The Journey Starts Here
A History of the Connor and Graham Bus Service
by Mike Welton

   
  The front cover of the SKEALS publication, 'The Journey Starts Here'.
   
  The front cover of the SKEALS publication, 'The Journey Starts Here'.
   
   
 

The Journey Starts Here is an illustrated history of Connor & Graham, a 20th-century bus company that served the Holderness community for 70 years from its headquarters in the village of Easington, near Spurn Point. Packed with photographs, anecdotes, lists of buses and staff, this book will be of interest to anyone who has been a passenger of Connor & Graham, has worked for them, is interested in bus history, or wants to know more about the South Holderness Area. The book is compiled by Mike Welton, with text by Jan Crowther, and published by SKEALS, the Spurn, Kilnsea and Easington Area Local Studies Group. Over 100 pages in length with 126 photographs, the book is for sale at only 6. It can be obtained from the author, tel. 01964 650265, email: mikewelton@lineone.net (7.20 inc. postage & packing. Please make cheques out to Skeals) or at local shops in the South Holderness area.

   
 

Brief history

After World War I, motorised public transport was becoming a reality, even in rural districts. The first bus company in East Yorkshire seems to have been established in December 1919, by Ernest John Lee, who ran a 14-seat Ford Model T bus for a service between Elloughton and Hull. Mr. Lee was later joined by Mr. Beulah, to form the company Lee & Beulah. So Easington was not quite the pioneer, but it was not far behind! James H. Graham and Campbell Connor were two young Geordie shipwrights who were out of work because of the depression. Relatives had told them that there were no buses in South Holderness, so they decided to come to Easington and try their hands at starting a service. They arrived with a brand new 14-seater Model T Ford called Dixie, which made its maiden service into Hull on 21st October 1921. After this the company went from strength to strength. The early services went to Patrington to connect with the trains, and went to the eastern border of Hull (they were not allowed to go further than Marfleet, where the trams started). Connor and Graham’s buses continued the tradition of carrier’s carts, in doing errands for people, delivering parcels, waiting patiently for stragglers, and altogether providing an important social as well as transport service.

In October 1926 the British Automobile Traction Co. Ltd. registered the name East Yorkshire Motor Services Ltd. and took over Lee & Beaulah’s bus company. About that time EYMS made a bid for Connor & Graham, offering Jim Graham a very good price. He said “If it’s worth that to you it’s worth it to me”. So EYMS said they would run him off the road. “Try it!” he said. The battle was short-lived, as the passengers remained with their local company and the EYMS bus ran empty. Before the Bus Act of 1930 there was no regulation and it was a case of ‘dog eat dog’. Several other small independent bus companies began operation in the 1920s, amongst them, Laidlaws of Hedon, which started in 1923, and was later taken over by Sharps, eventually becoming subsumed by EYMS. In Withernsea, Henry Burns, another Geordie, had started a bus company, which he sold to Lee & Beulah, and which also ultimately became part of EYMS, as did the small companies Billingtons and Kingston. Connor & Graham remained proudly independent.

Over the years they expanded, but remained a family firm with James’ s son, Tom following him into the business. Tom’s wife, Marjorie, also worked in the firm, and in due course their sons, Malcolm and Burton followed.

The people associated with Connor & Graham over the years reads like the story of Easington itself. Many young people left school and went straight into employment with the firm. The routes expanded over the years so that the company ran buses into Sunk Island, down to Spurn, and across to Withernsea serving the villages en route. Before the majority of people had private cars Connor & Graham provided an essential service, for people to get to work in Hull, to go to the cinema and pubs and dances in Withernsea, and, after World War II, for holiday-makers to get to the coast. The company took parties on outings, football clubs to neighbouring grounds, airmen in the 1950s to and from their bases, coach trips to local seaside resorts and eventually began running foreign holidays to the Continent. It is hard to exaggerate the influence of this local company on the lives of the people of the area. Apart from passengers the buses took parcels, newspapers, medicines, and sometimes livestock - in some ways a very similar service to the carriers!

Connor & Graham managed to survive the competition of private cars and of the bus deregulation which took place under the Traffic Act of 1985. However, to many people’s sadness the end of the company came about in February 1993, when EYMS finally bought the company. For a while Connor & Graham continued operating the school contracts, private hires and excursions, but in 1994 the whole company passed to EYMS, ending 73 years of service to the people of South Holderness.

This new book is packed with photographs, anecdotes, lists of buses and staff, and will be of interest to many people.