24 November 2014
Myra Pater recalls the fun of travelling around Scotland on MacBrayne's buses. ...
Having relatives scattered throughout the west coast, we travelled on buses from an early age, and unaccompanied too, with the driver being given instructions where to let us off. When I say buses, I mean ‘the buses’ for we didn’t think there were any other coaches that the distinctive green and red of MacBrayne’s, with the iconic kilted highlander complete with raised sword and a targe.
It came as a great revelation that when we travelled in the other direction to Glasgow, Bluebird and city buses took over. The service buses ran twice a day from Glasgow to Campbeltown, with the mail bus taking pupils from Inveraray to Lochgilphead High School and back.
Those of us who went to Dunoon Grammar School, boarding in lodgings during the week before the hostel was built, went on a Sunday from St Catherines by Montgomery’s bus, driven very carefully and very slowly by the eponymous Davie, who to us teenagers seemed incredibly old but was probably only in his late sixties at that time. We didn’t mind the slow journey out, but coming back on a Friday afternoon seemed to take forever.
In order to get to St Catherine’s, we were ferried to and fro by Hope MacArthur in his small open ferry, and the weather had to be very bad for him to cancel a crossing.
He looked as though he’d stepped straight out of one of Neil Munro’s stories, but also like Popeye when he removed the ever-present cap to scratch his head. It always brightened up our journeys when tourists came aboard as the little mischievous water elf that I’m sure sat on his shoulder occasionally urged him to deviate from his course to close in on any basking shark that happened to be idly gliding by.
He knew they weren’t dangerous, as did we, but the poor passengers didn’t and couldn’t wait to get off at the other side on to a slippery stone jetty that was so much more dangerous than sharks!
We may be travelling further and faster nowadays and certainly in a lot more luxury but I sometimes think the fun has gone out of getting there.
(Image copyright John Allan)