A book to delight all “bus spotters” and the wider public is being published next month, focusing on the history of independent transport operators in the Scottish Islands.
Author Richard Gadsby’s book has the title A fleet history of Pre-War Independent Operators in the Scottish Islands, but where a company is still trading in 1940, all subsequent details of that operator are included.
The book is dedicated to the late Gordon Jamieson of Cullivoe, who himself wrote a very successful book Shetland Buses of the 20th Century. The two publications are very complementary.
Gadsby’s book is the fourth in a series he has written for the PSV Circle on pre-war independent operators in various parts of Scotland. As well as listing the vehicles and their histories, an important element of the publications is to provide some social history of the old operators. Thus the histories of R.G. Jamieson of Cullivoe and John Leask & Son are covered.
The Jamieson family of Cullivoe has been proudly running a family-owned bus service since 1922 when Robert (Bobby) Gordon Jamieson started a taxi and car hire business with a lefthand drive Ford Model T Convertible, PS 418, purchased new from Edinburgh. By the early 1930s the business had expanded to four vehicles, including a new seven-seat Chevrolet bus – his first bus service was a mail and passenger service from Cullivoe to Ulsta.
An interesting feature of the pre-Second World War bus fleet was the operation of two former cars (a Chrysler and a DeSoto) which were fitted with bus bodies – the robust vehicles were needed to handle the poor roads in Yell at the time. The firm obtained its first larger bus in 1948.
After Bobby retired the business transferred to his eldest son Laurie, and later to the next generation, cousins Robert Henry Jamieson and Gordon Marvin Jamieson. Along with James John Jamieson, Bobby’s younger son, the business continued trading. When James John retired in 2009, Lee Gordon Jamieson, eldest son of Robert, took his place. Lee is the fourth generation Jamieson in the business.
The current livery of metallic blues and white which was introduced for GJ05 RGJ was designed by Gordon, along with some help from Robert’s other son Jack Jamieson, in 2005. Gordon passed away before the coach was delivered so the registration was chosen in his memory. In 2013 the registration JJ13 RGJ was chosen in James John’s memory after he passed away that year.
The taxi and then a car hire service developed through the 1920s, and buses were introduced around 1928.
Excursions and tours from Lerwick started, and in 1933 the “overland” service from Lerwick to Mossbank was introduced to connect with the Yell ferry – the service continues today.
The Lerwick town service followed, along with excursions to Hillswick.
Following the opening of Sumburgh Airport in 1936, Leask’s became agents for Aberdeen Airways, and later for British European Airways.
A travel agency was started – this closed in December 2011.
Leask’s gradually took over several local operators and enjoyed a big expansion during the oil boom of the 1970s. A new route from Lerwick to the Laxo ferry was started in this era.
The head office was moved to the Esplanade in 1980 (these premises have now been sold) with the bus depot in Gremista. The firm remains in family ownership, being run by Jamie Leask’s sons Peter and Andrew, and runs buses, coaches, private hire and school contracts.