It won’t have escaped your notice that there have been quite a few posts on my blog about buses, as a kid I was mad about them and over the decades my interest has waned and then been rekindled many times. Currently I am a member and an admin of a social network group entitled Wonderful Western Welsh where we spend some time sharing memories, photographs and information of one of our favourite bus companies, the Western Welsh Omnibus Co Ltd.
During one on-line session the chat came round to survivors of this company and between a few of us we came to the conclusion there were around seventeen. Now this may seem like a large number but when you realise that between 1929 and 1974 Western Welsh owned many hundreds of vehicles it puts it all into proportion, survivors are rare. During our discussion mention was also made of rumours of a few possible unknown or unrecorded survivors and I was intrigued to know more, so decided I might have a go at seeing if I could locate any of them.
One of the buses in which I was most interested was a Leyland Tiger Cub rumoured to be in Ireland. Not much to go on, but undeterred, I commenced my search. The internet these days is a very powerful research tool but one has to sift through acres of drivel just to find the few words of encouragement to continue. It didn’t take long to find out that the vehicle for which I was searching was probably a later Tiger Cub from 1961, last sighted in 1989 in the Waterford area. Daily for about two weeks I spent an hour or two first thing in the morning on my search, sifting through every little tiny clue until by chance I found a cross reference with a possible connection. Thankfully this was a rural railway museum in Ireland with an e-mail address so I sent off a request for information, little expecting a positive reply, suspecting the bus would have been scrapped some while ago. The reply when it came was a surprise, yes the bus survives, it’s complete and a runner, but unrestored and very shabby, and a number of photos were supplied with the information.
New in January 1961, UKG 274 was a Leyland Tiger Cub with Metro-Camell-Weymann 41 seat dual-purpose body, it had the fleet number 1274 and was turned out in the attractive “dual-purpose” livery of red with ivory waistband and roof. There were 12 vehicles of this type in the fleet and 1274 was allocated to Carmarthen depot where it spent the first ten years of its life. One of the duties allocated to 1274 was route 301, Carmarthen to Cardiff, a journey time of around four hours, and was a visitor to stand 13 in Bridgend Bus Station whilst on this route and where, as a boy, I would have first encountered this bus.
In May 1967 1274 was demoted to bus duties and later was painted in red livery and altered soon afterwards for one-man operation. When Carmarthen depot closed in 1971 she moved on to Newcastle Emlyn depot for a short while before being transferred in April 1972 to Crosville Motor Services.
In Crosville’s ownership the bus was fitted with ordinary bus seats and repainted in Crosville green with a cream waistband, losing the brightwork on the lower front skirt and all the bright mouldings on the waist-line being painted over. The bus was finally withdrawn in April 1976 after fifteen years of service in South Wales and then went to Martins Bus & Coach Sales, a dealer in Middlewich, and thence to Kavanaghs of Tipperary in Ireland. Here she was re-registered 71 AHI and is known to have operated in the green and cream livery with Kavanagh stickers, but only stayed until June before moving on to O’Dwyer of Carrick-on-Suir in South Tipperary.
The next move was in August 1978 to Kenneally of Dungarvan, County Waterford, where she stayed for the next fourteen years. It may have been here that the Crosville livery was changed for the blue and ivory to be seen in the current photographs. Its original Leyland 350 engine expired after 18 years service so, Kenneally’s bought a “Power Plus” Leyland 400 for it which allowed a further 13 years service until finally taken off the road at the end of June 1992 due to it having got a bit smoky; it was probably the last Tiger Cub in passenger service in Ireland. After the bus was withdrawn she was purchased for preservation by Philip Bedford in whose ownership she still remains. The following photographs show the bus in its current condition and although the pictures show the bus out in the open, she is stored undercover as seen in the first illustration.
As to the future; Philip Bedford informs me that some work is to be commenced very soon, new window rubbers are being sourced and once they have been replaced restoration can begin in earnest. The livery is likely to be, not the Western Welsh red and ivory, but Crosville green and ivory, the colours in which she first operated in Ireland with the new registration number. It’s a project I shall be following, albeit at a distance, and look forward to the day when our UKG 274 is able to carry passengers once more.
Philip Bedford for supplying current information and allowing me to use his photographs for this story. Colin Scott, for checking my historical facts and providing a colour photograph of the bus in its original livery. Richard Simons, known as chucklebuster on flickr, for allowing use of the photograph of the bus in overall red livery. Alistair, known as The KDH Archive on flickr, for allowing the use of the photograph of the bus in Crosville livery. Mark Hampson, know as Dorsetyetti on flickr, for the use of the photograph of the bus in Kenneally’s livery, taken at Ballyduff on 12th May 1986. Southdown Enthusiasts Club for allowing the use of the black and white photograph taken on Stand 13 at Bridgend Bus Station.