Tommy was a childhood friend. We lived in consecutively numbered houses, 3 and 4, which coincided with our respective ages when we first became friends. During childhood and early teenage we did the things kids do and some they shouldn’t. We beeked school, smoked Parkies, and played cards for pennies under a street-lamp. As teenage years progressed our paths no longer ran parallel, Tommy joined the Merchant Navy while I landlubbed. Our paths would cross time and again over the ensuing years, providing an opportunity to compare notes on life, old friends, and family.
When Tommy joined Belfast Citybus in 1982 our encounters became as predictable as the timetable. Occasionally I would join him for the return journey, fare paying of course, and our conversations would pick up where we’d left off. On a Sunday afternoon a chance encounter at the traffic lights on High Street had me board the 39 with my bicycle and camera for the round trip. A consequence of these trips made me aware of the solitary existence of the bus driver, and their vulnerability. Tommy told me of abuse, assault and robbery, which were common occurrences of a driver’s working day, at the hands of those he served.
For one who dealt with this stressful working environment on a daily basis he maintained a wicked sense of humour. He remarked to an Inspector who offered him overtime driving the 2am from Shaftsbury Square, “If you see me anywhere near Shaftsbury Square at 2 in the morning boot my arse and send me straight home.”
In memory of shared experience.