Belfast Telegraph

Bus heroes deserve to be remembered

Editor's Viewpoint

We rightly erect memorials to those who served and gave their lives in the emergency services or the security forces, but there was another group of people who often put their lives on the line during the very darkest days of the Troubles. They were the men and women who kept the buses running, even when the streets were ablaze.

It is often forgotten that 12 drivers were killed during the conflict, with many more injured and traumatised. Who could forget the redoubtable Werner Heubeck, head of the bus company from 1965 until 1988, who single-handedly removed a reputed 100 bombs - mainly hoax devices fortunately - from the buses.

There is a fitting memorial to those workers in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in the shape of the last of the iconic Daimler red double-deck buses to remain in existence.

It was burned out in the early days of the Troubles, but a new body was put on the recovered chassis and it has been on show at the museum since 1995.

However, it is now planned to put the item in storage - only temporarily, according to museum officials - leading to fears that the bus may well never be brought back into the public gaze.

It has to be recognised that museums of all kinds often have many more exhibits than they can display and so have to be kept in storage. There may well be more pressure on space at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, given the bulk of many of the items.

In December, this paper reported how two early examples of Northern Ireland's shipbuilding heritage had been hidden from public display at the museum. The ancestral home of an American president is also in storage at the Ulster Folk Museum in Tyrone.

Important artefacts that reflect a country's heritage should be on display to the public where possible. Of course there is a cost involved, but heritage is also a tourism draw. It can enrich us financially as well as spiritually.

In this case, the bus memorial must remain in the public eye. We cannot simply remember the brave men and women who drove the buses on an occasional basis. They deserve their place in the sun.

If the museum cannot find room for the bus in the longer term, perhaps our politicians should consider finding a suitable city centre site where the memorial can go on permanent display in recognition of these often forgotten heroes.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph