Friday 20 October 2017

Writer admits he's 'a little bonkers' taking journey into pages of history

Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

AUTHOR Ed O'Neill is aware his new books are focused on a somewhat niche market. But he is confident he knows his audience.

"If you're interested in old cars, that's perfectly fine; trains and planes, you're a bit of an eccentric, but buses?" he mused yesterday. "You're just nuts."

Far be it from the Irish Independent to speculate on the mental health of people happy to shell out €25 on books featuring photographs "of Irish buses in both rural and urban locations".

But Mr O'Neill maintains that there has, in fact, been real interest shown since the books -- 'CIE Buses in the 1970s and 80s' featuring either single or double-deckers, depending on your preference -- were first published two months ago.

"They're getting a great response I must say," the 49-year-old said yesterday.

"You don't necessarily have to be into buses to appreciate them because there are street scenes like Grafton Street with Woolworth's on it and a bus driving down it.

"So lots of people are coming up to me and reminiscing about the scenes and how things have changed like traffic and buildings and that."

A good conversation starter then. But page after page of old buses with a short caption for each? Has anyone come up to him and told him he is bonkers? "Plenty," he said. "And they're right."

Mr O'Neill, who is from Dublin, first started taking pictures of buses when he was studying marketing in university. His rather peculiar love affair started as a six-year-old when he was forced to stay home from school as he was ill and, bored, started noticing the different buses that used the bus stop outside his window on the South Circular Road.

Worried

Many of his first pictures were "furtive" and "blurry" because he was worried people would see him and think he was crazy. Later, he pretended to photograph buildings, "but the bus was the star of the show".

Being a student, however, he couldn't afford to develop the photos and it was only through new technology he discovered his treasure trove two years ago.

"I stuck them up on a website and got a great reaction, and some people asked for a book and here we are," he said.

"But there's huge interest which is great, and I'm trying to feed into that. Nobody I know has the sort of collection of photographs that I would have taken in the 1970s and 1980s.

"Certainly there are a lot of enthusiasts now who would be able to tell you the number of rivets in a bus. I wouldn't subscribe to that.

"But it was an interesting scene in the 1970s because all the buses were built here and often patched up ingeniously to keep them going for years," he added.

"Sadly we don't manufacture buses here any more, and their unique Irishness has been lost. Then the Bombardiers came in the 1980s and that was a whole different ball game."

Don't get him started on the "unique" green Bombardiers, which were on Dublin streets up to 2000.

Mr O'Neill -- who worked in communications in the ESB until 2005 -- and his partner have set up a roadshow business that features, inevitably, buses adapted into showrooms and offices.

"When I was in school I wanted to be a bus driver and my mother went ape and she said, 'you'll get a good job and buy a bus' and that's eventually what I did," he said.

Well, you have to follow your dream, even as it chugs slowly along the South Circular Road.

The books are available at www.prcpublications.com

Irish Independent

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