Roddy L’Estrange: ‘A bus driver of the people, for the people, by the people’

Vinny’s colleagues pay respect to a man who gave 38 years of unstinting service

Vinny was shortlisted for driver of the year four times but never won the award. “A scurrilous oversight” said Brennie

Vinny was shortlisted for driver of the year four times but never won the award. “A scurrilous oversight” said Brennie

 

The bus, a 130 of course, eased out of the garage on to the Clontarf Road and turned right along the seafront, towards the city centre.

It was driven by Socket Twomey, the depot controller who last sat behind the wheel some 15 years ago.

On this sombre Tuesday lunchtime, Socket had played the seniority card and no one dared quibble.

On board were a cluster of Dublin Bus employees, along with a few stooped retirees.

They wore the standard work issue garb of blue shirts and dark trousers, and all were committed to paying respect to Vinny Fitzpatrick, a colleague and friend.

At the junction of Vernon Avenue, Socket pulled the bus in outside Foley’s pub to collect the last of the passengers.

One by one, they stepped on, Fran, Macker, Brennie, Charlie Vernon, Two-Mile Boris, Kojak and Dial-A-Smile.

Jemser, the son of the late Shanghai Jimmy, who soldiered on many a shift with Vinny before heading to the great garage in the sky, was also with them.

“No charge today, lads,” said Socket weakly.

All was quiet as the 130 headed up Vernon Avenue, to where it joined Mount Prospect Avenue.

Puttered slowly

There, the bus turned right again and puttered slowly until it came to an unscheduled stop outside a smart semi-detached.

Socket opened the doors and spoke into the public address system. “If we could all assemble at the front of the bus, please. I’d like to say a few words.”

The veteran clippies shuffled into position. Ties were straightened, backs stiffened. There were one or two coughs as heads remained bowed, for they knew what was coming.

Socket called the crew to attention.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, if I might have your attention for a few moments.”

Standing to the rear, Fran nudged Brennie. “He better not drag this out; Vinny’d be raging if he did.”

Socket was one of those apparatchiks who liked to hear the sound of his own voice and he kicked off like a priest on a pulpit.

“We are gathered here today to say farewell to a colleague of long standing; a friend to all who knew him,” he began, as he read from prepared notes.

“Vinny Fitzpatrick was a bus driver of the people, for the people, by the people,” continued Socket.

At that, Fran couldn’t help himself. “He learnt that off the internet last night,” he whispered with a barely suppressed giggle.

“Shush. Show some respect,” hissed Macker.

Socket gave a relatively brief resume of Vinny’s career on the buses. He spoke of Vinny’s 38 years of unstinting service, all attached to Clontarf Road depot, and how he had followed the road taken by his late father, Finbarr.

“Between them, the Fitzpatricks, father and son, gave almost 70 years to CIE, as it was known when formed in 1945, and later to Dublin Bus.

“Indeed, they worked together on the old 30 bus to Dollymount on the first day of operations for Dublin Bus, in February 1987. I don’t know who got more out of it, Vinny or Finbarr,” smiled Socket.

On Socket went, highlighting Vinny’s dedication to the job, his record in the Banana Cup (the annual inter-garage sports day), his four nominations for driver of the year, which cruelly went unrewarded.

“A scurrilous oversight,” piped up Brennie from the back.

It took Socket several minutes to sign off his Vinny soliloquy, by which time a cluster of elderly folk had arrived on the scene.

Brennie recognised them as the Clontarf Warblers, an aged choral crew whom Vinny had befriended over the years on trips to and from town.

As soon as Socket applied the brake, the Warblers burst into song. “Three wheels on my wagon and I’m still rolling along; The Cherokees are chasing me, arrows fly, right on by, but I’m singing a happy song . . . No wheels on my wagon, so I’m still rolling along. The Cherokees captured me, they look mad, things look bad, but I’m singing a happy song.”

As they finished, their spokesperson, Gladys Cadwalader, stepped forward. “Vinny was a pioneer of the road, higgity, haggity, hoggety high,” she trilled.

Net curtain

“Top that,” sniggered Brennie.

At that moment, there was a tug of the net curtain in the front upstairs bedroom. “Look,” cried Gladys, pointing a curly finger upwards.

A hand could be seen. It was Vinny. Fat fingers were waved, followed by a thumbs-up.

“Ye can’t keep a good man down, even a shy and retiring one like Vinny,” said Fran.

“Right,” he added, “who’s for a pint?”

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