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October 4th 1902

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The perils of 1902 motoring

From a letter to The Scotsman.

Dalguise Castle, Perthshire
As I am a devotee of the much abused motor car, and also a constant reader of your paper, I trust you will give publicity to the following facts:- I had the misfortune to be summoned to appear before Sheriff Sym at his court in Perth yesterday in connection with the sum of £1. 2. 6d claimed by the owner of a carriage for damage done to it through an incident which happened while my motor car was passing through Blairgowrie on the 30th July last…. I would just like to give the gist of the evidence brought forward by the pursuer and his witnesses.

They admitted that I was on the right side of the road when the accident occurred, and that my car was travelling at a rate of speed not exceeding six miles an hour, and also that I stopped the car about 10 or 12 yards from the carriage, notwithstanding the fact that I received no signal from the driver of the carriage to do so. They further admitted that the horse swerved right across the road and tried to run down a narrow lane on the side of the road on which I was rightly and legally travelling, the result being that damage was done to the vehicle to the sum of £1. 2. 6d.

I led evidence to prove we gave warning of our approach, and that the car was brought to a standstill whenever the driver of the carriage was seen to be in difficulties…. and proof was also given that the driver never had proper control of his horse.

In view of the recent judgements which have been given in Perth in connection with motor cars, I thought it essential to get the strongest evidence possible to refute the charge, and to show that I was not guilty of carelessness…. and for that purpose I brought one witness from London in addition to my other witnesses here and also three independent witnesses from Blairgowrie, but although the Sheriff (evidently with much reluctance) could not find me guilty, I was called upon to pay all my expenses which were considerable.

When giving evidence I informed the Sheriff that when in the car I always sat in front beside the driver and kept a good lookout…. and I accepted full responsibility for everything that occurred. The Sheriff was good enough to compare my position to that of a footman giving instructions to a coachman though I entirely failed to see the analogy. He further asked me if I gave the driver instructions on how to run the car into a ditch, and when I told him in reply that “that was always taken as read” , he accused me using slang.

Judgement was undoubtedly given in my favour but I had the pleasure of paying my own costs, and while in no way wishing to say one word against the Sheriff, it reminds me very much of the old song wherein a very strong beverage is called “lemonade in Ballyhooly.”  Do they call this justice in Perthshire?

I would like to warn all motor car owners to give the country a wide berth unless they are desirous of spending the greater part of their time defending frivolous and one-sided law suits.

I am & etc.
James D. Logan.

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