Posts Tagged ‘Dublin Bus’

“The pirate buses used to go around to all different routes. Oh, they could go anywhere they liked. They weren’t confined to one route – a free-for-all! There was no bus stops, anybody could just put up their hand and stop you anywhere. Oh, they’d cut one another’s throats.” (George Doran in Dublin Street Life and Lore, Kevin C. Kearns)

Prior to the Dublin United Tramways (Omnibus Services) Act, 1925., Dublin’s streets were akin to the high seas with privateers commanding routes at will in their ships (buses) with names adorning their sides such as the Whiteline Bus Co., the Blueline and Excelsior Bus Company and the Old Contemptible Omnibus Company. The act empowered the Dublin United Tramways Company to ‘provide and maintain omnibus services in the city and county of Dublin’ and was to spell the end for the private (or as they became known, pirate) bus companies as one by one they dropped off or were consumed by DUTC. The act was in part a response to the marauding pirates who, free from regulation were a law onto themselves. Their presence was seen as an affront to the city’s traditional tramlines, and a perhaps a signal of the demise of her once famed tram system.



The pirates had several tricks up their sleeves and at all times were on the make- their goal was to pick up as many customers as possible and free from the constraints of the electric lines required for lighting and moving the carriages used on the tramways, were better able to navigate Dublin’s streets. Because of this, the buses were known to slowly drive along lines, delaying trams and allowing their colleagues to race ahead and poach customers. In response, tram drivers would sandwich buses front and back and refuse to move until they had emptied.

The pirates were notorious for their ill behaviour- not just against the tram drivers but also among themselves. In the words of  tram driver William Condon, “Oh they were a desperate gang. They wore their own clothes, no uniforms. And they’d blow their horns at one another and hurling words and shaking their fists at one another. The attitude in the pirate business was, ‘I’ll do it my way,’ and rough language.” (Dublin Voices: An Oral Folk History, Kevin C. Kearns.)

The Old Contemptible Omnibus Company formed in 1924 and was owned by a Kathleen Gilbert of Clontarf. Its initial route ran from Eden Quay to Abbeyfield in Killester,  “primarily to serve the ex-servicemen’s housing estate built there in the aftermath of the first World War.” (Irish Times, April 4th 2016.) Their drivers tended to be veterans of the war and their fantastic name stems from military lore, with survivors of the British Expeditionary Force post WWI dubbing themselves “The Old Contemptibles” due to a dismissive quote by Emperor Wilhelm II.  Their routes would later expand to Philipsburgh Avenue, Howth and Dollymount using 26-seater and 32-seater buses manufactured by Guy Motors in Wolverhampton.

contemptible bus in Fairview

An alleged Contemptible Omnibus in Fairview

The Old Contemptibles weren’t the only soldiers on the road, with the same article stating “after the end of the Civil War in 1923, some ex-servicemen used their demobilisation gratuities to buy a small bus, taking advantage of the lack of regulation to compete with each other and with the tramway company and railways.”

The Company was not averse to the ill feeling between the privateers and the DUTC, with both appearing in Dublin Circuit Court in April 1927 pursuing counter claims against each other for an accident that happened the previous October. Reading from the Court Notes, it appears a ‘Contemptible’ bus and a ‘DUTC’ bus were involved in a collision near Liberty Hall, as they both looked to be racing for the same spot on the road. “On behalf of the tramways company it was submitted that as their ‘bus emerged from the archway, the ‘Contemptible’ bus was obviously making for the same archway, and was only about 50 feet away. The tramway ‘bus came to a stop without any danger or trouble, but the other driver made no attempt to avoid it and crashed into it. The driver of the ‘Contemptible’ ‘bus was, it was stated, on his wrong side and was not going for the proper arch at all.” (Irish Times, April 8th 1927)

In time, the DUTC would vanquish Dublin’s pirates, little by little buying out the myriad of companies and it would be over 80 years until their descendants in Dublin Bus would relinquish control of their routes to privateers again.



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We have a few posts on here about Dublin’s Nitelink, including one of my favourite DFallon posts ever,  about his travails in Leixlip at silly o’clock in the morning having fallen asleep on one (if you haven’t read it yet, do so.) In the last couple of months, we’ve shared scary news of an impending cancellation of the service, set up a Facebook page to save it, and broken news of its current status.

Dublin Bus- Never change a crappy system.

So, when I saw the above stickers on Henry Grattan Bridge, I couldn’t help but grin and get the camera out. I don’t know how long the stickers have been about but what I do know is I WANT ONE.

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My week is very well structured I have to say. I’ve managed to learn my Maynooth timetable off by heart, have the 66 buses down to seconds of arrival and departure, and its not uncommon for the kettle to be on as I come in the door as it’s “about that time anyway”.  Friday nights are another example of ‘going through the motions’ for me, only the motions are quite enjoyable.  I have a haunt or two, I enjoy popping in, and I do so most Fridays. Easy.

Last Friday was one of the blog contributers birthdays , and a night on the town was only natural.  Still, nothing splits a group up quite like the Dublin Bus timetable, and 3.45AM started the normal frantic  chaos you come to expect. It’s become unusual to do the trip alone, as while my main group of drinking associates would be based out  north and south of Dublin, and not out west, its not uncommon to step onto the 25N/66N/67N and see a familiar face or three.

Not tonight. Nobody. The Nitelink is a ghost town.

Grand, empty bus. I’m the only one upstairs. Head against the window, and the eyes close.

Palmerstown is about 10 minutes out from the city on a good Nitelink. Nomansland, between Leixlip and Maynooth, is about 45 minutes out.

About 45 minutes after getting on the bus, I wake up.

 Its like waking up in a prison, I can hear  the bus driver, and she’s yelling into the microphone /speaker  they only use for special occasions  like a woman demented. Its obviously been a bad night, she’s shouting out of her like the bus is moments from exploding.




It can take you a few seconds to come to grips with what is going on around you when you just wake up. I open my eyes slowly, and look out. Grand, there’s the train station anyway. I’m obviously on the way out to coll….whats going on? A sudden sense of impending doom kicks in. It’s not 8PM on some casual Wednesday trip out to Maynooth. Shit creek comes to mind. I’ll ask nicely, I’ll get a lift back to Palmerstown no doubt.

Coming down the stairs (in a very groggy, panicy state) I notice the bus (downstairs) is full of people well past the level of drunk that should be permitted on public transport, and they’re all being told to get off the  bus. Not a good sign for me really. When I pass the driver, after all ‘the lads’ get off, I ask:

“any chance this  bus is heading back towards town?”

The doors close, and the woman and her bus are gone, in the direction of Palmerstown. The direction of home. To hell with  her anyway I’m thinking, this is not how this is supposed to go. Me and bus drivers get on grand on this route. Why couldn’t that sound, lovely Rovers wooly-hatman be driving the Nitelink? (If you don’t know a bus driver who will call you a ‘prick’ because of the club crest on your coat, then you don’t know a bus driver) He’d drop me home. He’d drop me to the front door he would.

I’ve about €3 on me, and an ATM card that has seen much better days and works when he feels like it. I’ve a good walk to the nearest one, in Leixlip town (You have to walk from the train station down past the new Garda station, by the church and into the town) and the thing mightn’t even work. The bloody phone is dead too. This is top notch stuff, the first night you fall asleep on the  Nitelink and god forbid it was the 25N which would leave me a lot closer to Palmerstown. Nope, it had to be the bloody AllTheWayOutToKildareN, on the night every lunatic was let out of the asylum to go home to Leixlip. A car full of what I presume are Dublin Refugees (not uncommon out here) goes by, and with three seconds of thumping Tiesto and some shouted gibberish, they were gone. Another car didn’t pass for a while.

It’s a long walk to that ATM, passed the Garda station and the church. There is an old bloke sitting at the bus stop opposite the church, and its now 5AM. Bizarre. This place is odd. I may just walk over the bridge which carries me into what is technically Dublin, and sleep there. I’m safe there, with my people.

I soldier on anyway, towards that ATM. There’s a bloke ASLEEP in the ATM doorway, and I step over him. Probably been up  in Zinc, or the o-Zone, or whatever they’re calling ‘that place’ now. ‘That place’ is what constitutes a nightclub outside Dublin, an experience one must sample at least once. Poor him I think, and my night is in perspective. The card goes in and is feeling generous. We’re in luck  here. My friend on the floor behind me has, I only notice now, got sick on himself and all.  My night is now feeling like a bit of rain on a golfcourse, his probably more like a housewarming party in a badly zoned housing estate in Sallins last week.

Taxi goes by. 5:20AM, good luck to ya son.

Another one, ditto.

Generally speaking, the taxis seem to be clocking off out this way. This isn’t a good sign. Crossing the road, after a good 15 minutes, I get one coming out from town.

“You fuckin’ eejit son, you lot make up about half me f uckin’ business” he tells me, and seems to take genuine pity on my story, with all the  “I know meself, I know meself”s thrown in for good measure. In our short exchange we establish that his daughter is in NUI Maynooth, also studying history (small world), and that his brother is barred from the spot I was drinking in tonight (The Turks Head, if you  must now) for reasons he can’t disclose. Brilliant stuff.

Still, friendship counts for nothing on the meter of the taxi, and I did pay for my brief sleep. On top  of the €5 for the bus, it was an expensive enough lesson I must say.

The next night I heard that a relative of mine, also living in the same part of the world, once woke up in Baldoyle without a clue where he was, and went looking for his Ma’s house. The Nitelink is sometimes the most exciting part of the night then. A great Friday night, an odd Saturday morning.

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