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A Fascinating Account of a Glasgow Conductors Lot in 1973
By John Walker

This is the story of my very brief spell with Glasgow Corporation Transport as a bus conductor for a period of about 6 months during 1973. It is written almost entirely from memory, and I therefore apologise in advance for any inaccuracies that it may contain. Any names or references to certain personnel that appear are in the interests of authenticity and are in no way meant to offend. I would like to extend the greatest respect for busmen who made a career out of service to the citizens of Glasgow. It was a job that demanded certain qualities, of which I was not possessed.

Much has previously been made in the press of the folklore surrounding the Glasgow trams, accompanied by extensive use of the Glasgow vernacular, and infused with the dark humour so typical of the city. The popularity of Billy Connolly has brought Glasgow humour to the fore of late (example). However, to hear what the Glasgow “patter” really sounds like, you’d have to find one of his recordings from the 70s. He has latterly had to adopt a sort of “Cosmopolitan Glasgow” style so that the world can tell what he is speaking about. It was late 1972, and I was a fresh-faced 19-year-old youth in my final year as an apprentice plumber. My firm was doing contract work for Glasgow Corporation and I knew that my employment was due to end very soon. For years I had been fascinated by adverts on Glasgow Corporation Transport buses. They were always looking for staff aged between 19 and 50, and here I was looking for a way out of the building trade. In early 1973 the great day came and I was given one week’s notice. I had no wish to transfer my apprenticeship elsewhere, and made my way to the transport offices at 46 Bath Street, Glasgow. Yes they needed conductors and could I take a short exam? I passed and was instructed to attend the conducting school at Albert Drive the following Monday. I could not believe that I was about to fulfil a boyhood ambition to work on the Glasgow buses.

I duly arrived at the conducting school where our instructor was an Inspector who, by his own admission, had never conducted a bus in his life. I believe, although cannot be certain, that he may have been one Alex Urquhart, who drove the first trolleybus in Glasgow in 1949. The whole of the first day seemed to be taken up with a lecture on the merits of working for Glasgow Corporation, which I shall now refer to as “GCT” for simplicity. The disadvantages of working for the various local Scottish Bus Group companies were also meticulously explained. We were kitted out in the standard GCT uniform, complete with peaked cap, which “must be worn on the bus at all times”. The whole class almost laughed out loud at that point, but we were met with stern looks from our instructor. I examined my new GCT uniform which consisted of a double breasted jacket and heavy serge trousers, which I reckoned would be fine for the winter, but definitely not for warmer seasons (yes it can get warmish in Glasgow!). The cap proudly displayed the former Glasgow Corporation Tramways badge number 2236, and I really felt part of the outfit then. I will mention the fact that the uniforms were coloured green with red piping on the trousers, as it will have some significance later.

The rest of the week was spent learning the strengths (and weaknesses) of the Bell Punch “Ultimate” ticket machine, which despite its weight and size was definitely a boon to a busy city bus conductor. The machine was also well known amongst GCT conductors for its secondary purpose as a flail, and this shall also be expanded on later. Strangely, no formal instruction was offered in the martial arts capacity of the Ultimate, and conductors were expected to acquire this skill in their own time. The fare system was simplicity itself. The Ultimates were 5 unit machines, and there were only four fare values to worry about, plus a concessionary fare to OAPs in possession of the necessary pass, which proved they were citizens of the City of Glasgow. Therefore the ticket rolls consisted of 1p (concession), 2p (child), 4p (child or adult), 7p adult, and 9p adult. There were no fancy combinations of tickets to worry about and the 9p maximum fare was really good value on cross-city journeys which could be in excess of 15 miles. If there was a criticism of the Ultimate, it could be prone to jam, and the dreaded emergency tickets had to be issued for whichever value became unavailable. I seem to recall that it was strictly forbidden to issue tickets in multiples to make up higher values, at least at the time I was there. Glasgow once had a fare system that charged passengers an extra penny on a Saturday, but thankfully that had disappeared well before 1973. We also received instruction on waybill completion, lost and found property, platform safety, and various other tasks that we were expected to perform.

On the Friday we were all asked if we would like to work overtime on the Saturday after our further one week’s “on the job” training!! Staff shortage, particularly with regard to conductors, was very acute indeed, and GCT staff never had the option to take the weekend off like our Scottish Bus Group counterparts, who had to make use of part time weekend staff to fill the gaps. GCT did not employ part timers, female staff (at that time), or “foreign nationals” (again at that time). There was a smattering of female staff, mostly from the bygone ages of the trams and the trolleybuses, as well as a fair number of staff of Asian origin still employed, and I’m sure I saw at least one Afro-Caribbean OMO driver in my short spell there. The politics surrounding recruitment need not concern us here, but I reckon they would have struggled to enforce it much into the 80s.

As I lived out in the sticks in Bargeddie, my closest garage was Parkhead, and I was posted there. Bargeddie, although in Eastern Scottish bus territory, had been on a former GCT tram route and it was still afforded the luxury of being served by a staff bus from Parkhead garage. This was often the only means of getting to work on time (or getting home again), although sometimes alternative arrangements had to be made, which involved a two-mile walk to Baillieston to catch the night service. The first duty had a reporting time of 0336, which definitely required a night service trip.

Like most GCT bus garages, Parkhead was a former tram depot and was capable of holding up to 180 buses. I don’t have exact figures, but reckon there would have only been around 120 buses garaged at Parkhead during my time there. These consisted of rear platform Leyland PD2s, a couple of Daimler CVG6s, some front entrance PD3s, with the remainder being the ubiquitous Leyland Atlanteans, hereafter referred to as “LAs”. Glasgow also operated front entrance AEC Regent Vs at the time, as well as a handful of single deckers. However, GCT garages usually had specific types allocated to them (except LAs, which were everywhere) and we had no AECs or single deckers. I don’t even really know why we had the CVG6s, as we were a “Leyland garage”. I think they came from Larkfield to make up numbers, but wherever they came from our drivers detested them by virtue of their pre selector gearboxes. The vast majority of the GCT fleet at that time was comprised of two pedal semi automatic vehicles, with the older pre select Daimlers being relics of a bygone age. In truth they were no older than some of our two pedal PD2s, but required the use of both feet to drive. Conductors working on LAs were usually obliged to supply their black metal Ultimate ticket machine boxes for the driver to use as a foot rest for his left foot. I never actually knew any one-legged Glasgow bus drivers, but it wouldn’t have been a problem, except for those blasted CVG6s.

One man (OMO) operation was rapidly taking over and the only crew services left at Parkhead were 1/1A, 22, 38, 61, and 62. However, odd journeys were operated by crew buses on services 11A (Sunday hospital specials), 16 (otherwise operated by Possilpark and Knightswood), 41 (otherwise operated exclusively by Gartcraig garage), 55 and 58 (nominally both OMO services), and 64 (otherwise a Bridgeton service). The majority of the services referred to above were extremely busy with short stage passengers, and all but service 22 ran into or through the city centre. It should be noted that GCT utilised the term “service” rather than “route”, which had an altogether different meaning in Glasgow. Buses were allocated running numbers in an effort to assist timekeeping inspectors in the regulation of bus traffic, and each bus was allocated a “route” number. Therefore it was possible to be allocated bus “service 62/route number 64”. The bus behind would be route number 65 etc. Where more than one garage shared a service, the route numbers would be high, low, or medium, depending on the operating garage.

This could be the source of confusion to the unsuspecting public, and I was once conducting a service 62 bus in the city centre when a ticket check inspector boarded the bus and asked me to identify the route number of my bus. I replied that it was route 64 whereupon several disgruntled passengers shouted out in unison that it was showing 62 on the destination blind. Those passengers at least got to know the difference between a GCT service number and a route number for the future.

Presumably in the interest of platform safety, all Glasgow back loaders were fitted with an interior rear view mirror in the driver’s cab. A small window was fitted just below ceiling level in the downstairs interior front bulkhead, aligned with the rear view mirror. This afforded the driver a view of the rear platform through the lower saloon, except where there was a full standing load. Glasgow buses were fitted with very loud gong type bells, and the presence of the rear view mirror afforded an excellent opportunity for drivers to avoid premature deafness. So, here is how it worked.

The official rule of course was that bells had to be given. However, as you got to know the drivers, you realised that they alone preferred to control all movement of the bus by use of their mirrors (and sometimes their fists), and the bells were effectively redundant. Also, any punter (passenger) who rang the bell would receive a free journey on a GCT bus to the stop past that at which they intended to alight. Regular Glasgow punters knew the score and left the bells well alone. It WAS permissible to ring the bell with a full standing load, but even then we were expected to stay on the rear platform and wave the driver away in his nearside mirror. Fare collection in the upper saloon unfortunately became relegated to second place in the name of keeping the bus moving, as GCT schedules were in the main very tight indeed.

The drivers had the time boards with details of the journeys to be covered and the conductors had none. Yet the conductors had to set the destination screens without access to the time boards. Occasionally a considerate driver would take the time and trouble to give details of the theoretical journeys to be worked, but any late running could render this information useless if an inspector “turned you short” to keep you on time. Conductors were expected to keep a note of scheduled short journeys, but this was often impossible, especially on a late shift when the time board would already be in the cab of the bus. I seem to remember that the garage had a large duty board that actually gave all this information, but I don’t recall ever having the time to work it out. Regular crews often employed a “tick tack” involving a series of coded bangs on the ceiling of the driver’s cab, followed by a suitable set of dance steps on the floor of the upper deck above the driver’s head. The crews at some garages even resorted to boring holes in the ceilings of the drivers’ cabs so that pieces of paper could be passed back and forth, but if a drunk urinated on the upper deck (unfortunately a common occurrence) it dampened the enthusiasm of the drivers for that system somewhat.

I never saw such a “modified” bus at Parkhead, but it must have been rife elsewhere, as there had been a traffic circular threatening instant dismissal to any member of staff caught being boring at his work. Drivers would expect conductors to set the screens for a full journey unless alternative instruction was given. This alternative instruction would often involve ferocious flashing of interior lights where you would be expected to approach the rear window of the driver’s cab to receive destination instructions shouted through the window glass. Nearly every conductor has a story about being left behind by his driver, but not I. In view of the “no bells” policy no GCT conductor was stupid enough to leave his bus for any reason, as it could be some miles before he was missed!

So to work!! I was allocated to a regular crew on the first Monday on an early duty, which involved half a shift on the “First 22”, and the remainder on the 62. Regular crews would work alternating duties each week, typically an early duty one week, followed by a late “Back shift” week. Spreadover shifts to cater for the peak hours also proliferated, and these could be in either the early or late weeks. Night service normally only entailed the use of one bus from our garage, although I believe certain journeys may have been duplicated at weekends. I only remember working night service for one week.

I was excited, if a bit apprehensive. Here were two men of the old school, Willie (Wullie) Bell, the driver, and Greg Tassie, the conductor, and my mentor for the week. Wullie was a jocular type, always full of wisecracks, in contrast to Greg, who was an older chap, and on the quiet side. He struck me as though he may have been a repressed academic (there were quite a few on the buses at the time), so why he had done so many years as a bus conductor intrigued me. I was disappointed to realise that his hobby was railway modelling, and he wasn’t very interested at all in buses.

We were to go out blank screen to Easterhouse and take up duty there. Wullie got our freezing PD2 on the road and in we got. Greg told me to get all of my 1 pence pieces out of my float as I would need them when the punters all asked for 9 pence fares whilst tendering 10 pence pieces. Wullie certainly knew how to get a PD2 moving and I remember looking at the roadway thinking we must have been doing 60 (35 would have been more accurate). Easterhouse terminus and action!! Service 22 connected Easterhouse, a huge council estate (or scheme) on the very eastern edge of Glasgow, and Castlemilk, an even bigger estate on the southwest side. Castlemilk was once afforded the title of the largest urban housing development in Western Europe. These “Schemes” were at that time the hotbeds of various Glasgow gangs, who would proclaim “rule” of their territories by the prolific use of painted slogans in prominent locations. No male person aged between 12 and 35 would consider walking around these schemes for fear of requiring the services of their health centres.

The 22 was unusual in that it never passed through the city centre, but skirted its eastern edge through the district of Bridgeton. Glasgow is a city with much allegiance to Ireland, and there will be few Glaswegians who do not have Irish ancestry somewhere along the line. Bridgeton is, or was, a Protestant stronghold, where wearing anything coloured green (including GCT uniform) could often invite adverse comment, and worse, from its die-hard Protestant residents. The Roman Catholic equivalent was (the) Gorbals, but the 22 never went there. (However, the 38 did). To be fair, most of the reputa Sunday, January 12, 2014 12:50 PM ast, well before 1973, but the legacy tended to live on.

The 22 had quite a wide service interval (for GCT), and tended to vary from 12 to 20 minutes between buses. The journey took just under an hour and was to become my favourite service, as you often got the time to enjoy the job in the quiet periods. Mind you, the service interval made it just about impossible to be allowed to turn short due to late running, so if you were very late you just had to keep going “end to end” as it was known. Also, it was usual practice to put an LA on the last bus due to attacks on bus crews (a conductor had recently been murdered on his bus), yet I cannot ever remember conducting an LA on the 22.

I was allocated the top deck and was soon issuing 9 pence tickets as though they were ice cream cones on a summer’s day. We nearly had a full top deck before we left the Easterhouse housing scheme, even at that time in the morning! I had been the object of adverse humour from several of the punters. Some of them made reference to my brand new GCT uniform, some of them chanced their luck and said they had given me a 50p piece instead of a 10p, a good few asked me what the fare was in the hope I would undercharge them, but I just about coped with it. Greg insisted that I should wear my cap to avoid adverse attention from Inspectors. Inspectors in Glasgow were referred to by crews as “hats” as, generally, they were the only personnel who actually wore them!! The mobile inspectors were referred to as the “Gestapo”, and were afforded about the same respect.

On the approach to Castlemilk terminus I heard Wullie banging on his cab roof. He was checking whether I had changed the destination screen. I had to get Greg to tell me what Wullie’s code was, and how to reply. It would have been very rare indeed to have to show any other destination than “Easterhouse”, but Wullie would have had a code for most intermediate points on most services. I was disappointed to discover that the two destinations were adjacent on the blind, as I had been looking forward to seeing what unusual destinations would be there. Not this time, two winds of the handle and that was it! Waybills filled in and back to Easterhouse. This time a full standing load before we left “The Milk”. Where were all these people going at this time of the morning?

Blinds set at Easterhouse to show Castlemilk again, but we weren’t going there this time. We only went as far as Duke Street when off we got at Dennistoun “bothy” for our “piece”. Another crew took over our bus. The “bothy” was a crew room adjacent to the former Dennistoun trolleybus depot where you ate your piece (sandwiches), but we weren’t eating it there. We had to scramble onto a moving PD2 running out of service back to Parkhead garage, and our piece would be eaten there. If we had missed that bus we would have had to hope there was another parked there for whatever reason, and made due arrangement to get it back again. To travel back to the garage by service bus would have entailed a fair walk and much loss of “piece time”.

After our break we went out to take up a service 62 bus, another PD2, at Parkhead Cross, although I cannot remember whether we were city bound or not. Service 62 was a partial tram replacement service running between Baillieston, a large village some 6 miles east of the city centre, and Hope Street in the city itself. Service intervals would typically vary between 4 minutes and 10 minutes, although duplicates at rush hours could mean a bus every two minutes along certain sections. A fairly complicated service pattern was operated which required some buses to turn short at Shettleston, some two miles short of Baillieston. It did not go down well with punters bound for Baillieston, when the driver turned off the main A89 road into Shettleston terminus, especially if “Baillieston” was shown on the screen. To that end conductors had to make absolutely certain that they knew where the bus was heading before setting the screen in the city centre. However, no fear there, as my dear friends Wullie and Greg also had a code worked out for that service. Two bangs on the upper deck floor told him you were setting Bailieston, and three indicated Shettleston. If your signal didn’t match Wullie’s timeboard, he would bang the proper destination on his cab ceiling. Punters witnessing this charade must have wondered what it was all about.

We worked the same duty Monday till Friday, during which time I got to find out how bus crews from other garages treated you. Service 22 shared a fair bit of its route with service 46 buses from Gartcraig garage, although the service interval of the 46 was generally half that of the 22. Every morning when we passed Carntynehall Square there was a front entrance PD3 waiting for us to pass. By the time we would get to Rutherglen we knew how many flies were on the PD3 driver’s windscreen, he would be that close. There was no let up, and Wullie even tried to chance running early one morning. No good, the 46 was still waiting for us, although one can only guess what his passengers thought about sitting 5 minutes in a bus going nowhere. This practice was so rife that I never really knew how bad it was until weeks later.

I was on my own bus by then and it was early on a Saturday morning. There was nothing much on the road and we sailed past Carntynehall Square in our 22 towards Castlemilk. Out of the gloom came a dreaded 46 PD3 right on our tail. My driver, who had better remain nameless, alighted from his cab at Bridgeton Cross. The 46 was behind us, but was about three bus lengths away. My driver made to go and speak to the driver of the 46 but the bus revved up as though to move away without actually doing so. My driver asked me to try and speak to the 46 driver when he would inevitably pull in behind us at the next stop. At the next stop I shouted to the 46 driver that mine would like to speak to him. I cannot remember the exact reply, but I wasn’t supple enough even then to place my head where I was told to do so. I was more than apprehensive, when the radiator cap of the PD3 actually struck our rear platform window at the next stop after that. Fortunately the window never cracked.

We reached a spot two minutes before the timing point at Rutherglen Town Hall. My driver stood on the brakes and angrily jumped from his cab. This is how the conversation went between the 22 driver and the driver on the 46:-

22 “Are you F…..g stupid pal, I’ve got 9 minutes to get to the Town Hall?”

46 “ So what, I’ve got 14!! Noo f..k off afore Ah blooter ye ya specky wee


I'll not bother to translate, as those of you who cannot interpret the meaning will probably not have reached this far into the story. Basically we were running 7 minutes early, and the 46 was 12 minutes early. I believe he was actually timed to be four minutes behind us, so I don’t know how they did their calculations. My driver, running as early as he dared, had wrongly assumed that the 46 was running late just to keep behind us. The really frightening thing was that, despite our extremely early running, we still hadn’t managed to catch up with the service 22 and 46 buses in front. We could see them in the distance at times, but that was it. Today, I still have an old GCT timetable, which I occasionally pore over, before laughter makes me put it down again. I’m sure they only printed them for future collectors, as it soon became obvious that your bus ran two feet behind the bus in front regardless of the time of day. Drivers were booked for being more than two minutes either side of their time board times, but every driver would have had to have his own inspector allocated to him to make it work.

GCT had a policy whereby they guaranteed only the first and last departures listed in the timetable booklet. Any other departures on time were a bonus, and the timetable, in common with that of several other municipal undertakings, was not very comprehensive at all. It merely showed departure times from the termini with approximate running times to intermediate points.

One other feature of GCT operation at the time was that an agreement had been reached with the TGWU that the last bus on each service should, if possible, be an Atlantean. This was to afford conductors greater protection from assault following the murder of a conductor on his bus, as well as a series of other attacks. The reasons for the attacks seldom had robbery as a motive, and were usually the result of trivial incidents rapidly escalating into much worse. Drink was nearly always a contributory factor, and I shall describe one or two such incidents later.

Anyway, I finished my one-week’s on the job training and came out for my Saturday “backshift” overtime. I believe it was a full duty on service 61, but the details remain vague. Service 61 was also a tram replacement service and connected Tollcross, east of the city, with Maryhill in the northwest. It was a cross city service, and in common with all cross city services was shared with another garage, in this case Maryhill garage, which was perhaps not surprising. The service passed both Parkhead and Maryhill garages and operated on a 4-minute headway in the peaks, and on Saturdays. It was a very busy service, possibly the busiest operated by Parkhead garage. Here is an account of a full Saturday “backshift”on Service 61, which occurred after I was a veteran of 6 weeks service.

I reported for duty at the garage around 4.15 pm. My driver told me that the 61s were all over the place due to late running, with Maryhill garage buses covering the north section of the service and Parkhead covering the southern part. Cross-city working had been temporarily suspended in an effort to maintain schedules. However, Celtic and Partick Thistle football clubs were both playing at home that day, both games were due to finish around 4.45 p.m., and the 61 passed near to both grounds. By 1973 there were no football special buses, probably due to the overtime costs, which would have been incurred to pay the crews. It was left to the ordinary service buses to attempt to clear the crowds. We were advised that when we took our bus up, regardless of the time board, we were to re- commence cross city running and keep going until traffic flow returned to normal. Out we went to take up our bus, which should have been westbound. We had worked it out that, provided the bus was not too late we would miss the bulk of Celtic fans at Parkhead Cross. However, we waited for 15 minutes and there was no sign of any bus at all. Then a bus appeared travelling eastbound, and we crossed over the road. It wasn’t ours, and the driver advised us that ours was two buses behind him, so far as he knew.

He was right, and we took it up heading the wrong way to Tollcross. I optimistically set the screens for a full journey to Maryhill, but was later to regret this. At Parkhead Cross on the return journey Celtic fans mobbed the bus. In situations like this there is always a hard core who will use mob rule to avoid paying their fare and it would have been a brave man indeed who would have attempted to eject any non-payers. I probably managed to get about 80% of the fares and had to be content with that. However I realised that the bus hadn’ t moved whilst I had collected a full standing load’s worth of fares. The Ultimate ticket machine came into its own in such situations. Although I am a fan and collector of Setright “speeds”, had I had one that day I reckon I would have thrown it away, as each ticket value would have had to be individually “dialled” into the machine.

The cause of my stationary bus was discovered when an Inspector boarded the rear platform and shouted to me to change the destination screen to show a short working to Queen’s Cross. When I announced this to passengers I was subjected to torrents of abuse along the lines of “You should have told us that before we paid our fare!” I explained that any passenger who had paid for points past Queen’s Cross would be catered for by transfer. Some wag shouted, “We’ve waited half an hour for this one mate, transfer onto what?”

We hit the city centre and the queues in Argyle Street were phenomenal. However, we were obliged to leave most of them where they stood. GCT had a five standing passenger only rule. That day I had to operate it as five standing on each seat!! At Queen’s Cross I had only a handful of unlucky souls who wanted to travel further. I asked them for their tickets so that I could transfer them. Two of them never had tickets and were part of the throng who had dodged payment at Parkhead. They stood with their hands out waiting for their transfer slips and I told them to go and intimidate some other conductor who may not be so accommodating as I was. Being Celtic supporters, they immediately referred to me as “nothing but a dirty Orange bastard”, and the next time they saw me I was “dead”. I was getting used to this by now, and had learned not to take such insults personally.

On our return to the city centre once again the bus was bulging at the sides and it was non-stop fare collection. People were running up and down the stairs at every stop, which was making it difficult to get onto the top deck. Every conductor, even those who are taught by former trolleybus drivers, will know that priority is usually given to fare collection in the lower deck, as that is where most of your short stage passengers are supposed to travel. My left thumb was numb whacking out 4 p tickets on the Ultimate and I was aware that my cash bag was getting very heavy indeed. I did manage to get upstairs once or twice, and thought I had made the best job I could of collecting all of the fares on that deck. I was standing on the rear platform trying to get a bit of a breather when two well dressed middle aged gentlemen descended the stairs and introduced themselves to me as plain clothes inspectors (they were members of the dreaded “Gestapo”). I was advised that I was being booked for missed fare collection on the upper deck by virtue of the fact that I had only accessed the top deck on two occasions since Glasgow Cross. If there had been another two on the lower deck they would have seen the reason why!

They advised me however that they had been content that I had issued tickets to all my passengers whose fares I had managed to collect (they wouldn’t have caught me at that one anyway), and that I was of smart appearance and wearing a tie!! I nearly hit one with the Ultimate and the other with the cash bag so that he could see what was actually in it, but being 19 years of age, I probably never had the bottle. I shudder to think what I would have done if I had been 10 years older! At our meal break (greatly reduced by late running) I asked my driver for advice. When he saw my bulging cash bag he advised me to instantly make an “interim” pay in. I found out later that the average pay in for that particular duty was about £38.00. I had paid in £43.00 for half a shift and had been booked for not collecting enough fares!! I went home that night in serious doubt as to whether I would be in to work the next day.

However, It turned out that was the only time I was booked in my 6 months with GCT. I wrote a covering “full report” to the northern division HQ at St Enoch Square, and heard no more about it. I was to later find out in a similar short spell with Baxter of Airdrie (then a subsidiary of Eastern Scottish) that a booking was almost a monthly affair. Unfortunately the practice of halving the fare with a passenger with no ticket issued was so common that the passengers themselves would often insist that they should not receive a ticket and would often threaten any conductor with violence who insisted that the full fare was paid. It was extremely difficult for a 19-year-old youth when faced with this dilemma to demand payment of the full fare and any tickets offered to the unhappy passenger often found their way onto the floor in a shredded heap. When an Inspector boarded the bus to check tickets all the passenger would have to say was that the conductor never gave him a ticket and that was that.

I was booked once this way by a Baxter's inspector who should have known better. I was left red faced and pleading with him that I was not at the fiddle whilst the four passengers concerned left the bus laughing at me, having dropped me in it for not halving the fares with them. Basically, it didn’t matter what you did, you were at the mercy of the word of the punter. The same inspector had previously booked me for a missed fare when I had stupidly allowed a girlfriend to travel free of charge, and after that I became a “marked man” with Baxter. I seem to remember being booked for a very minor waybill error unrelated to honesty issues, after the same inspector had subsequently checked my bus and found it to be all in order. I’d better not go into it here as Baxter’s was a small outfit, is not the subject of this article, and I suppose the guy was only doing his job.

The thing was that a decent day’s work could be spoiled by the actions of just one customer. I was on a duty one day, which involved a full shift on Service 1. This was another cross-city affair between the village of Carmyle in the south east of the city and the village of Killermont in the northwest. It was shared with Maryhill garage, and was a welcome change from the busier services. (Incidentally it was the only service operated by Parkhead which involved reversing at a terminus.) In fact reversing was necessary at both Carmyle and Killermont. The service was remarkable for it’s relative lack of incidents whilst I was there, but here are two of them, both coinciding with my conducting an LA allocated due to the vehicle concerned being the “last bus” as per the TGWU agreement mentioned elsewhere.

It was a Friday afternoon and the LA was stationary at traffic lights in the city centre. Several postal workers were waiting to alight at the stop through the lights and one of them asked me to open the doors. As a rule conductors stood alongside the drivers on the front platform of LAs and would often (illegally) operate the platform doors. The guy looked really desperate to get off, but my driver insisted that the doors were to remain shut. The guy pleaded again two or three times, when the reason for his request became all too apparent. He had been desperate to answer a call of nature and unfortunately had defecated where he stood amongst the throng of other passengers waiting to alight. The driver advised me to make sure I got his name or GPO badge number, but one of his colleagues with fingers like bananas had seized me by the lapels and was threatening that I was to do no such thing, as the guy had a chronic medical condition as a result of having been a Japanese prisoner of war.

The fact that he was reeking of drink obviously had nothing to do with it, and I remember thinking that I had never seen any red haired Glasgow spoken Japanese. Please note that if the chap really had been a victim of Japanese imprisonment I would have genuinely felt sorry for him, but somehow I doubt that was the case. The defecator made good his escape when the doors opened at the stop and that Sunday, January 12, 2014 after dousing the platform with a bucket of water obtained from a nearby shop. The depot clerk was furious when he saw a perfectly serviceable bus being brought off the road. However, when he realised what had happened we were back on the road with a CVG6, much to the disgust of my driver. The cause of the vehicle’s temporary unserviceability was recorded as “Platform fouled by dog” in the driver’s report.

As previously mentioned, a lot of customer satisfaction issues were due to the demon drink, and that brings me onto another issue. There was a large number of single males housed in various hostels in or near the city centre. A favourite means of travel by an element of such persons involved them jumping onto a back loader and sitting in the lower saloon. When you asked them for their fare they would reply that they had no money and would alight at the next stop. They would then board the bus behind and so on. This was not a major problem but it was a nuisance nevertheless. The onslaught of the LA seriously curtailed their travel arrangements however, and they had to resort to more devious methods. I was upstairs on another LA, again on service 1, when it became apparent that two rough looking gentlemen, seated together, had not made any attempt whatsoever to pay their fares. I asked them to show me their tickets and was greeted with “Are you a f…..g Inspector, or what? It’s your face that’s getting red, not ours”. I summoned assistance from my driver, fortunately a very able individual physically, despite the fact that he would be lucky if he was 5’ 2”. He was nicknamed “Shug” like all other persons in Glasgow named Hugh, and always wore huge brown driving gloves. A brief exchange of words took place and the two heroes decided against further argument. They both descended the stairs and one of them alighted. However the second guy made a threat to “pull us off the bus and get us”. Shug drew back, swung his right driving glove, which by now had the appearance of containing a fist, and connected with the guy’s chin.

The blow knocked him reeling over a small wall onto a grass verge, which formed part of the grounds of the BBC studios. We were glad that the cameras were all INSIDE on that day!! Had anyone complained Shug was a goner, but the majority of the bus passengers commended him for his particular brand of customer service. Unfortunately the job was prone to such brushes with undesirable individuals and it was usually p Sunday, January 12, 2014 we had a reputation for dealing with such louts ourselves, and it was usually better to avoid dealings with the City of Glasgow Police, who tended to look on us with the same cynicism as we looked on the travelling public.

To fully illustrate the hazards of just what could happen, here is a personal account of a late Friday night journey on a PD2 service 22 bus from Castlemilk to Easterhouse. My driver had obviously had enough for the day and I heard the tell tale sign of the starter motor being repeatedly pressed whilst I was upstairs changing the destination screen. His aim was to flatten the battery and make the bus fail to start at the terminus. Such sabotage was unfortunately fairly common. There was one other method which I believe involved tampering with the throttle linkage or fuel pump assembly, but I was not technically enough minded at the time to follow what was going on. In any case it was better to accept what the driver had done and say nothing.

We were due to hit Bridgeton Cross at pub chuck out time (then 10.10 p.m.), and he obviously didn’t fancy the prospect of trouble with a rookie conductor. A drunken female, who must have been 60 if she was a day, got onto the rear platform with a bottle of fortified wine in her hand and offered sexual gratification to the both of us for £5.00. When we both politely refused she produced a can of cigarette lighter fuel from her handbag and threatened to “torch” the bus. The driver decided it was time to go and we prayed his act of sabotage had been unsuccessful. The bus started at the third or fourth attempt, whilst I held the happy hooker at bay on the pavement. At the last possible moment I jumped onto the platform and we were off. Castlemilk terminus was unusual in that it was rare to pick up more than a handful of passengers there, and I believe there were none on that occasion. I never gave the lady the option to be an intending passenger in any case.

Two or three stops further on a crowd of about 10 drunken partygoers boarded the bus, went upstairs and “paid” their fares with 6 cans of Tennent’s lager. There was no way I was going to challenge them for money, and in any case, any Inspector daft enough to do a full ticket check on that bus would have to have been a legacy from Hirohito’s Kamikaze school (Japan again!!). What they would usually do was check the lower deck only, and who could blame them? The lager louts alighted from the bus at Rutherglen Town Hall without further incident.

On the approach to Bridgeton Cross I asked another drunk and his equally drunken companion, who were seated downstairs, for their fares. The first guy lunged at me with what looked like a flick-knife and demanded that I hand over my cashbag. He continually made reference to my "green" uniform and called me a "dirty Fenian bastard" (remember the reference to Bridgeton being a Protestant stronghold?). I retreated up the back staircase and attempted to activate the "panic" klaxon situated at the top of the stairs on the rear offside corner dome. Some idiot had screwed the cover so tight that I could not budge it. I rang the bell repeatedly in an attempt to alert the driver, but to no avail. In desperation I took my Ultimate machine off my shoulder and flailed it down the front of my potential robber's face with such force that he fell down the stairs onto the rear platform.

On the approach to a bus stop in Bellgrove Street I managed to kick the guy onto the roadway from the rear platform. His colleague had already jumped from the moving bus to get away. (I'm just under 6' 0" and currently 17 stone. Glasgow tends to be a city of the vertically challenged, and I was never really a lightweight, even at age 19). My driver saw the incident in his nearside mirror, but assumed that I had thrown the guy off for ringing the bell. In any case the 20 or so intending passengers were left cursing at the stop as the driver gunned the throttle and left them standing in case the guy tried to get back on the bus.

On the approach to Easterhouse terminus yet another drunk came downstairs onto the rear platform and proceeded to urinate onto the roadway whilst the bus was moving. The driver saw the guy on the platform and assumed he was intending to alight at the next stop. The bus stopped and the drunk continued to urinate. The driver pulled away slowly and twigged what the guy was up to. Being a bit shaken from my previous incident, with a laceration to my left hand either caused by a flick knife or my own Ultimate, and a machine that would no longer issue 7p tickets, I was reluctant to challenge the platform pisser.

My driver realised what was going on and decided that the pisser was going to get a good hiding at the terminus, some three stops further on. The drunk kept ringing the bell and my driver became furious. We took the turning circle at Easterhouse with such speed that the drunk was unable to alight and we kept going until we were near to Easterhouse Police Office (two or three streets off our route). By this time I had to pin the pisser onto the floor of the lower saloon as he was threatening to throw the platform fire extinguisher through the front bulkhead window to get at the driver. The driver alighted from the cab and the pisser ended up wearing the fire extinguisher as head attire, courtesy of my colleague. The guy needed medical attention so we had to take him to the police office and tell them he had fallen in the bus. The matter was resolved without a police notebook being produced and we raced back blank screen to the garage to finish.

I had cashed up, and was writing a report relative to everything which had happened on that journey, including “accidental” injury to a passenger, and a broken ticket machine, when I realised the driver had failed to arrive after putting the bus through the automatic washing machine. I went out to look for him and saw him frog marching yet another soaking wet drunk off the premises. This drunk had fallen asleep on the upper deck at Easterhouse terminus whilst we were carrying out the World War 2 re-enactment and had awoken whilst the bus was going through the bus wash. He had jumped off the rear platform whilst the bus was in mid wash and had suffered the consequences of a PSV shower. It was my duty to check the bus prior to the end of my shift but I obviously had other things on my mind that particular night.

One afternoon I was allocated a "spare" duty, starting around 2.00 p.m. Somehow or other I managed to arrive some minutes late and was fearing the worst that I would be deployed as a "jumper". On the very rare occasions where there was a surplus of conductors, the "spare conductors" would be instructed to board service 61 and 62 buses at Parkhead Cross, some 200 yards from Parkhead Garage, and operate between there and the City Centre as "jumpers" to assist crews who may have been disadvantaged by the fact that there were buses missing from service, almost inevitably due to driver shortage. The conductor of any bus being "jumped" had to ensure that he had obtained the "badge" number of any jumper conductors, who also had to sign his waybill, otherwise he could have been accused of issuing "dud" tickets from the floor or used ticket bin of the bus.

To my surprise and delight, I discovered that I was to work a "cushy" duty on service 60, an OMO route, along with a spare driver who wasn't OMO trained. We signed out our Leyland Atlantean, and duly got on the road. Things were looking up, and we were running very closely behind the OMO bus in front. That bus was from Maryhill garage so that we were not of a mind to assist the driver by overtaking him and running "stop for stop". If he had been one of our own we (probably) would have helped him out. The bus in front pulled away from a stop with (wait for it!) a drunk shouting some kind of obscenity at the driver. We pulled into the same stop to let passengers alight, but were obviously not expecting any passengers. The drunk kept pointing at the front dome of our bus and screamed that he wasn't going to get on a bus crewed by "a pair of orange bastards". This suited us fine and we pulled away without him.

We did some soul searching re this and finally worked it out. GCT at that time operated a growing number of Atlanteans, not all of which were OMO equipped. To give clear indication to intending passengers that the bus they were about to board was OMO operated, GCT affixed a large orange circular sticker to the front dome of all OMO equipped Atlanteans. We had a revolving "Pay Driver" and "Pay Conductor" board in the front windscreen to cover our non standard operation of that particular bus, but the orange dome conveyed to that particular brain damaged individual that Glasgow was operating an Apartheid system with separate buses for Protestants and Catholics, and we were the "second bus in a row for Orangemen." I should perhaps explain that a fair percentage of archetypical Glasgow down and out style drunks would have maintained their condition utilising a cocktail of methylated spirits and fortified wine. They were rarely drunk on whisky or beer, and their brains were addled accordingly. That's it, no violence, and no stabbings this time, but we had a good laugh at that one, especially as my driver was an Islamic Pakistani, Mohammed Din. I quite often worked with "Mo". He was not a man of many (English) words because he never knew many, but he laughed a lot.

I,ll speak some more on the despised Atlanteans and end with another account of a shift involving “Mo”. The running times on the Atlantean operated OMO services had been extended to suit the delays caused by automatic doors, no conductors, and "big" buses that were (justifiably) credited as slow and ponderous in city traffic. However, no such concession was afforded when LAs were used on crew-operated services. In busy thoroughfares like Argyle Street, most of the passengers would board and alight wherever a back loader happened to have come to a halt, with bus stops being the prerogative of the elderly, disabled, and mothers with pushchairs. Therefore even a crew operated Atlantean could probably lose 4 or 5 minutes in the city centre alone. The front overhang also caused problems with some city centre left turns, where the conductor would often be positioned at the rear nearside in the lower saloon, ready to shout warning to the driver if the rear nearside wheels looked as though they were about to turn a pushchair into a fatal accident. The driver (often unused to Atlanteans) would be watching the front offside pushchairs to avoid a similar situation. Glasgow pedestrians and pushchair users were remarkably unafraid of the potential Centurion tank capabilities of a Glasgow Atlantean. To be fair, such left turn situations were relatively uncommon, unless a bus happened to be turned short in the city centre, or an "LA" had been rostered onto a service not usually operated by that type.

One rush hour duty involved a working into the city as a "duplicate" on Service 41 (otherwise exclusively operated by Gartcraig garage), then out again via Service 64 (otherwise exclusively operated by Bridgeton and Partick). I was detailed that duty one morning and the driver attempted to decline the allocated "LA" to the Depot Clerk, on account of a very tight left turn from Buchanan Street into George Street (Gartcraig used PD3s on the 41). However, nothing else was available, and we were sent on our way. Thanks to the big LA we were running fairly late by the time we got to Buchanan Street, and had also been the unintentional duplicate to more than one bus. My driver was furious and came close to demolishing the public toilets situated on a central traffic island at the aforesaid left turn. Thankfully there were no pushchairs at that corner that day, as the rear nearside wheels left treads two feet onto the pavement. I was instructed by the driver under pain of death to blank the screens so that Service 64 lost a duplicate that morning. We got away with it as LAs with blank screens, usually running to garage following breakdown, were a regular occurrence at the time.

As a finale to what may be now perceived to be a very cynical account of GCT, here is a story on a more humorous note. I was due to perform a “backshift” duty with Mo Din on his first day on the road out of the driving school. He was a very popular Pakistani chap, always smiling despite the racial insults, which he regrettably and inevitably received from punters and colleagues alike. He just shrugged things off and got on with his work, and I quite enjoyed working with him. We went to take up a bus on service 38 at the “bothy” in Cumbernauld Road. The 38 was a cross city service which essentially connected Millerston and Riddrie on the north east of the city with the leafy suburb of Rouken Glen, famous for its Public Park on the south west of the city. The service was shared with Newlands and Gartcraig garages, and Parkhead usually fielded PD3s. I believe Parkhead only had a 4-bus allocation on that service, so it was not very well known to crews. It was very busy in its city centre part, but less so on the outer stretches. We got into the bus, an LA, and headed for Millerston. Mo was having a bit of bother with the semi automatic gearbox and I knew it was not going to be an easy shift. We were late leaving Millerston with a Newlands CVG6 on our tail, however Mo soon saw to that.

Somehow, he managed to take an almost fully laden bus down a recently opened service road to a construction site in the Townhead district of the city, before I managed to tell him we were off our route. About 10 minutes and as many reversals later we got back onto our route, now about 15 minutes late. We plodded on through the city centre losing more time and other 38s were forming up behind us. They wouldn’t have actually known which service we were on as GCT had no rear destination displays, but we were a bus in front of them and that’s all that mattered. A ticket check inspector boarded our bus at Eglinton Toll and remarked that he didn’t expect to see a Parkhead bus on that section, at that time. He checked our running board to discover we were 23 minutes late! At Shawlands Cross the inspector liaised with a timekeeper and we were to be turned short at Merrylee in an effort to get back on time. However, two rather posh ladies voiced that they were travelling on to Giffnock so we were told to turn there.

Mo and I exchanged furtive glances. Neither of the two of us knew where the Giffnock turning point was and I stupidly asked one of the nice ladies if they had any idea, as they alighted from the bus. “I don’t actually travel by bus very often. My husband has the car away on business in Edinburgh”, was the reply. I never wanted to know where her husband was, just how to turn a bus at Giffnock! Mo decided that the Giffnock turning point would be the next road junction and we circled some very affluent back streets, no doubt causing residents some concern that a GCT bus was littering their street. Mo’s usual grin had changed into a grimace and he pulled up and stopped the engine. His nerves were on edge and there was still most of the shift to go. To add to his troubles the kind Gestapo agent at Shawlands had advised him that he would have to report him for running so late, but as it was his first day on the road, not to worry about it!

After Mo had exercised his legs he attempted to restart the bus. It wouldn’t start!! After about two or three minutes he tried again and it fired. We got back out onto the main A77 Kilmarnock Road towards town and seemed to run for a long time without picking up any passengers. At Shawlands Cross the timekeeper let us know the reason why. “Where are yeez gaun son? “ I had forgotten to change the screen back to show Millerston, and all of the intending passengers had waved us by thinking we were running light to Newlands garage.

This time the timekeeper felt sorry for both of us and told me to set the screen for a short turn at Alexandra Park (We were late again!!). Try as I might I couldn’t find Alexandra Park on the screen and had to set it to show Castle Street, about a mile or so short of Alexandra Park. Into the city centre again heading north. Tried to pull away Hope Street- no air pressure- no gears!! Mo had to rev the engine at the stop to build up air pressure to get it into gear, and away we went. At every stop thereafter he had to do the same. Fortunately our Castle Street display kept us fairly light. It is amazing how punters will always ask you when performing a short journey how long they will have to wait for a bus going all the way to the end of the route. It was always tempting to ask them to wait there until you came by the next time when you may be able to oblige, but the truth was that you couldn’t really answer them, unless a bus was visible behind you. Even then, if that bus was also late, it could be turned short as well. We eventually arrived at the bothy, adjacent to the delightfully named St Rollox bowling green, to be told that we had to take the bus out of service to Parkhead garage, due to no crew being available to take it further. You couldn’t help but think that they had probably heard of our previous exploits and gone home!! In any case there was an obvious problem with our air pressure, along with every other LA in the fleet at that time. Please note these weren’t new buses, some of them being around 10 years old at the time.

By the time we had got back to the garage we were too late to start our normal duty and were told to work a duplicate on service 62. This involved taking a front entrance PD3 to Glasgow Cross, then waiting for time to run back to Baillieston. At Baillieston the bus was run in service back to the garage. This was usually part of a spreadover shift, but things certainly weren’t going to plan that day. We picked up our PD3 and went out on the road. The whole of the Glasgow fleet was bodied by Alexander, or by GCT using Alexander components, and generally the bodywork was fine. However, on this particular bus, the front transmission access hatch at the foot of the staircase was lifting by two or three inches when the bus was being driven at speed. Sadly this was not the only bus so affected, it appeared to be a trait of PD3s.

I was later to find out that similar Alexander 30 foot front entrance bodies supplied to other operators were also troublesome. Indeed the balloon roof design was not to everybody’s taste, and recent correspondence from the Aldershot and District Bus Interest Group has revealed that the Alexander bodied Lolines operated by that company were referred to locally as “Elephant Wagons”. Anyway I managed to pick up a couple of discarded cigarette packets and had some success in wedging the cover down. Parkhead never had that many PD3s, and they were usually used on service 38, and rush hour specials, although the sheer number of buses required by service 62 often resulted in them appearing there.

Anyway, we managed to get it wrong at Glasgow Cross and ended up running two or three buses in front of where we should have been. Now, all of the other drivers knew that it was Mo’s first day and steadfastly refused to pass us, as a means of showing him the ropes. The platform doors were slowing us down and we were chock full most of the way. However, on the semi rural section between Shettleston and Baillieston we were overtaken by four or five buses, keen to get a break at Baillieston. When we arrived at Baillieston there were no fewer than 5 buses at the terminus in front of us. Mo optimistically pulled in behind the last one. However the driver of the first bus in the line came running up to us and told us to get on the road. He had made himself late waiting for us and wasn’t going on the road to be tailed by somebody straight out of the driving school!! . We took our bus back out in front of the rest of the procession and got “slaughtered” before we had left the next district of Garrowhill. Of course the other crews knew what was waiting for us and that’s why they never budged till we did. I cannot remember how we finished that day’s duty, but suffice to say it wasn’t one of my better days.

So that is my story. No detailed descriptions of vehicles, gearboxes, or mountains of other technical data. It is intended to illustrate what life as a bus conductor in Glasgow was like in the 70s. Readers may not be surprised at all that I left to join the Royal Navy, which I was to discover was also not for me, but that is a story which I doubt I shall ever tell. I did do another brief spell with Baxter’s of Airdrie, but I cannot say that I have enough memories of working there to commit the experience to paper (or computer). As previously indicated there was an element of staff that regarded me as a “Corporation Cowboy”, and it was probably just as well that I left before I said something to a particular Inspector, which I may have regretted.

I have often travelled on crew-operated buses since and have been impressed with the efficiency of conductors in less desperate circumstances, where they actually had time to enjoy the job. I would have dearly loved to conduct a single decker on a rural service, but that will definitely never happen now. Better still to have driven one, but I never took and passed my driving test until I was 31, by which time a bus driver’s wage was not an option. As I approach the age of 50 I doubt if I could pass the PCV medical due to high blood pressure, so perhaps I shall never know what it was like to drive an old back loader. Still, it’s nice to wonder, and maybe that’s what keeps my interest alive.

My wife and daughters cannot believe that I am still interested in buses despite the fact that I worked on them, and as I get older my interest appears to be getting stronger. Mind you, I lost interest in the modern scene at deregulation, but that has only served to make my interest in the old days greater.

I sincerely hope that any person who has taken the time and trouble to read the above will have gotten something out of it, and thanks must go to Richard Haughey (The Cambridge Busman), whose internet article on bus conducting in Cambridge has inspired me to write this. I do not know him personally, but he is one of the same dying breed as I (except perhaps on the Isle of Wight where I am advised that such honourable persons are still employed.

Copyright © 2005 John Walker

John Walker Who would love to hear from other GCT platform staff.