An Arresting Experience

An Arresting Experience

As a conductor in the Spring of 1960 I was off duty one fine Sunday and decided to visit a friend in Leeds for the evening. When I got on the bus in Burley in Wharfedale it was full to capacity with day trippers from Ilkley and so I rode on the platform chatting to the conductor, as one did in those more relaxed days.

The bus came to a halt near the Beech Hill Cinema in Otley because the Sunday traffic was, as usual, at a standstill. All of a sudden two very formidable policemen leapt onto the platform and whispered something to my conductor friend. He appeared embarrassed and amazed and, pointing to me, said, "AYE THIS IS IM". Immediately and without explanation l was ordered off the bus in front of all the passengers and pedestrians and bundled into a police car.

Two questions were then fired at me. Firstly - "WE BELIEVE YOU KNOW HOW TO START A BUS" and then "WHERE WERE YOU AT 2.50PM YESTERDAY (SATURDAY) AND FOR THE ENSUING FOUR HOURS". I replied "yes" to the first, but I was so shocked that I simply couldn't think of any answer at all to the second.

I was completely unaware that a Samuel Ledgard Bristol GHN 840, which had just been recertified at Otley, had been stolen from the Bus Station at 2-50pm. It had spent the afternoon being driven safely from Otley to Ilkley, then via Guiseley to Bradford, and from there by way of Rawdon and Yeadon to Pool. Various drivers had evidently seen it and had simply waved to the driver but thought nothing of it - quite amazing as it should have stuck our like the proverbial sore thumb. lt is nothing short of miraculous that no accident had occurred but the thief's luck ran out in the most unlikely place. In Leathley Lane at Pool, a very quiet country byway, the bus left the road and after demolishing a fence and a hedge came to rest partially overturned and suffering moderate damage. The culprit was seen by motorists fleeing across the fields in a successful escape.

Fortunately I eventually regained my composure sufficiently to remember that I had been at OtIey hospital at the time in question, discussing my Dads serious illness with the ward sister. I was driven straight there and luckily the good lady was again on duty and was glad to ‘get me off the hook’ I was never able to identify the loyal workmate who had advised the police that as I was a crazy enthusiast the theft was almost certain to be my handywork - but I suppose there's always a black sheep, and I've always been almost certain that I know exactly who it was - the coincidence with something which happened while I was waiting to board the bus in Burley convinces me of this.

The case remained unsolved until many months later when an off duty policeman in East Leeds was working in his garden one day. All of an sudden his horticultural efforts were rudely interrupted by the arrival through his hedge of a West Yorkshire single decker, which had evidently been taken in broad daylight from the rear of Vicar Lane Bus Station. The bus became firmly wedged on the officers rockery and the culprits Leathly Lane escape was not repeated. He confessed also to the 'GHN' job and received six months full board at one of Her Majesty‘s better hotels. I still shiver at the thought that, but for that hospital sister's support. l could well have been that guest - l much prefer to pay for my accommodation!

Chris Youhill
04/2010

 


 

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