Moses – Bringing the Story up to Date

In the last issue of the Magazine the Church minibus was given the name ‘Moses’ after 40 years with no name !! I thought it might be appropriate to partly repeat the article I wrote ten years ago to refresh memories and to update its story.

It was June 40 years ago that the Church first took delivery of a brand new minibus. The acquisition was made possible by being able to make an application to the ‘Harold Bridges Trust’, which is still in existance. The latter had been established by Harold Bridges, a Leyland transport haulier, who decided on the death of his daughter to use the funds to provide a new minibus for any youth organisation in the area in exchange for their old one.

Our minister at the time was the Reverend Michael Wearing and he realised there was an opportunity for the Church to make an application, since the Fulwood Scouts had previously bought an old minibus. The new minibus duly arrived in June 1978 with an acknowledgement on the side that it had been provided by the ‘Harold Bridges Trust’.

The Church Council agreed that since the acquisition had been possible through the Fulwood Scouts, they and the other uniformed and youth organisations should have first call on its use. This priority has always been honoured over the years and is the reason why from time to time the minibus is not available for Church transport on Sunday mornings.

For several years prior to the acquisition of the minibus the Church had hired a coach for Sunday transport and started its journey at the Broughton crossroads collecting passengers as it travelled via Broadwood Drive, Sharoe Green Lane (North) and Conway Drive before arriving at Church. The cost of the coach was about £12 per week and the Church Council agreed to terminate the hire once the minibus became available with assistance from private cars as necessary. It soon became apparent that the latter were not required. The route now taken by the minibus is more extensive and takes in Holme Slack and Coniston road , with Gamull Lane and Sherwood Way occasionally included.

It was fortuitous that about the same time as the application to the Harold Bridges Trust was made, the Church Council was considering the then-grassed area at the rear of the Church which had been identified as a possible District Manse for the Chairman. The Council’s view was that the land should be used for Church purposes, in particular a car park, and duly obtained planning permission early in 1978. Shortly afterwards permission was also granted for a garage to house the minibus.

For Sunday transport a rota of drivers was drawn up and user groups nominated their own particular drivers with the names included in the vehicle’s insurance policy. A charge per mile was introduced to cover the running costs which now stands at 45p. The Church Council agreed to put aside an amount each year in the budget to provide for a replacement vehicle at the appropriate time. This is the reason why the Church was able to replace the original vehicle and was able to do so again 14 years ago when acquiring their third and present one.

From memory we had seven drivers on the initial rota, with John Butterworth being the last to retire some twelve months ago after 39 years behind the wheel. He has now used his IT skills to digitise map amendments to the minibus route to accommodate new passengers. The DVLC require drivers of minibuses when reaching the age of 70 to undertake a medical examination and insurance companies raise further obstacles. These requirements pose problems for other groups in the Church as their usual drivers reach the watershed age!

About 10 years ago there were 9 drivers on the rota including Paul Curtis (2009) and Ray Askew (2010). The current number is only 5 including the recent addition of Andrew Cuckson and means the frequency of driving is the shortest it has ever been. Also with three of the drivers committed to stewarding duties for some Sunday Services or leading worship as a local preacher, more changes are needed to the prepared rota which is now very much a provisional one. The reader will appreciate that there is a desperate need to recruit new drivers and anyone who feels they could serve in this way should contact one of the Church Stewards or one of the drivers (Andrew Bennett, Emma Byers, Andrew Cuckson, John Ferris or Anne Garsed) You can also contact Ray Armstrong, who is the minibus manager and the person to contact if you wish to book the minibus for a particular group, or contact myself.

The number of passengers regularly using the minibus twenty years ago was about 15 but that has now fallen to 8 with a further 4 doing so occasionally. Rarely are all 8 present on a Sunday morning and since the minibus has 15 seats, it means that generally it runs less than half full. Consequently if there is anyone who lives in the general area covered by the minibus as outlined above, and would like to take advantage of this service, please contact one of the Church Stewards, one of the drivers or myself, and hopefully we will be able to arrange to pick you up. The current round trip before and after Church is about 10 miles depending on the passengers using the minibus,

I am aware that this article is concerned very much with the use of the minibus for Sunday transport and you, the reader, may feel even from this limited perspective there are errors or omissions, so please do not hesitate to draw them to my attention as they can be published as errata in the next issue of the magazine! Also having written this article perhaps others, especially leaders of groups, may be persuaded to recount their own particular experiences, serious or humorous, of using the minibus and the way it has benefited them If you haven’t time to write a full article, short snippets would be useful since they can be collated in to an article if forwarded to the editor or myself – go on have a go!

Eric Waterhouse

Sunday morning transport organiser