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Bus stops here

• I have always had a soft spot for the unheralded bus driver.

Alone in his cab, he ferries passengers but without the status and glamour of the airline or ship captain. All bear the living souls of mankind but all do not get that acknowledgement.

My late father drove the Blacksod/Ballina bus for nigh on 30 years. Often he was the last known friend to the departing young and old emigrant. Equally, he was the first recognisable face on the happy journey home.

Day-old chicks, wireless batteries, engine parts for boats, newspapers, newspaper reports, knickers and brassieres bought for prim ladies came on the route that had no access to the town.

In short, from the mid- 1940s until 1974, still not retired when he passed away, he was the human conduit to an isolated community.

If a person wasn't at the head of the path he still waited to give them time to get to the bus. If the weather was inclement, that bus was forced down a boggy, rhododendron-lined gravel path to deposit his passenger safely.

Mothers placed their offspring on that bus, comfortable in the knowledge that they would reach their destination safely. The odd bet was lodged in town and the odd pint was consumed on the journey home.

I am not naive enough to expect life to stand still, but I do expect the humble bus driver to have my father's good manners.

Recently I took a bus down the country. While the driver was monosyllabic and cold, it was his driving manner that alarmed me. Any car that slowed in front of him or was slow to move from the lights, even if it was four cars back, was hooted at remorselessly. He leaned on the horn and beeped and beeped.

This is Ireland, not downtown Naples or Rome where crazy and ignorant driving is de rigeur. Is this the way forward for the new Ireland?

John Cuffe

Dunboyne, Co Meath