The buses that the Co-op used to run on the Misty Isle
(Eilean a Cheo)
|Where I lived in the south of England, the Co-op was a strong retail presence in the High Street in my childhood years. But north of the border they came to be bus operators too, nowhere more so than on the Isle of Skye - the so-called Misty Isle. The SCWS (Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society) took over the routes of former private operator Skye Transport in March 1946, and retained the same trading name as had been used by the previous proprietor, D J Nicolson. This was the Nicolson family who, as the Portree Coach Company, had operated the first bus on the island in 1927. They then sold this first business in 1930 to the Highland Transport Company of Inverness. In 1930 Highland also acquired the Dunvegan Bus Service of Ronald Maclean of Dunvegan, operating from there via Bracadale and Sligachan to Kyleakin. Highland withdrew from the island in 1935 and the Nicolsons became bus operators again on their old routes but now running as Skye Transport. Also from the late 1920s Neil Beaton, another Portree-based operator, developed a network of services to compliment those of Skye Transport, Beaton running until 1953 before giving up bus operation.|
timetable and fares. Vehicle illustrated is ST8165.
By happy coincidence the ST series of registrations were issued by Inverness Council in the mid-1930s.
Skye Calling! Cover of 1939 guide book containing 56 descriptive pages of the Isle of Skye, also a list of tours and excursions (and ST8165 again)!
|The principal Skye Transport service ran several times a day from
capital of the island Portree,
through Sligachan and Broadford to Kyleakin, from whence the ferry
Kyle of Lochalsh, the terminus of the rail line to Inverness.
Typically this ran twice a day in the winter and four times a day in
the summer. The timings changed little over the years and were based
around steamer and rail connections. Royal Mail was conveyed on
the Kyleakin route and some buses had mail compartments at the rear for
the post. Another route was Dunvegan to Kyleakin, via Struan,
Sligachan and Broadford (there was discontent noted in the local
Clarion newspaper when winter operation of the service was reduced to
four days a week in October 1953; the same article praised the regular
driver Ian MacLeod). Other routes were Portree to Kilmaluag
along the east coast road via Staffin; and Portree to the Braes and
overlooking the Sound of Raasay. There was also some tours
excursion work until 1956. The SCWS took over seven vehicles in
at the end there were seven in the fleet that were taken over by
MacBrayne - but a different seven. Six were Albions and the other
a Bedford OB and two vehicles had mail compartments for the Kyleakin
As the years went by, the routes became increasingly unviable, apart from the main Portree - Kyleakin service. Early in 1958, SCWS announced its intention to withdraw all services except the Kyleakin route. The Society offered to hand this route over to any operator who was prepared to assume operation of the other routes as well. Following the intervention of the Traffic Commissioner, the Skye Transport routes and seven buses passed to David MacBrayne Ltd on 28th November 1958. (MacBraynes had established a presence in the south of the island in March 1948 on the Ardvasar - Armadale Pier - Kyleakin Ferry route by acquiring the business of Maclean and Macdonald of Ardvasar. They then added a second route between Armadale and Portree in 1953 to replace the last service discontinued by Neil Beaton). The takeover of the Skye Transport business by MacBrayne led to the demise of the traditional Mallaig - Kyle - Portree mail steamer, which became a summer only 'tourist' route between Kyle and Portree from 1959 onwards.
In 1970, as part of the staged withdrawal of MacBrayne from bus operations, the routes on Skye were transferred to ......... Highland Omnibuses of Inverness - who continue to this day to operate most of the services from their garage in Portree, albeit now under different ownership as Highland Country Buses as part of the Rapson group. Most recently Highland Country Bus, as part of Rapsons, was acquired by Stagecoach in May 2008.
The 1954 timetable - with some very long winter layovers at Kyleakin for the drivers from Portree! The morning bus laid over from 9.30 to 2.20 and the afternoon bus from 4.30 to 9.00 - I wonder what the drivers did with all that time on their hands, especially on the days when they didn't double back on the short runs to and from Luib?