By Vivian Longland, TISBUS trustee 2001-2010
TISBUS, that white and blue minibus which is seen around Tisbury and the villages. It wasn’t always white and blue; the very first one was cream and maroon. When it fell apart the trustees felt that a more mundane colour scheme would be better suited to our needs and would also be less expensive to re-paint scratches, dents etc.
TISBUS was first launched in mid-2000 after the late Lord Clanwilliam discovered there was possible government funding for such a service in rural areas. There were many criteria to include, one of which was wheelchair and disabled access, another that it had to be a door-to-door service – no regular timetable or picking up at bus stops. He, together with Dunkin Symes, Jeremy Hooper and the late Dr Brian Dalton did much research and having agreed there was a need, particularly as Tisbury was classed as a socially deprived area, they formed a charity with a board of trustees. Together with Anthony Lovell-Wood as treasurer, Vivian Longland as secretary and Morley Green as the first transport manager TISBUS was born. Prince Charles ‘blessed’ the bus at a ceremony in Chilmark, showing great interest in the wheelchair lift and the way the charity had been formed.
The drivers disliked the lumbering great beast, it was hard to drive around our narrow twisty lanes and we certainly kept the wing mirror manufacturers in business at £150 a time. ‘Tisbury Time’ meant that the local population only took to the service gradually and then the engine blew up and it was off the road for several weeks – no spare ‘buses in those days. This meant that members lost faith and drifted away. It was decided that as soon as funds allowed, a more modern, compact vehicle should be purchased. Along came the late Gerry Quirke as the new transport manager. He was amazing in the way he found cheap or even free second hand buses. With the advent of smaller, more easily handled vehicles, numbers increased again.
Over the years several second hand buses were added to the fleet and then came the time when a NEW bus could be considered. Many applications for funds had been submitted, a very time consuming job, and then the phone rang. It was the Gannett Foundation who were offering us double the amount for which we had applied. From then a brand new bus was in sight. Following this purchase a rolling programme of replacement buses has been in place. With this replacement scheme and the help and enthusiasm of Gerry, faith was restored and more people used the regular services and went on trips. Private hire was encouraged and it was possible to provide your own approved driver – thus keeping costs down.
Over the years the board members have changed, those in charge of various sections have come and gone – all of them doing sterling work and often far beyond their remit [link to former directors list]. In particular Peter Thompson, Eddie Neighbours and the late Gerry Quirke as transport managers gave a great part of their week to TISBUS along with their expertise to keep the various buses on the road. The Co-ordinators all had a special something and Karen Marshall, Cathy Titcombe, Beth Dunlop and Errolyn Neighbours also more than fulfilled their brief. The members enjoyed chatting to them and often unloaded their worries into caring ears. The chairman changed over the years and for a time we struggled on without one, taking it in turns to be in charge – just like the EU. However, it did not work for us and a heartfelt plea brought forth our rector, the Rev Humphrey Southern who transformed and certainly livened up our meetings. Sadly for us he left Tisbury to become a bishop and while we were pleased for him it left us floundering again until the late David Medd came to the rescue.
Drivers have always been at the heart of TISBUS and there have been many over the years, but never quite enough. Some have driven on a very occasional basis, others many hours a week. Most have been volunteers, a few on a paid basis – they would never have made their fortune – but we were grateful for their time. They came from all walks of life from a retired GP to an air traffic controller right through to a jumbo-jet pilot and all other careers in between.
Raising funds was a big issue and many hours were spent completing grant seeking forms. We were amazed at the diverse enterprises that supported us from the previously mentioned Gannett Foundation through to The Pigeon Fanciers. The low was after a couple of years, when meeting with the Countryside Agency, their representative said that if she had had her way we would never have received any funding and thus never have been on the road. After several years of ‘nagging’ letters to Salisbury District Council the secretary finally received permission to allow members to use their bus passes on approved trips. In order to help funds, days out were organised, contracts offered to schools and groups and non-members/members encouraged to hire the vehicle for private functions.
There have been many sleepless nights over the years, many, many hours of volunteer time given, most of which were beyond the call of duty but TISBUS has now proved after 17 years that it is a worthwhile project and one that the current members and board of trustees should be justly proud. The residents of Tisbury should be grateful to the late Lord Clanwilliam for his vision all those years ago.
Apologies are given for the omission of anyone who helped TISBUS in any way but you are all too numerous to name. However, that does not mean your work was not appreciated.