“TOWARDS the middle of last century the merchants of Edinburgh and Glasgow were anxiously devising schemes for securing the construction of a highway between these cities “sufficient to bear the weight of all manner of wheel carriadge”;1 but it was not till 1753 that the requisite statutory authority was obtained for the purpose. Previous to this time people usually travelled on foot or horseback, though, perhaps, a magnate might occasionally be found doing the journey in the manner described by a 17th century tourist, “with coach and six, and a lusty footman on each side of the coach to manage and keep it up in rough places.”2 But, notwithstanding the obstacles presented by defective roadways, an attempt was made so early as 1678 to establish a regular stage coach service between the two cities. William Hoome, a merchant in Edinburgh, obtained, from the Privy Council, the exclusive privilege of having such a conveyance for seven years, and an assurance against his horses being pressed for any kind of public service;3 and the magistrates of Glasgow undertook to support the venture by contributing 200 merks yearly during the continuance of the service. Under the agreement with the magistrates, a copy of which is preserved in the Town Clerk’s office,4 “the said William Hoome obliges him, with all diligence, to have in readiness ane sufficient strong coach, with sax able horses, to be driven with servants and furniture for the convenience of all travellers who shall think fit to make use thereof, for their journey betwixt Glasgow and Edinburgh; and which coach shall contain sax persons, and shall go ance ilk week betwixt the foresaid two places, or twyce a week if he shall have encouragement, beginning upon the first day of September next to come, and thereafter to continue for the space of five years allenarly… And that ilk person going passenger therein shall have liberty to take in ane block bag or portmanteau for carrying of their cloaks, linnings or sicklyke. And that ilk person paying to the said William Hoome, ilk time betwixt the said places, from the month of March to the first of September, being counted summer months, the sum of eight shilling Sterling, which is four pounds sixteen shillings Scots; and from the first of September to the first of March, being counted winter months, the sum of five pounds eight shillings Scots, and that by ilk person passing therein. And the said coach, horses, servants, and furniture foresaid, are to take journey ilk Monday and return ilk Saturday at night, whether there be persons to the number foresaid or none at all to pass therein. And that the burgesses of this Burgh be preferred to all others.”
The magistrates paid Hoome 400 merks in advance, being their contribution for the first two years, on condition that a proportionate part should be refunded in the event of the coach being discontinued within that time. What became of the scheme has not been definitely ascertained, but there are grounds for surmising that it was unsuccessful. In 1749, however, a caravan was established which passed twice a week between Edinburgh and Glasgow, taking a day and a half to the journey; and as a commodious roadway came into existence shortly afterwards it is probable that the provision of wheeled accommodation, more or less effective, has since been uninterrupted.