Comments

'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012



Friday, 12 October 2012

Buses-Good, Bad, Indifferent and Mysterious (1)-The Number 16

In his posthumously published book of essays The Memory Chalet the brilliant historian Professor Tony Judt wrote of his favourite bus route, The Green Line Bus.

Morningside Road (Photograph, Douglas Corrance)

Throughout the 1960s the bus numbers 4, 16 and 27 served Oxgangs. In the late 1960s the number 5 was introduced, extending its terminus from Morningside to Oxgangs.

Generally speaking the bus service to Oxgangs was superb-we at The Stair who were all great users of the bus service probably didn't quite appreciate just how good it was at the time. For decades I suspect the bus service in Edinburgh has probably been amongst the very best if not the best in the United Kingdom; buses served Oxgangs from early in the morning-around 5.30 am until half an hour or so before midnight.

For the Hoffmanns the Number 16 bus was our favourite and the most used. We liked its route through Morningside, Bruntsfield and all the way to Princes Street-we were less keen when it ventured down Leith Walk, but rarely ventured down that way.

It was the bus that took me to and from Bairds' Newsagents at Morningside in the early mornings in each of the seasons of the year. How I enjoyed standing on the open platform on the home journey on sun-kissed summer mornings, as it tore along Oxgangs Avenue on my return from delivering newspapers. Often, before eight o'clock, Esther, Ruth and Alison Blades would already be out playing at the front of The Stair.

It was the bus that took my mother to work at the east end of Princes Street in later years. It was the bus that took me to and home from Boroughmuir School at Bruntsfield. It was the bus that took my father to work at his various working locations over the years. And it was the bus on which I came across his ghastly presence on one late afternoon when I had stolen money from my mother Mrs Anne Hoffmann's purse; I had spent it on a good time in town-I thought I'd be smart and get off the bus one stop earlier-I hadn't spotted Ken Hoffmann on the packed bus until I was about to get off-he said I'll see you shortly son. It was with a very heavy heart that I wearily walked along the remainder of Oxgangs Avenue to The Stair to face the punishment of a overly severe spanking.

The bus took on different moods depending on the time of the day. Very early mornings were surprisingly cheery in the company of the couthy, sparky school cleaners; weekday mornings with workers going off to work would be silent, mournful, slightly depressing occasions; upstairs meanwhile would be contained within a fug of cigarette smoke. During the day, the bus would be quieter, with some local women who were lucky enough to venture into town. The after school buses were always packed, so less enjoyable, but better than going in during the morning with the office workers.

At weekends the buses were always jollier-it was a happy, optimistic bus that took us out on Saturday mornings to Warrender Swimming Baths which were great fun or to Woolworths at Princes Street for fun, food and photies.

Warrender Baths (Photograph Peter Hoffmann)

Late nights were a rarity, but on occasional Sundays when we travelled home together as a family from dark Stockbridge via Princes Street to Oxgangs in the deep mid-winter we couldn't wait to get on board the Number 16, to sit on the long seats downstairs beside the heater where we snuggled up to rid ourselves of the winter chill that had set in whilst awaiting the bus.

These were still the days of bus conductors. The conductors' manner and demeanour often set the tone-it didn't depend on their gender, but usually women exhibited better customer care. There was one notorious lady with a giant personality-her bus was always a joy to travel on!

Yes, the Number 16 served as a vehicle, but not just for getting us all from point A to point B, but also served as a vehicle for our moods-happy, sad, reflective; it was a vehicle for conversation and friendship where you caught up with friends and neighbours, news and views and could strike up surprising good chats with neighbours that you might only normally pass the time of day with; and it was a bus that carried our hopes, aspirations, dreams-to school exams; job interviews; dates at the cinema-and thereafter carry us homeward, either full of joy or deeply despondent.

A Number 16 'conductor-less bus' from  the late 60s/ early 70s

Day in day out; week in week out; year in year out-even after it had once been bowled over by a lorry while turning at the junction with Oxgangs Road North the bus carried more than just its passengers-it somehow was a symbol or an emblem for Oxgangs-long live the Number 16!

3 comments:

Ruth Kaye said...

Douglas will particularly like this blog as you know he loves the buses and even worked for them for while and is still dabbling in transport even now. looking back it was a good service. We never had to wait long as we would watch out the window for the 16 coming down the hill and then run down the stairs to catch it as it came around the corner.

Neil King and Carol Duncan said...

Peter, there's a boy called Mikey Ashworth with a Flickr photostream - http://www.flickr.com/photos/36844288@N00/ - that has a number of 70s photos of LRT buses around south Morningside. You have to search a bit but you might be interested anyway.

Peter Hoffmann said...

Thanks Neil and Carol-will check out-currently in Starbucks at Holy Corner-yet another flying visit south with Dartagnan at Gateshead!