By Lisa J Truttman
One summer’s day, in December 1881, two days before Christmas, Lawrence Teirney got off his horse bus outside the Whau Hotel (this being just before the district was renamed to Avondale) on the Great North Road, took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and offered to give fellow horse bus driver a proper thrashing in the form of a spontaneous expression of the art of fisticuffs in the otherwise quiet rural surroundings.
Lawrence Teirney was born in County Cavan, Ireland, and sailed from London with his family in 1874. Teirney is said to have found work at first as a groom, but by at least early 1877 he was working for Frank Quick, driving one of the horse buses to and from Avondale. By January 1879, Teirney was in business for himself, in opposition to Quick.
He had two court appearances with regard to the way he conducted his public transport business. The first, in November 1879, resulted from an incident where he reportedly ran a buggy off the road near the junction of Symonds Street, Mt Eden Road and New North Road. Enough doubt was cast on the other party’s sobriety that Teirney was let off.
Then came the Collins incident of December 1881. Both Patrick Collins’ bus (working for Frank Quick) and Teirney’s left the city, Teirney half an hour ahead of Collins, but Collins managed to catch him at the Whau Hotel, near the present-day roundabout in Avondale. Teirney left the hotel five minutes before Collins, but Collins again caught up with Teirney, this time in New Lynn near Quick’s stables. Teirney stopped his bus, and blocked the road.
Collins called for Teirney to clear the road, the other refused. Collins tried edging his horse bus around Teirney, only to find the other man shifted his vehicle as well, blocking Collins. Then both drivers started a mad drive, at speed, back towards the Whau Bridge – which was a one-lane narrow timber affair at that time. Teirney reached the bridge first, and stopped his bus, blocking the bridge. Then, half a minute later, he drove on a bit further, blocking the other end of the bridge before finally taking off, racing up the hill back towards the Whau Hotel, Collins in pursuit.
Teirney was charged with a breach of the Public Works Act, by allowing his horse bus to remain for a length of time in the centre of the road, but as the prosecutor cited the wrong section of the Act with which to charge him, that part of the matter went no further. For creating the disturbance, Teirney was fined 20s plus costs of £1 4s.
The start-up of the Northern Omnibus Company in 1883, a short-lived venture (only until 1884) linking the City with Avondale (and New Lynn) via both the New North and Great North Road routes, seems to have brought an end to Teirney’s horse-bus driving career.
It looks like, by June 1886 he was making his living as a cabdriver and carter in the city. He and his wife Bridget made a successful application for land at Swanson, at the junction of Waitakere and Kay Roads. Bridget received a 999-year lease on the land – it left her children’s control in 1906, two years after her death.
Lawrence Teirney was elected to the first school committee in Swanson in 1887, and the Teirneys were also supporters of the local Catholic congregation. On 9 December 1915, Teirney died at his daughter’s Waihi home. He was buried in Swanson Cemetery, beside Bridget.
Adapted from Lisa Truttman’s Whau Heritage Talk about Lawrence Teirney, which will be uploaded on Auckland Library's Soundcloud site shortly. Check at soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries