Apr 7 2010 by Sharon Liptrott, Dumfries Standard Wednesday
PRESIDENT Billy Duncan welcomed 34 members to recent meeting of the Moffat Probus Club.
There were five apologies.
Billy then presented a new member with his tie and badge.
The guest speaker was Geoff Kellard who gave a presentation on the history of Gibson’s of Moffat coach firm.
As everyone now knows Gibson’s is now out of business but had been an important part of the Moffat community since 1919 when it was started by James and Elizabeth Gibson, running services between Moffat and Dumfries without a timetable at that time. This service between the two towns lasted till 1999.
The first recorded vehicle was based on a Ford Model T in 1922 and probably carried more goods than passengers at the time. The oldest photograph available is that of a Chevrolet coach imported through Brighton and costing £635.
Albion and Morris coaches were the usual vehicles during the 1920s and for the most part, luggage was carried on the roof. During the presentation Geoff displayed several photographs of Moffat town square (with Gibson’s prominent of course), and it was interesting to note that the bus stance has been on the move since the 1920s and 30s, a situation which continues today.
In 1931 Albion coaches were painted in a new livery which basically continued right through to the demise of the company and around the same time the Morris coaches introduced a revolutionary maintenance idea in that the entire front end was removable so that the engine, gearbox and front wheels all were rolled forward away from the body for easy access.
Also during the 1930s, double deckers were introduced. During the war a general shortage of vehicles meant that they were hired in from all parts of the UK and a photo of Gibson’s in use in London was displayed. During wartime the vehicles were worked very hard and were subject to random police checks, a function which was carried out frequently in Dumfries.
At the start of WW2, no private vehicles were made but by 1942 it was obvious that some had to be built. A photo of a wartime double decker built to basic standards was displayed showing its wartime battleship grey paint.
During the 1950s Leyland buses were introduced and in 1952 a sleek Leyland coach code name Antelope was acquired.
In the late 50s some Leyland vehicles were painted with the apostrophe at the end of the name Gibsons (ie Gibsons’) meaning that widespread misuse of the apostrophe is not a new situation today. In 1964 Gibson’s managed to acquire an eight-foot wide coach even though it was intended for export to South Africa and this proved quite successful as it allowed more space onboard and remained in service from 1964 to 1988.
A less successful introduction came in 1967 with coaches with the entrance in the middle of the nearside leading to difficulties for passengers getting on and off.
This was removed from service after only three years in 1970.
In 1969 the company logo was changed to Gibson’s Luxury Coaches and was first used on foreign travel. Gibson’s also won the contract with Celtic FC and took fans to Milan for the 1970 European Cup final (which Celtic lost). A similar contract with Queen of the South was also in place for many years.
In 1973 lengthened coach bodies were introduced on trips to Blackpool, and the extra body length allowed a third axle to be introduced at the front of the vehicle. A situation with one Van-Hool bodied coach made in Dublin during the 1970s, actually meant that one trip made was technically illegal.
A certificate to allow use for public transport needed to be obtained and as the south west of Scotland inspector was unavailable, Gibson’s made arrangements to take the coach to the north west of England inspector.
However the inspector would not clear the coach as he had lost his son to IRA activity and refused to certify anything made in Ireland. The coach was returned to the supplier and a full refund obtained.
In 1986 with bus deregulation, a service from Dumfries Whitesands to the railway station was started with a council subsidy.
This eventually passed from Gibson’s to McEwans but has now ceased. In 1994 several school contracts were won, so quite a large fleet with seatbelts was created although the coaches were not of the best quality. The company continued operations through the 90s and 00s but, due to the decline in local business, went into liquidation in November 2007. The site of the old garage on the A701 put one old coach to good use as it was dismantled and the various large parts sunk into the ground to hold back the adjacent river. Recycling indeed. Alan Stewart proposed the vote of thanks.