Big thank you from

The trouble with petrol

by the Rambler 16/09/2000

WITH all the dismal forecasts about rising petrol costs, I thought I had better top up my tank last week.

The price displayed was 78.9 but when the wee lassie on the pump sped on to £23.76, I began to wonder was she filling the boot as well.

£23.70 was a record for me when the gauge registered quarter full, but then I have been spoiled.

You see, less than a mile from where I got filled up last week, I used to get fifteen gallons of ‘Esso’ for one pound.

Shell was dearer. It was eighteen pence a gallon. That was pre-war of course.

I am old enough to remember vaguely, when there were no petrol pumps.

Vendors held supplies in large metal keys similar to milk churns, and every motorist carried a two-gallon petrol tin.

Early vintage cars had a bracket, or brackets, on the wide running board, to hold petrol cans.

On the farm, we had one of those cans for carrying paraffin oil from Sam Green's of Aghalee, long before we had a motor vehicle.

They were made of copper, a handy flat rectangular shape with a very tightly fitting screw cap, perforated to allow petrol vapour to escape.

Before I started school (also before the war!) I used to ride with my dad in the horse-drawn Governess' trap.

I was company for him and he took me out from under mum's feet.

Ihave a clear recollection of how dad's normally docile horse shied when we met an oil-tanker carrying a load of rattling metal keys, and a large 'Shell' logo.

The horse birled roun (there's a good ‘Ulsterism’) ran back, and crashed the rear of the trap against a stout, low, thorn hedge.

There was a drop of about five feet into a field but unfortunately we stayed on the roadside.

It was a stretch of road like the one between Hillsborough and Ballynahinch - a high demesne wall on one side and a low hedge and sunken terrain on the other.

These modern petrol pumps which deliver 30 or 40 litres before you could bat an eyelid, are a terror to the pocket. Early pumps were much less cruel.

They were hand-operated and had twin half-gallon cylindrical receptacles made of transparent glass and located at eye level.

The operator juggled a small lever, left and right and watched the glass cylinder fill up.

Then he moved another latch and released the petrol into the pipe leading to the car’s petrol tank.

Next he did likewise with the other half gallon cylinder.

Delivering, say, five gallons took time, but tight-fisted farmers were spared the agony of seeing twenty quid or more flash up in the twinkling of an eye like the new ultra-modern self-service pumps.

There’s one at Carryduff which would beggar you in seconds.

I remember the days when the sea-front at Ross's Point, County Sligo had only one hand operated petrol pump - so slow that the corny yarn which was in circulation may have been true.

A Yank had pulled up with one of those big limos. 30 hp, and as long as a bus, and the elderly attendant was laboriously operating his petrol pump while the Yank strolled around smoking a ‘see-gar’

He hadn't bothered to switch off his engine, till the poor old fuel vendor yelled, “Mister will ye for Heaven a sake turn that thing off or I’ll never get her filled!”

Now! You have read it in the 'Star' so it must be true.

Ulster Star