THE last former Midland Red bus driver has hung up his uniform – and his colleagues gave him a send-off to remember.
Tom O’Grady, 60, was towed in to the bus station aboard an old Daimler bus by National Express colleagues in Acocks Green for his last journey in the driver’s seat.
The father-of-two, from Olton in Solihull, has sat behind the wheel for 38 years and is a familiar face for many passengers on board routes from the borough into Birmingham.
Tom said he had no idea about the farewell his workmates had planned for him.
“I was taken aback a little bit but it was a lovely surprise. It’s been quite a shock to the system, not doing what you’ve done for so long. The bus they used was an old back-ender, like I used to drive. I drove all sorts.”
Tom joined Midland Red aged 18 following a stint in a clothes shop – which he couldn’t stand.
“I couldn’t bear the nine to five. I started driving buses aged 21 and I loved the job. You meet so many different people. I used to go out to places like Tewkesbury, Malvern and Bromsgrove and you’d get people on their holidays asking you for advice. You’ve got to be dedicated and prepared to put yourself out to help others and not just sit there.
“I’ve seen so many changes over the years – some not so good. You’ve got to be careful, now it’s just you and not the bus conductor.”
His longstanding profession holds all the more memories for Tom because it was at a bus station that he first locked eyes with his wife, Margaret, 55.
“I was about 23 and working the 154 route. I was having a break in the terminus in Solihull with a friend when we spotted these two girls. We started chatting and arranged a date. We’ve been together ever since.”
To satisfy his ongoing travel bug, Tom is looking forward to spending more time in Cyprus, where he and Margaret regularly go on holiday, as well as taking his grandchildren to Disneyland in Florida next year. They’ll then take a trip to Graceland, home of his music idol Elvis Presley.
“I won’t miss the early starts but I don’t really know what I’m going to do with myself now!” he joked.