Friday, 25 February 2011

Buses in the Blood

Bells ring, crowds cheer, readers yawn!
fbb's 100th Blog 

On 1st February [2011] Giles Fearnley was appointed Director of Buses in UK, Germany and Ireland for First Group.
Much has been written elsewhere about his management skills and career development.   But fbb has a somewhat different "take" on the subject.   So let's make it more personal.   fbb writes:-

It all began with a cup of tea.
I first came across Giles Fearnley at the age of 12 when he was a pupil, and I a teacher, at Birkdale Preparatory School, Sheffield.   The school was run by Aggie Allkins - not the head teacher, but the maker of tea, washer of games kit, mopper-up of sick and all-round carer and repairer of almost anything.   It was to my great amazement that the young Fearnley accepted a cup of tea from the redoubtable Aggie WITHOUT SUGAR - unheard-of for the "youf" of the day.

"You should try it, sir," he said, with impeccable politeness, "the tea tastes better like that."   I did and it did - and I have never taken sugar since!  A (young) man of influence and perspicacity!
The teenage Fearnley showed a keen interest in Public Transport, accompanying a slightly slimmer fbb on frequent exploratory trips around the Sheffield area.   Here he is seen (above, yes it is he!) exploring the delights of a new road management scheme at Woodhouse on the eastern fringes of the city.
which one became Mrs fbb?

As a member of our Crusader Bible Class, he accompanied me to a Young Peoples' holiday on the Isle of Wight at which I was leader and he was an assistant.  There he became an innocent (but, fortunately, very effective!) match-maker between fbb and the future Mrs fbb. That was over 37 years ago!  A man of influence and perspicacity.

After  National Bus Company training he was offered the job of General Manager of Maidstone Corporation Buses ...
... which would have made him the youngest Corporation GM ever; beating his grandfather by several months. Giles decided, however, that NBC offered better long term career prospects; and the rest, as they say, is history.

His uncle was Ronald Arthur Fearnley, much respected GM (in order) of  Keighley, Southend and Coventry Corporation transport departments.  It is a significant historic irony that Uncle Ron managed the Keighley undertaking which was later to come under Giles' ownership as part of Blazefield Holdings.
 a more modern vehicle in Keighley Corporation livery

His grandfather was Arthur Robinson Fearnley [ARF], the equally celebrated long-term  GM of Sheffield Transport - in the boss's chair from 1906 to 1934.
ARF's reign included the glory days of Sheffield Trams...
...and some toughly negotiated expansion which took Sheffield Corporation buses as far east as Gainsborough, as far west as Manchester, as far north as Leeds and moderately south to Chesterfield.  [This expansion included the formation of the Sheffield Joint Omnibus Committee to incorporate joint bus operation with the Railway Companies.]

ARF began his career at the age of 16 (!) as, effectively, General Manager of the Queensbury and Shelf Steam Tramway Company.
He then moved to Birkenhead Corporation, where he was the youngest (ever?) muncipal transport GM.  Giles most certainly had buses in the blood.
Even Giles' late father, Reg, was a transport man - being fleet sales manager in Sheffield for the massive Kennings business.
There is no doubt that Giles Fearnley had transport in his genes and was destined for senior management roles in the bus industry. Whether his experience and skills will enable the 56 year old tea-without-sugar drinker to turn Worst Group back into a noticeably first First Group remains to be seen.  But then he always liked a challenge.  A not-quite-so-young man of influence and perspicacity.

For what its worth (and it ain't worth much) your good friend of over 40 years standing wishes you well, Giles.   And if you need a hand with timetables, maps and "stuff", just give me a ring - my fees are modest.  (but then, with First's millions, perhaps ...)

One final, and very happy memory.  Giles' mother, Helen (still alive and kicking), regularly invited me to their Sheffield home for lunch and she made absolutely stonkingly delicious meat pies.
Maybe that's why fat bus bloke isn't simply "bus bloke" - but it was always worth it!   That's what friends are for.

Next blog : due Monday 28th February.


  1. Really interesting 100th blog. fbb looks like tbb in the photo and Mrs fbb looking very fetching!

  2. Just found this belatedly. Most interesting! I too have known Giles for some years but have learned a lot from reading the blog today (-: