Central SMT


Douglas G MacDonald

First published October 2003, Tempus Publishing Ltd, £12.99

ISBN 0-7524-2805-5

It is a great pleasure to be able to review this first book by Douglas G MacDonald, a name that should be familiar to all regular visitors to this website. In producing this work, Dougie has, consciously or otherwise, drawn a close parallel with the aims of this website. Just as I wanted to celebrate the memory of the least glamorous member company of the Scottish Bus Group, so this book shows the wealth of interest and variety that was once to be found in the more general bus operations of this very down-to-earth part of Scotland.

The book is logically organised, with each of 10 chapters dealing with one of the county's major operators, plus an 11th dedicated to that stereotypical local quirk, the bingo bus! With Chapter 1 devoted to Central SMT and Chapter 2 to Baxter's of Airdrie, the author displays a finely tuned sense of priority - but then, I am somewhat biased! There is further Central SMT interest in the chapter on Chieftain and again on the Eastern Scottish operation at Airdrie, which Central would acquire in 1985. Other independents given the treatment include Hutchison, Carmichael, Wilson, Stokes and Irvine.

The chapters follow a similar pattern : some introductory text to set the scene, followed by a good selection of black-and-white photos and their respective captions. The pictures, many of which have not been previously published, are carefully selected to represent the mainstream elements of each fleet, while at the same time giving a flavour of the more unusual. To give an idea of the coverage, I counted 204 pictures in total.

A good deal of research has gone into this book, including input from family members and others associated with the various independents, and this naturally adds to the appeal of the material. I have personally never been particularly well acquainted with companies like Stoke's or Irvine's and consequently found the background to these operations all the more fascinating.

The author states in his preliminary remarks that the book reflects a life-long interest in both public transport and local history. This dual perspective is, for me, one of the book's key strengths. Almost as interesting as the vehicles themselves is the commentary on local landmarks and how radically - or not - a particular location has changed over the years. This local interest angle also means that the book, while first and foremost about buses, may still appeal to those who struggle to tell a Lodekka from a Lowlander.

If you find the content of this website interesting, then it's hard to imagine you not liking this book. With the dark nights already upon us, why not treat yourself (and/or someone else!) for Christmas? Go on - you know you want to!

Available from local branches of WH Smith, Waterstone's and Ottakar's.

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