers and this started a long running rivalry for passengers.

Vernon said:

“In 1919, the Ebsworth brothers who originated from Pendine, saw how well Tudor and his brothers were doing and decided to challenge them with an identical service to St Clears railway station under their moniker Ebsworth Bros.

“They later followed the Williams brothers into Carmarthen and eventually Tenby, where the rivalry worsened.

“It continued even after the introduction of the 1930 Road Traffic Act, which was to regulate bus services.”

This act included such measures as rules regarding the conduct of drivers, conductors and passengers on public service vehicles, and limiting hours of continuous driving.

Vernon added: “The friction eventually calmed down after the Williams brothers had their licenses suspended for a month in 1933, due to serious irregularities.”

Ebsworth Brothers buses waiting for passengers at St Clears railway station circa 1931 (photo: Peter Jenkins)
Two Pioneer buses passing each other in Laugharne (photo: Peter Yeomans)
A Williams brothers Pioneer Buses bus leaving its depot in Laugharne’s King Street in 1942 (photo: Vernon Morgan Collection)

It was 1944 that would see a turning point in the relationship between the Willams and Ebworth brothers.

“That year Ebsworth Bros. incorporated their business and invested heavily in new buses, which was their downfall.”

“By 1954 they were unable to pay their debts, and the business was passed to bus operator Western Welsh.

“In the meantime, the Williams brothers continued running and is remembered for having a menagerie of reliable, inexpensive second hand vehicles – nothing brand new for 30 years.

“They even absorbed Western Welsh’s share of local bus services in 1971, when it withdrew all of its West Wales operations.”

Following Tudor’s death in 1976, the family changed the name to Pioneer Coaches and eventually the business passed to Jones Motors Ltd, Login, near Whitland in 1981.

The Laugharne Rivals is available directly from Vernon Morgan, at 7 Hilltop, Llanelli, SA14 8DF, payment by check for £23.50, or from his website www.vernonmorgan.com

It is also being stocked at Llanelli and Cardigan indoor markets, as well as Victoria Books, Bridge Street, Haverfordwest.

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