WILES BUSES - Annette Gilroy
There must be quite a few people
still around who travelled on a Wiles bus at some time in their
lives. To school or work. to a wedding or a funeral, or there
might even be some who can't remember being on a Wiles bus when
they were brought home from a night out in the early hours of
It all started a long time ago when Terence Wrigley Wiles was
born in Sheffield in 1900. He was in the forces in WWI for a short
time and then he moved north with a friend to Kirkcaldy. He joined
the General Motor Carrying Company which ran haulage during the
week and then on Saturdays and Sundays the lorry platforms were
replaced by bus bodies for passenger service and he soon knew
that he wanted to be more involved with buses.
In July 1924, he took over a small business in Port Seton. It
had a motor and cycle repair shop and a private hire business
consisting of a model T Ford taxi and a Ford 14 sealer open charabanc
with solid rear tyres. During the summer months tours ran to North
Berwick and on Sundays there was a service to Aberlady and GulIane
so that bona Fide travellers could visit licensed premises! In
the Spring of 1925 a new 14 seater Chevrolet was bought to help
take Ficidworkers to various farms for the pIanting and in the
June of the same year. a 14 seater Fiat was also acquired to cope
with increased bookings and to face competition.
It was soon realised, though, that good weather was needed to
make the summer Sunday runs pay. so. with the collaboration of
Hugh Inglis. the owner of the Thorntree Inn in Cockenzie and who
also had a pub in Ormiston. a regular hourly service commenced
between Port Seton and Ormiston on Sundays. It started in July.
1926 and was an immediate success, so much so that competitors
transferred their vehicles to this route and undercut the fares.
It was a good summer so you can imagine all the jostling of the
buses for the passengers - Wiles, Dunsmuir. Armstrong and Small
- but it was different if there was a sudden downpour - as happens
today they took the First bus to come along to get out of the
rain. However, to try to create some loyalty the sendee was run
all winter and this attracted other business. Some of the competitors
ran themselves off the road through cut prices. inferior maintenance
and unreliability and when the 6d return fare from Tranent was
introduced in 1927. competition was Finally eliminated as the
passengers had to wait for a Wiles bus to use their return ticket
- a real "Wilcy" move! The first miners service was
started around this time between Tranent and Fordell Mains, near
Dalkeith, and later, the night shift run between Tranent and Prestonlinks.
By this time. regular buses, not canvas topped, were needed for
protection from the weather. so two new Chevrolets were bought
and from then onwards one vehicle was replaced annually until
1931 when the Chevrolet model was discontinued and 20 seater Bedfords
with opening roofs took their place.
1930 Chevrolet . Driver J Arch holdfrom Tranent. Ills son.
Sih. later drove the Railway goods lorry locally for many years
The utility bus painted light grey and with wooden slatted
Two coaches leaving Port Seton on public tour in the fifties
The OB is still held in great affection and many have been preserved.
One such vehicle in Wiles livery was used in the Strathblair and
City' Lights series on television and also on the programme about
the Scottish Bus Museum near Dunfermline. Model-makers. Corgi
produced a very fine copy which has proved popular and sold all
over, bringing a touch of nostalgia.
During the war a lot of the non-essential service work came to
a stand-still because of scarcity of petrol and spares though
there was a little extra from Gosford Army Camp bringing soldiers
to the Pond Hall dancing. Miners services also increased and.
in 1946. when the coal industry was nationalised the runs to Chesterhall
at St Germains, the Fleets outside Tranent. and Prestongrange
were put on a contract basis.
Vehicles were again getting bigger and by the time Coronation
year (1953) came. with better wages, more leisure, the public
wanted to be entertained and coaches provided this - mystery tours.
works outings, Sunday School picnics, day tours to the North,
and weekends to Blackpool Illuminations.
There were more field workers being transported too at this time.
The Tranent contractor. George Fairgrieve. or Doddy Fairy as he
was called, was responsible for organising squads to the farms
throughout the country and the tattle lifting was popular with
the drivers too as they shared in the perks of a free boiling?
The Port Seton/Tranent/Prestonpans service was very much the bread
and butter of the business. Some wag made the comment. "Wiles?
- whiles it comes and whiles it doesn't!" and in 1956 when
the new logo for the company appeared, 'W M S'. it was quickly
renamed the "Wait a Minute Service!"
Around 1959 a new introduction to the fleet was the Glasgow-built
Albion Nimbus 31 sealer service model. They were not the prettiest
of buses but were great little workhorses. They could zoom up
Church Street and had good entrances for the passengers. Over
a period of nine years five were bought and they were ideal for
this area. They were also quite rare vehicles and bus enthusiasts
from all over would appear on Bank Holidays to photograph them.
In 1966 the members of the Omnibus Society especially requested
the use of a Nimbus for their tour of the then not inconsiderable
number of bus operators in East Lothian, Dunsmuir. Armstrong,
Glass. Stark. Eastern Scottish. Sadly, none of these is still
in existence. Most of the Nimbuses were cannibalised and eventually
broken up when they ended their days but one became the rugby
team bus for Waid Academy F P Club in Anstruther, after it was
sold for scrap to a Fife dealer! Another can be seen for posterity
in one of the starring roles in Jim Hickie's award-winning film
"The Flee Market", part of which was made in Sam Burns'
Now to the sixties which saw the closing of Prestongrange and
Prestonlinks Collieries and the building of Cockenzie Power Station.
This brought a lot of prosperity to the whole district and provided
many jobs. Monktonhall Colliery opened in 1962 and the contract
was awarded for transporting all the men from Port Seton, Prestonpans,
Macmerry, New Winton, PencaitIand, Ormiston. Elphinstone, Tranent
and Wallyford on three shifts to and from Monktonhall.
By the mid sixties roads were better and wider than ever and longer,
more ambitious tours were started to Rothesay, Oban and the English
Lakes. The wave of prosperity continued but it had a knock-on
effect with people going abroad on holiday. The shorter tours
to North Berwick and Dunbar were no longer needed as most of the
holiday makers had cars. Evening Mysteries also finished as the
Clubs started to put on entertainment. For a while the new Forth
Road Bridge was the big attraction.
Mention should be made of some regular hirers from Prestonpans,
although Tom McKinlay did most of the private work.
Mrs Hooker and Mrs Stewart booked the annual outing of the Sisterhood.
This was like the Woman's Guild and had a big following up until
about the early sixties.
A similar outing was organised for the Salvation Army Home League
by Mrs Donaldson, then Mrs Gilbertson. and now Mrs Bunty Cunningham
is looking after it. Both of these outings were for the whole
day and the ladies enjoyed their meals out.
At one time, a Mr Thomson from the Hawthorn Road area booked as
many as three coaches to Wemyss Bay where the passengers got the
steamer for Rothesay to go to the Co-operative Holiday Camp at
Canada Hill for the Trades Fortnight. He was quite an organiser!
Thorntree Golf Club were regulars in the summer for their Sunday
away matches. Then there was Mr Davie, the Barman of Fowler's
pub, the Queen's Arms. He had an outing for his customers one
Sunday in the year and it was quite an event. Tlie boot was loaded
with crates of Wee Heavies, no restrictions, and off they went
to visit some other places of refreshments. It did not seem to
matter where they went as the men all ended up in the same state!
Alex (Dickie) Dickson always drove for that day, perhaps because
he was teetotal, but he never had any bother with them.
Before there was a Catholic Church in Prestonpans a bus went up
to Drummohr Monastery once a month and one came from Port Seton
every Sunday morning, picking up at the Shrine and Hawthorn Road
area, first to the hall then in later years to St Gabriel's Church
after it was built. This was for anyone in need of transport including
old Mrs Boyle and Mrs Tinny and the buses were also used to take
the children to St Martin's School in Tranent before St Gabriel's
In later years, Monktonhall Silver Band was another regular, sometimes
to play in a parade or a gala or other event and other times to
transport the band to a competition and they still seem to be
Very popular in the summer months for the Prestonpans and Tranent
folk especially, were the public tours. English Lakes, Rothesay,
Dundee, Arbroath, Ayr, Dumfries, Whitley Bay. They all had their
appeal and such was the attraction that some customers booked
every alternate day instead of going away on holiday.
Another source of work at this time was created by the great number
of small football teams in the area. Cockenzie Star, Thorntree
United and Preston Athletic of Prestonpans, and Tranent Juniors.
There was great support for them all and if any managed to get
even near the finals, the whole town seemed to turn out for the
game. Tranent Juniors made it more than once and the strong supporters'
club used to hire as many as seven or eight buses to take the
fans. On at least one occasion the visiting team came by special
train to Prestonpans Station and then Wiles provided a ferry sendee
up and down to Tranent.
Eventually, interest in the local teams waned and the younger
generation transferred their loyalty to the First Division. The
Clubs, in general, were well run and there was very little trouble
from them whether they supported Rangers, Celtic, Hibs or Hearts,
but sooner or later the fans from the opposing team caused friction
with brick-throwing and thus window damage, and when this grew
worse and a few passengers and a driver received slight cuts from
broken glass, it was time to stop.
1973 saw the purchase of a new Ford 45 seater bus-cum-coach, a
dual-purpose vehicle and it was a very happy day. The Ministry'
of Transport had a grant scheme for stage service operators and
because of the large mileage this was to happen three times over
the next three years. These new vehicles also saw the start of
a new livery from cream and blue to dark blue and light blue.
School rolls were increasing and the mining industry was booming
so these bigger 45 seater vehicles were certainly needed. Newer
models were appearing, mostly Ford and Bedford, and some were
of. One went to the Isle of Lewis and in 1975. one made the trip
down to Dartford where it joined a few others and set sail for
the isIand of Mauritius. That's the farthest any Wiles vehicle
September/October 1983 saw a short miners strike but it was also
when a 53 sealer Ford coacli appeared, a much larger vehicle than
had been accustomed to but was well used from its arrival.
Ford Supreme 53 seater coach standing in front of Pond Hall
Then in March 1984 another miners strike began and it was realised
from the start that it was going to be a bad time. The buses on
the service runs suffered damage to scats, panels, broken windows
and there was a lot of animosity. The ironic part was that hires
were carried out for local miners support groups into demonstrations
and parades. It was a very unhappy time as everyone had friends,
neighbours, relatives in the coal industry. Gradually things got
back to normality and there was an immediate return to full service.
However, by May 1986 manpower at the Colliery had been drastically
reduced until there was only one daily run, three shifts, being
done for the small number of men left from this area.
October 1986 was deregulation date when the licensing conditions
of bus routes were greatly relaxed. Advantage was taken of this
to extend the Tranent service to the Muirpark area. Eastern Scottish
and Lothian Region Transport decided to extend some of their routes
to Prestonpans and Meadowmill and this took away much of the local
traffic. Eastern Scottish soon withdrew but. to the dismay of
all involved with Wiles, Lothian Region extended their run to
Muirpark in December 1987.
One bright spot in 1988 was the Glasgow Garden Festival. Local
interest was not great at first but memories came back of how
Mr Wiles talked of the '38 Exhibition and when July came it was
included in the tour list. The public responded magnificently
and extra runs had to be included, an unheard of happening, and
it continued thus throughout the season, even on Sundays! It certainly
was a wonderful show.
There was also the very popular outing to the Metro Shopping Centre
and tours to the Beamish Heritage Museum too which were an instant
success and of great interest.
Very successful financially but just not enough overall revenue
to keep going as all the bus routes were operated without subsidy
and, among other things, there was a sudden 300% rise in road
fund licences. In common with many other long-established operators
throughout the U K. deregulation was a disaster for Wiles and
this, coupled with the closure of Monktonhall. forced the decision
to finish on 31 December 1989. A few of the regulars travelled
on the last run and some of the annual Hogmanay Gala Dance folk
appeared from the Pond Hall to bid their farewells.
Other companies took over the service routes and contracts and
what had once been a local institution now faded from memory except
perhaps for the first few summers when the older generation missed
the very popular public tours. Nothing quite replaced them.
A lot of readers will recall their own stories and it is hoped
this account will jog a few memories to bring back more tales
of Wiles buses.