RESIDENTS in the Yarrow Valley can now catch the new once-a-week return bus service into Selkirk as Scottish Borders Council looks to eke more use of school coaches.
Christened Spinner No. 2 – the vehicle already operating in the Ettrick Valley is called Spinner No. 1, after the former Ettrick & Yarrow Spinners mill in Selkirk – the Yarrow bus will run on Wednesdays, leaving St Mary’s Loch at 9.45am to Selkirk and returning at noon.
The Ettrick service currently operates on Tuesdays between Ettrick (departing 10am), Selkirk and Hawick, returning from Hawick at 1.15pm. It also runs on Fridays from Ettrick (departing 10am), Selkirk and Galashiels, returning from Galashiels at 1.15pm.
Scottish Borders Council passenger transport manager Colin Douglas said that if it proves popular, the option of introducing a second day for the Yarrow bus will be looked at.
“If enough people use the Yarrow service we will certainly look at extending it to a second day a week, similar to the service operating in the Ettrick Valley,” Mr Douglas told TheSouthern.
“Scottish Borders Council is committed to improving access for our remote rural areas and where there is a low-cost option, such as utilsing the vehicles already running on school services, it makes sense to look at it.”
Two of the town’s Scottish Borders councillors, Carolyn Riddell-Carre and Vicky Davidson, were also on hand for the launch of the new Yarrow service on Wednesday.
“There’s been a high demand for a bus service from the Yarrow Valley and using a school bus in this fashion is much more affordable than using a regular bus, making use of the driver’s extra hours,” said Councillor Riddell-Carre.
“It’s a very economical way of doing it. But it will definitely be a case of ‘use it or lose it’.”
Among those invited to the launch was Royal Burgh resident Jim Anderson.
Now aged 88, Mr Anderson joined the Scottish Motor Traction (SMT) bus company – part of the Scottish Bus Group – in 1946 after coming out of the army. He then spent 21 years as a bus driver and another 21 as an inspector.
“We drove on all the routes, including the ones along the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys,” he told us. “Because there were very few cars in the rural areas just after the war, the buses were always very busy.
“After the war, the chairman of the Scottish Bus Group was Sir James Amos, whose brother, William, was in charge of operations in the Selkirk area,” said Mr Anderson.
“They had been born in the Yarrow Valley and so we were told that passengers from the valleys were to be given extra special treatment when they were travelling with us. That meant we made exceptions so that valley residents could bring things like their pigs, sheep and hens on board the buses with them.
“In those days we had rear opening doors, so it was easy to load them on and we didn’t charge them for carrying their livestock either.”
Mr Anderson recounted how, on one journey through the Yarrow Valley to Moffat, it was noticed on arrival at Tibbie Shiel’s Inn, by St Mary’s Loch, that two pigs were missing from the bus.
“When we got back to Selkirk we phoned the police at Moffat and were told, yes, they had our pigs and we could come and collect them, but we’d to bring our own mop and bucket to clean out the mess in the cell they’d been kept in!”