Wednesday 31 August 2011

Ticket to ride

James Riggsby, Jim to his friends, drove Routemaster buses in London all his working life. He left school in 1929, aged sixteen, and after just three months of training, five weeks before his 17th birthday, became a conductor. Three months later London Transport put him in charge of his very own bus. He drove the 139 from Cricklewood to Oxford Circus, a route he made his own until he retired in 1978. Jim lived most of his life in Kilburn and, even on his days off, he could be seen outside his flat waiting for the 139 to Lord's for a day at the cricket. A busman's holiday, I guess.

He would joke with the staff at the nursing home where he lived for the last eight and a half years that, if he did make it to 100, he would expect Her Majesty The Queen to catch the bus from Buckingham Palace to Kilburn to deliver his card by hand. Unfortunately, Jim passed away earlier this year. He was 98.

Speaking to his son, Les, it would appear that his father kept a diary at work. He would fill it in each evening after his shift (or early morning, if he'd been driving the night bus) whilst having a cup of tea in the staff canteen. Apparently the book is jam packed full of anecdotes and reads like a real life version of On The Buses.

Jim even had a few celebrities on his bus including Max Bygraves, Michael Caine ('he was carrying a bunch of flowers and an attache case with a pair of socks poking out the top') and Princess Margaret ('she was hiding under a headscarf and was wearing dark glassss, but you can't hide royalty').

But it's the entry for 8 August 1969 which makes the most interesting reading: 'Driving down Abbey Road this morning and see a geezer in the middle of the road, in front of the zebra, standing on a pair of step ladders with a camera. Four long haired layabouts then cross over the road and then come back again. And then back again. Blooming traffic was queued right back. What was that all about then?'


  1. Now that's a diary I'd love to dig through.

  2. Mentioned it earlier, but here's the book you need to grab. The Beatles' London: The Ultimate Guide to Over 400 Beatles Sites. On a similar riff, there's a photo of an old dear in house-coat chatting to the boys while waiting at the crossing.

    A while back I met Tom Murray, a photographer on the Beatles Mad Day Out. I'll fire a few of the tales at you when we next hook up

  3. Busspotter note - I think that is an RT not a Routemaster... so sad that I even question it really... feel free to block me from your blog! :-)

  4. Fill yer boots everyone: buses (RTs and Routemasters), bread vans, Beetles, little old dears, mystery men - they're all here!

  5. "...four long-haired layabouts.." :-))