Highland Memories

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Over the years, John Sinclair built up a large collection of images of buses, chiefly from the 1960s and 1970s, and thanks to the lockdown, he had time to look through the lens of nostalgia at a a world of transport long gone.


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“Historically many of the larger bus companies with widespread rural operations used to outstation buses, often in basic garages and some merely in sheds,” explained John. “Others were left overnight in designated parking areas, often at the outer termini of ‘commuter’ services, beside the driver’s house, parked in contractors’ yards, or even on any available bit of spare ground. Highland Omnibuses with its vast operating territory had a number of small garages in remote locations, but also parked buses overnight wherever it could. Highland Transport from which it originated had an area of operation which extended from Caithness in the north down to Inverness, and included five sub-depots. However after absorbing much of MacBrayne’s extensive empire, many more locations were added, varying from small garages to one vehicle sheds. The most distant sub depot from Highland’s headquarters in Inverness was in the tiny village of Mey, just 6 miles West of John O’ Groats, where in the 1960s three buses were allocated: two single-deckers parked outside the garage, which was no longer in use, and a double-decker parked at the driver’s house nearby for the school service from John O’ Groats to Thurso High School. A further single-decker was parked in John O’ Groats itself, at the driver’s house for staff transport to the nuclear reactor at Dounreay.

Back in the early 1960s, uncomplicated reliable buses which were ‘good starters’ were preferred and in 1963, ex SMT Duple bodied AEC Regal ESC 447 (B47) was operating the mail service in to Thurso. By chance, it was required for attention at the engineering works at the company headquarters, and it continued on its nine hour journey to Inverness that day.


In 1965, the first batch of Albion Lowlanders entered service with Highland Omnibuses, and FGM 14 (AL14) new to Central SMT with an Alexander body, was allocated to Dunbeath depot where it was photographed parked beside the garage, with an AEC Reliance just visible on the other side.












During school time, the double-decker from 1963 to 1967 was a former London Transport Guy Arab HGC 148 (E6), which was rebodied by Alexander when acquired by Western SMT in 1953. JOHN SINCLAIR
While traditionally the home of a variety of elderly vehicles depending on whether the schools were on holiday. In 1968 a new Bedford VAS GST 504F (CD31) was allocated to Mey depot to operate day time services which included a mail run. Parked beside it is GST 505F (CD32) which was being used on commuter runs in the school holidays in place of the double-decker. JOHN SINCLAIR
By 1976, new purchases had changed from AECs to Fords, and parked adjacent to the depot were Willobrook-bodied MST 40H (T40), SST 263K (T63) with coach seats and in coach livery for the Dounreay contract, KST 364G (T26) and Alexander bodied AEC Reliance RST 451 (B31) due for withdrawal.
Over the years more modern vehicles appeared, and in 1977 OMO operation was introduced, and Albion Viking FGM 104D (AV6) acquired from Central SMT. It was photographed at the depot in between service runs, with ex Western SMT Northern Counties-bodied Albion Lowlander UCS 604 (AL8) parked up during the school holidays. JOHN SINCLAIR