Ladies first

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Mary Curry when she passed her test on 7 November 1973, pictured with a Hants & Dorset Bristol Lodekka. JAMES FREEMAN COLLECTION

Women drivers have been serving Winchester for over 50 years, and one of the first was recently able to sit back behind the wheel of a King Alfred bus, reports Nick Larkin

It’s half a century since Winchester’s first two lady bus drivers got their licences, and a cause for celebration, especially given the recent bad news for the local bus preservation scene.

Mary Curry and Mary Gardiner were King Alfred Motor Services conductresses who applied for driving jobs when the independent operator was taken over by Hants & Dorset, part of the National Bus Company, in 1973. Both Marys passed their tests on 7 November that year. Mary Gardiner left the industry in 1974 but Mary Curry kept her licence until 2007, at the age of 68, then continuing to work in various capacities at Stagecoach Winchester’s Bar End depot before retiring in 2019 at 80.

Mary recalls training on an old Bristol double-decker with manual steering and crash gearbox, which had to be mastered, as well as clambering in and out of the cab. “After passing our tests, we had a few days to be familiarised with the different types of bus in the fleet and then, on 11 November, we were able to go out on our own,” she remembers. Realising the significance of the moment, Hants & Dorset organised for both lady drivers to leave Winchester bus station on their first trips at the same time.


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