Car Insurance, Petrol, Tax and the Ford Motor Works in Cork
This is the final article in our series reliving the events that shaped Sligo Chamber during the first 30 years after its foundation of the Chamber in January 1923. Over the course of the series, we have gained an understanding of the issues that concerned the Chamber at that time. Issues such as custom tariffs and taxes; modes of transport by train, boat, “buss” and car; connectivity by railway, road and sea; communication through the post and by telegraph; rates and the cost of doing business; energy supply from electricity; housing; and the significance of the impact of war. So many of these themes including customs, transport, connectivity, business costs, energy supply, housing and war are themes that still affect Sligo Chamber in its business activities today, 100 years on in 2023.
We hope you enjoyed the series and that it gave you some taste of life in Sligo 100 years ago. In this, our final article, we go way back to the 1920s and to the issues of car insurance, petrol, motor tax and support for the Ford Motor Works in Cork.
Conor McCarthy, Author
Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber
On this Week in 1925
Car Insurance, Petrol, Tax and the Ford Motor Works in Cork
This is the final article in our series of articles reliving the events that shaped Sligo Chamber during the first 30 years after the foundation of the Chamber in January of 1923. Over the course of the past 50 weeks through this series of articles, we have gained an understanding of the issues that concerned the Chamber and its members at that time. Issues such as custom tariffs and taxes; modes of transport by train, boat, “buss” and car; connectivity by railway, road and sea; communication through the post and by telegraph; rates and the cost of doing business; energy supply from electricity; housing; and the significance of the impact of war. So many of these themes including customs, transport, connectivity, business costs, energy supply, housing and war are themes that still affect Sligo Chamber in its business activities today, 100 years on in 2023.
We witnessed catastrophic events such as the fire that destroyed the Shoe Factory at Custom’s House Quay. Yet through that awful event, we learned of the goodness of the people of Sligo in their efforts to save the building and the goodness of the business community in raising the funds that saw the factory rebuilt. Goodness we also saw in the response of the Sligo business and local community to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal in 1949 to raise £500,000 to support others in Europe suffering from the devastating effects of World War II.
We read about the main characters of Sligo Chamber, the Presidents, principal among them, Harper Campbell Perry, the first Chamber President who served from 1923 until death in office in 1935, and others many of whom were also serving politicians in Sligo Corporation. We saw how fearless they were, taking on the issues of the day with Ministers and Government, consistently relentless in pursuit of their objectives, always for the betterment of business and the community in Sligo.
We hope you enjoyed the series and that it gave you some taste of life in Sligo 100 years ago.
In this, our final article, we go all the way back to the 1920s and to the issues of car insurance, petrol, motor tax and support for the Ford Motor Works in Cork. Enjoy.
In the 1920s, travel on roads by motor vehicle was relatively uncommon and indeed Sligo Chamber at the time was concerned about the burden of costs on the newly formed Irish Free State of having two forms of transport, the long-established train service, and the newer motor vehicle which was beginning to increase in use. At the Sligo Chamber Meeting of the 24th of October 1927, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, a letter was read from the Great Southern Railways Company presenting a new scheme which if generally adopted would enable the Railway Company to reduce the scale of charges and provide improved affordable facilities for traffic of goods by rail. A long discussion took place with regard to the increasing motor traffic in competition with the Railways. It is most interesting to read that the consensus of the meeting was that “the Country cannot afford to maintain a dual transport service” and recommended that the matter of two forms of transport should be gone into thoroughly between the Railways and the Government. In relation to motor vehicular traffic, the need for insurance cover on vehicles, either comprehensive or third party, is enshrined in law in Ireland today in 2023 and the requirement for such insurance is understood and widely accepted by society. However, that was not the case in the fledgling Irish Free State of the 1920s and early 1930s.
Members of Sligo Chamber appear to have had a keen awareness of the need for motor vehicle insurance and are to the forefront in calling on Government to enact legislation in that regard. We first read of the Chamber’s concerns and of their proactive approach to motor vehicle insurance as early as 1926 when at the meeting of the 31st of May, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, it was:-
“Moved by R. S. Gorman
Seconded by H.C. Lyons and Resolved:-
That we the members of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce desire to impress upon the Minister of Finance that in the interest of all parties concerned in motor accidents it should be an essential part in the issue of a licence for a Motor Vehicle that the Owners of same should first produce a Third-Party Insurance Policy for such vehicle.
It is later that year when we next hear of motor insurance at the Chamber Meeting of the 16th of November. President H. Campbell Perry refers to the Chamber Resolution passed in May advocating Third-Party Insurance as an essential qualification for obtaining a Motor Licence and goes on to mention that the Associated Chambers of Ireland, (now Chambers Ireland), has taken the matter up with the Authorities and that further action is awaited. Two years pass and no progress has been made. At the Chamber Meeting of the 4th of May 1928, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, it was decided again to call the attention of the Associated Chambers to the Resolution passed by Sligo Chamber in May 1926 on the question of Third-Party Insurance on motor vehicles with a view to having it made compulsory. The Associated Chambers respond in October enclosing a letter from the Department of Local Government and Public Health intimating that an Inter-Departmental Committee on Road Traffic will report on the matter. The Chamber decides to await further developments.
And wait they indeed had to do. It was not until five years later on the 10th of November 1933 that Third Party Insurance became law in Ireland when the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, Sean T O’Ceallaigh, later to become the second President of the Irish Free State, in exercise of the powers vested in him under the Road Traffic Act 1933, made the Road Traffic (Third Party Risks) Regulations. The new Regulations, set out in Statutory Instrument No. 130/1933, made it clear that any person applying for a Driving Licence would have to provide a certificate of cover from an approved insurer showing that when the licence applied for comes into operation, there will be in force and signed by the vehicle insurer “a covering instrument covering the driving of the vehicle by the applicant or by any other persons on his order or with his consent”. What is interesting is that Section 12 of the 1933 Regulations states that any person applying for a driving licence under the Finance Act 1920 shall produce an approved policy of insurance for the motor vehicle. This is effectively the same text proposed by R.S. Gorman seven years earlier at the Chamber meeting of the 31st of May 1926 when he moved the Resolution to impress upon the Minister of Finance that it be an essential part in the issue of a licence that the owner should first produce a third-party insurance policy for the motor vehicle. The foresight of Sligo Chamber in leading out in 1926 on the need for third party insurance is evidence of the constructive leadership of the Chamber at that time. What is remarkable is the length of time taken by Government to enact legislation in such an important matter.
In addition to insurance of motor vehicles, the cost of petrol and the impact of motor tax on buses and on cars were also topics of concern for Sligo Chamber. At an Ordinary General Meeting held in the Town Hall on the 9th of November 1925, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, the high cost of petrol was a subject of discussion. The reasons outlined for the high cost of petrol are very similar to the reasons we hear of today in 2023 for the higher cost of goods in Ireland compared to the United Kingdom. At the meeting, the President stated that at the September meeting of the Associated Chambers which he attended, the question of the difference in the price of petrol in the Irish Free State and Great Britain was discussed. Letters were received by the Distributing Companies stating that the reasons were that overhead charges, cost of labour, railway and road transit rates and delivery and maintenance expenses were considerably higher than those operating in England. Not much has changed in one hundred years!
In the mid to late 1920s, the Government was making changes to the basis on which motor tax was assessed. The proposed changes in motor tax for buses and cars did not sit well with the motor industry and Sligo Chamber was called on to advocate on their behalf. At the Ordinary General Meeting of the Chamber on the 14th of January 1929, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, we learn of such a request from the Sligo Private Bus Owners Association. A letter was read enclosing for consideration of the Chamber a copy of a Resolution passed by their Association “protesting against the imposition of the proposed new motor tax on Busses”. The Chamber discusses the matter and the opinion of the meeting is that tax on Petrol would be the most equitable means of collecting road tax and should be introduced.
Sligo Chamber did not confine itself to advocating on behalf of local motoring business interests. Henry Ford & Son Limited opened their new family business in Cork in April 1917. The Ford Motors business operated at the Marina in Cork for the next 67 years when the removal of protectionist tariffs following Ireland joining the EU in 1972 together with increased international competition forced the business to close. The motor works was originally opened for the manufacture of agricultural tractors. However, with the demand for tractors reducing after the World War, the Cork plant began in 1921 manufacturing parts for the Ford Motor Car factory in Manchester. By 1930, over 6,500 people were employed, however business was always challenging in the post war years and was not helped by a proposed motor tax on Ford, which led to Sligo Chamber becoming involved in advocating on behalf of this major national employer.
The Ordinary General Meeting of Sligo Chamber in December 1925 records that the following Resolution was adopted by the Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping:
“Resolved that we, the Executive Council of the Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping, respectfully beg to remind the Minister of Finance that in his speech introducing the Budget in the Dáil on April 22nd last he stated in reference to road tax:
‘Various suggestions have been put forward for a new basis. We have not yet been able to reach any conclusions. If it is decided to propose any change from the horse-power basis, a Finance Bill No. 2 will be introduced. In view of the fact that the Road Tax year ends on the 31stDecember nothing will be lost by two or three months delay’.
As the date for the renewal of licences is rapidly approaching, we urgently request the Minister to introduce a Finance Act removing the disability now crippling the development of the Ford Works in Cork, and to substitute therefor a system of motor taxation that will give encouragement to the production of the Irish made car”.
Having considered the matter, Sligo Chamber adopted the Cork Chamber Resolution on the proposal by H.R. Woodmartin, Seconded by Mr. Martin Downs and the Secretary, J. M. McLoghry was directed to forward a copy of the Resolution to the Minister of Finance.
The Resolution giving encouragement to the production of the Irish made car and support to the Ford Motor Works was passed at the Sligo Chamber Meeting of the 21st of December, on this week in 1925.
Researched and written by Conor McCarthy
Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:
- Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
- Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
- Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication
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