Betty’s Bus

Back in the late 70s and early 80s Ribble got some good publicity for their special rural bus services wending their merry way around the area between Clitheroe and Burnley, in the Ribble valley and around Pendle Hill. Their regular driver, Betty Gray, became a bit of a local celebrity after appearing on local TV in reports showing her at work. She was also as a guest, or rather a subject [if I remember correctly] on “What’s My Line” on ITV. She had her place on a Ribble publicity postcard, feeding the ducks at Downham, which features in my archive.

“Betty’s Bus” even had its own special headboard as seen above. Actually, there were two “Betty’s Buses”, a pair of consecutively-numbered Bristol LHS buses. The Ribble fleet numbers were 271 and 272. Monday to Saturday there were different route variations each day, mostly based on Clitheroe and reaching Burnley four times a week. The Saturday service in my 1983 timetable did not start or end at Clitheroe, apparently being worked from the Burnley end. This, I imagine, because Betty had her weekends off.

The Bristol LHS was perfect for the narrow country lanes and quite photogenic with it. I could have taken hundreds of photos along the route because there were so many scenic compositions to be made. Film cost was a limitation in those days, and obviously there was only so much stopping for photographs that the driver and the posse of regular passengers could tolerate [I made them late!!]. But Mrs Gray was very patient and generous and allowed me to take some really unique photos.

I will not linger too long on the subject here because I have decided to focus on the route in more depth in a special extra-blog feature, extra in two senses:
(a) it will feature material not shown on these blog pages and
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To receive a copy of this first special issue – and those which will follow – just sign up on any of my blog pages. The intention of these special issues is to explore an “e-mag” format, overcoming the limitations of the web site and using full HD images to fill your tablet, laptop, monitor or TV screen corner-to-corner with omnibological eye-candy. These will at first be short and sweet but if they are well received I am considering authoring some more extensive photographic essays and studies of operations in an expanded e-book format.

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Rambling around the Red Rose County

A few posts back I tossed out a couple of photographs from a day riding the buses of Lancashire. Catching the North Western “Timesaver” service 761 from Liverpool to Preston was a free ride with my Crosville staff pass but once there it would not be recognised by any of the local bus companies at the time so a “piece” would be required: a pass for the day to travel wherever the fancy took me.

Happily, in those days there was a County Council initiative where all the bus operators were expected to accept scratchcard tickets sold at bus stations and council offices. The ticket was known as the Red Rose Rambler and was valid for a whole day. The leaflet I have is undated and has the adult day ticket priced at £3.00. I had a few of these over the years but in my box of tickets I don’t appear to have saved the one I must have used in January 1989.

Here’s one from a few years earlier… how ironic that the scratchcard started life in a humble way, offering cheap day tickets on public transport in urban areas and is now sold in millions to poor souls desperate for a big win. Bus tickets, of course, have gone high tech with the ITSO scheme. I don’t know to what extent the Red Rose scheme was taken up by the public but certainly in Merseyside the Saveaway ticket was hugely popular but subject to significant amounts of fraudulent use.

Never used a scratchcard?

I have quite a few scratchcard travel tickets of different types and will present the others along the way. There is a promotional leaflet in the collection too so here goes:

Leaflet cover. No date on the leaflet

Some suggestions for destinations are offered

…and a map showing the limits of validity

Sadly it seems the Red Rose Rambler is no more. Searching for it returns only a few remarks regretting the ticket’s demise. There is a suggestion that it was a “victim of deregulation” but if I had one in 1989 that must have been a delayed effect. The suggestion was made that Ribble withdrew, without whose participation I imagine there would be nothing to join everything up with Ribble providing most of the interurban routes.

There you have it… do you have any memories of the Red Rose Rambler to share?