Book Review: Ribble

Sunday 2nd June 2019

A totally biased book review for a Sunday evening.

Ribble. Celebrating the centenary of an iconic bus company

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Roger Davies, the book’s author, is a good mate; I’ve known him for over forty years; our paths first crossed when we both worked in Kent in the 1970s with Maidstone & District/East Kent and he never ceases to impress me with his truly amazing memory and recollection of detail from all the bus companies he’s worked at, including Ribble.

Ray Stenning the book’s editor, designer and publisher is a great friend and passionate advocate for public transport; we enjoy many trips out together when I can entice him away from his amazing creative work for both the bus and rail industry through his renowned Best Impressions design and marketing company and the wonderful Classic Bus magazine he produces. (And he did a brilliant job designing my own book Pride & Joy almost ten years ago,)

Ribble. Mighty Ribble, as Roger D calls it in his introduction to the book, has always been regarded as one of the Premier League, all time bus company greats so any book marking its centenary this year is bound to hit the mark.

So, after declaring those vested interests let me affirm this newly published book will not disappoint. It’s a magnificent collection of superb photographs capturing the spirit of this iconic company rather than aiming to be a historic record of great authority, and for me, this angle makes for a very readable and enjoyable book which I devoured from cover to cover.IMG_E9758.jpgThe 194 page sturdy hard cover book contains 250 gorgeous photographs (150 in colour) but this is no album; readers of Ray’s Classic Bus magazine will know just how enticing he can make their presentation stand out on every page helped by Roger’s fascinating explanations and interesting background information together with nostalgic images of timetables, leaflets and other pertinent documents and of course a liberal supply of maps including a splendid double pager showing the full extent of Ribble’s vast operating territory stretching from Carlisle down to the Mersey.

IMG_E9757.jpgRoger and Ray have divided the book into thirteen themed chapters including how Ribble expanded through acquisition; joint operations; unique characteristics of the company; it’s people (at its height employing 5,500 in 1956); it’s operating area; it’s innovations including express routes and many other subjects all well explained in introductory paragraphs.

There are some amazing Roger Davies type factoids including an Easter Monday at Blackpool’s Coliseum coach station in 1953 when the famous and frequent X60 to Manchester needed 213 duplicates to get everyone home with the last passengers being got away by midnight – that would have surely featured on social media if Twitter had been around 66 years ago!

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Of course there’s coverage of the infamous 555 route through the Lake District as well as the landmark Gay Hostess vehicles and not forgetting the Leyland National with battery trailer – way ahead of its time of course.

IMG_E9759.jpgThere’s a chapter on Ribble’s incredible property portfolio including 80 operational bases, 73 offices, 12 bus stations as well as residential properties and not least the central works at Frenchwood which was run very much on military lines with Roger explaining the quirky rules and regulations that applied to employees based there.

Roger explains “the company had a cohesiveness, from single or small bus depots like Kirkoswald and Appleby in Cumbria to huge ones like Bootle and Preston, and over it all a family atmosphere pervaded. It is impossible to sum it all up.” Actually, Roger’s book sums it up superbly and is highly recommended.

The book retails for £38 but a special offer of £35 including postage and packing is available at the Classic Bus magazine website. Don’t miss out. Hurry while stocks last.

Roger French