My passengers are often concerned about traffic lights as I take them on their journey. “Look, that car ran a red light!!” or “Why didn’t you catch the green?”, are typical comments. However, have you ever wondered where traffic lights come from, and why the colours work in the same order all over the world? Also, why are they not blue, yellow and purple?

Back in 1910, in the bustling metropolis that was London. Traffic was worsening by the day. Omnibuses, trams, motor cars and horse drawn vehicles clogged the streets in ever increasing numbers. The police on point duty were overstretched. What to do? At a meeting of the London County Council they came up with a cheap solution. Circularise their 10,000 employees, and offer one hundred guineas (a lot of dosh in those days) for a successful and proven solution.

Well a young apprentice mechanic in an omnibus depot, by name Shaun Kelly, saw the circular and it set him thinking. He worked out a system of electrically controlled traffic signals, much as we have today, and sent in his plans. The LCC liked  what they saw and had a set built at the corner of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. The public was advised … and it worked!! Traffic stopped in one direction, then started at right angles in another. So they called Shaun into Head Office and gave him his money, and he signed for it.

Next morning Shaun went to the Post Office and bought a Postal Note with the money, payable to Patrick Pearse in Dublin, Ireland. He knew the Easter Rebellion was being planned by Patrick and others fed up with British rule, and a lot of guns could be bought with his gift. As we now know, the people of Dublin failed to support the rising in 1916, and many patriots died, including Patrick.

So Shaun was really a Fenian, and a supporter of Irish freedom !!.He was for the money, not road safety. He was a political activist. Look at the colours he picked out!! Green for go. The colour of his beloved Ireland. Orange for the traitors who lived separately in Northern Ireland. The Orangemen who stopped Ireland being all green one day. Red, of course, for the English who stopped any part of Ireland being green ever. In time it spread all over the world. Love the Green, not happy with the Orange, and definitely not liking the Red.

Of course this story is a load of nonsense. But passengers, particularly the Irish, love a good yarn. They often ask if Shaun is spelt with a U or a W. It is actually spelt S-H-O-R-N, as I have taken them the long way round while I tell them the story of the lad who invented traffic lights. Incidentally, to the best of my knowledge, the first set of electrically controlled traffic light were installed at an intersection in Cleveland, Ohio, on 1st August 1914.

Written by David the Cabbie 

Related posts

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *