top of page

I'll Get The Bus

Given the wholly understandable obsession with all things Dorset and the closely-knit community of oligarchs who lie at its commercial, social and cultural heart, it is not entirely surprising that junior and more distant branches of those same families should have fallen outside the national media spotlight. Indeed so intense is the focus on the doings of the Thrupieces, Threadbones, Binstocks, Whisky-McNightleys, Sizemores, Oats et al in their Dorset manifestation that it is easy to forget that they sprung from the twentieth-century omphalos not as rootless, stateless and orphaned dynasties but rather as the product of familial couplings across many and varied territories.

To construct an entire family tree of the present-day Dorset "new bourgeois-aristocracy" [see Agee Neolo-Jist [2010] The New Dorset Bourgeois-Aristocracy: A Study in the Transference of Power [Threadbone Press]] would be as tedious as it is complex and ultimately as fruitless as it is unnecessary. Rather we should concentrate on those who really matter [the Dorset branches] and merely cherry-pick from the wider bloodline, noting that eminent men [and more rarely women] from the more distant branches have occasionally led notable lives as well*.

* I will already be clear to every reader that the Dorset-based exemplars of these distinguished families are very different, To describe these families as predominantly matriarchal would be, as commentator Anne Drojenny says, "something of an understatement".

A Green Line Bus not disimilar to those on which distinguished transport historian Barnet Whisky-McNightly was frequently deposited by his inadequate mother.

One such is the now-forgotten transport historian Barnet Whisky-McNightly - a second cousin or some such of Mrs Edna Whisky McNightly. Barnet, who had the misfortune of being brought up in the backwater that is London [and even more debilitating the suburbs of London at that] in the 1940s, spent his formative years being abandoned by his mother on various Green Line buses [see below] as they made their way from the centre of the capital to the leafy life-affirming termini surrounding it. Forever lost and in transit until rescued by some kindly doe-eyed pensioner who returned him to the unresponsive arms of his ungrateful mother, Barnet soon came to be something of an expert on the routes, timetables and chassis numbers as well as the kindly souls who frequented these lifelines to the countryside.

Turning acquired knowledge into a monetizable skill is perhaps the single most distinguishing hallmark of those drawn from the Threadbone and Whisky-McNightly gene pool, so it need hardly be recorded that Barnet went on to research and publish his encyclopedic knowledge in a number of commercially successful volumes on the history of suburban bus services around the metropolis's periphery. They found favour with transport history nerds, bus spotters and dewy-eyed nostalgists. [Never underestimate the value of the nerd, bus-spotter or dewy-eyed nostalgia markets. Such folk have liquidity, a restricted imagination, few friends and little else to spend their pennies on. It all mounts up [Ed]]

In time Barnet became the go-to man for Omnibus Transport Convention lectures, WI Meetings, Rotary Club fundraisers and Metropolitan Police Expert Witness programmes. He made a comfortable living as a result, eventually amassing sufficient capital to retire to Epping where he lived the remainder of his days in a converted South Essex Omnibus Company maintenance shed. In 1967 he published a childhood memoir entitled I'll Get the Bus which sold multiple copies and was voted London General Omnibus Company's Transport-based Childhood Memoir of the Year by a panel chaired by lady Isobel Barnett [no relation]. It is perhaps fitting to note that he died in 1998 on the rear seat of a 1938 - AEC T499 – EL223 single-decker** en route to Basingstoke.

That 1938 - AEC T499 – EL223 single-decker

** T499 was the 46th 10T10 built and was controversially experimental having a darker green interior and 33 seats. She was originally delivered to Grays garage on June 30, 1938, where she took up duties the following day on the Z series of routes running from Grays, through East London and into Aldgate. Her preservation and survival to this day is probably the result of her association with Barnet Whisky-McNightly's demise. [Transport Editor]

As chance would have it a newly prepared edition of the 784-page volume was recently published in the Threadbone Press's Vintage Transport Autobiographies series with a foreword by - naturally - Mrs Edna Whisky McNightly. In it she reveals "I never met Barnet who could have been from the other side of the world for all I knew. I was hardly aware of his work and achievements. For this reason, I am delighted that what I am told is a delightful memoir has been given a new lease of life. I am sure those more interested in transport history than I am will get something out of it if only a sense of that strange and long-forgotten world in which it was once possible to regard public transport as a viable option".

Our Transport Editor Rewt Master writes:

Green Line Coaches Limited was formed on 9 July 1930 by the LGOC [London General Omnibus Company], which from 1927 had built up a network of coach services from London to towns up to 30 miles away, comprising 60 vehicles on eight routes. These services were largely started in response to the emergence of numerous small independent operators, often running single routes. As well as express services operated by LGOC, some were run by subsidiary companies such as East Surrey Traction & Autocar Services and some on LGOC's behalf by the National Omnibus & Transport Company. The Green Line livery and fleet-name was rolled out across the existing express services.

New services quickly followed, with the number of routes increasing to 27 by October 1931 and the number of coaches to 275. Green Line also began to acquire some of its independent competitors. The laying over of coaches in central London began to create congestion, so, to relieve this, some routes were linked to form cross-London services, and a short-lived coach station was opened in Poland Street, Soho at the end of 1930.

On 1 July 1933, Green Line passed to the new London Passenger Transport Board and competing services within the London Passenger Transport Area were absorbed into the network. Various vehicles of numerous different types were inherited, and much effort was made in replacing these with a standardised fleet of vehicles from late 1936. Poland Street coach station was closed, and almost all routes were linked to run across London.

I am grateful to the publishers of Green Line Coaches: A History by Barnet Whisky-McNightly for permission to reproduce this information.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page