Dublin Bus – Then and Now

Pictured above: Dave Hickey and John Law.

Pictured above: Dave Hickey and John Law.

Humility and service are the thoughts that spring to mind when spending time with bus driver Dave Hickey and mechanic John Law at Dublin Bus’s Ringsend Depot.

Hickey is an Irishtown resident who has served on Dublin buses since 1982, starting as a bus conductor and moving into driving by 1988. He drives the ‘150’ these days and has a rich family tradition of working on the buses, as his grandfather, father, brother, and uncles all worked with CIE at some time.

Law started in CIE in Broadstone about 1977 and had moved to Ringsend as a junior mechanic by 1982. He has been working in the depot ever since. Both men saw the inception of Dublin Bus as a separate entity in 1987.

When talking to the two men within the boundaries of the depot you get a real sense that you are standing among the general history of men and machines. The depot operates 24 hours a day, as buses get serviced at night, getting ready for commuters getting to work from early morning.

Hickey recalls starting as a conductor and not knowing some of the parts of the city in the early days. “The driver gave help along the way. I wasn’t that well up on the city. I had to go down to the driver and say ‘where am I?’”

There were many different practices when Hickey started. The conductor used to handle the cash, putting money in a box or bag that he brought around with him. “That tin box – you just carried it around with you like a little briefcase,” he says with amusement.

The conductors could sometimes be seen counting the money coming up to the terminus, and the cash was “just totted up with a piece of paper in a bag” and put in a safe after the bus had finished for the day. Eventually, drop safes were fitted on the bus and the conductor could put the money in there. Customers might also recall ‘the safeman’ who came on to the bus with a little trolley to collect the cash.

Hickey also recalls with mirth how “most people when they saw a conductor, the first thing out of their pocket was a smoke!”

The first One Person Operated buses started to come in and you would have some funny situations where routes might have mixed operations in the early adoption of the change. If a bus was coming along with a driver operated service and another was coming behind with the conductor service, everyone would head for the conductor bus as “they’d just pile on and the bus was off.” However, he concludes, “due to all the cards nowadays it’s almost as fast as the old conductor.

Both men are very fond of working in the depot and with the local people. “People are so friendly around here.” They also tell an amusing story regarding the ‘Our Lady’ statue, which was part of CIE tradition, and in most garages you will still see a prominent one overlooking the depot. The one in Ringsend Depot can be spotted on the gable of a building from the road or path outside.

About three years ago, the statue canopy was rotten and the staff went about replacing the canopy for safety purposes. When someone saw the statue gone they rang O’Connell St and complained as they thought it had been removed permanently! Needless to say, Our Lady is back in a safe place, continuing to watch over the depot and its staff.

When leaving the two men to continue their work, you are left with an impression of honest men making an honest living and giving service to a company over many years. They have rolled with the times and you sense they will have to deal with even more change in the upcoming years as the company asks for further innovation. Both men have worked around the clock and reflect the working man’s ethic and tradition of dedicated service.

By Ferg Hayden