Central SMT

Special Features Focus on : Departed Friends

Alex Strachan and Gordon Stirling pay tribute to George Dawson and Jack Dunsmore, both of whom died in the early days of 2005.

George Dawson

In January 2005 the Scottish bus enthusiast movement lost a great friend and supporter with the death of Mr George Dawson, of Prestwick, Ayrshire.

Those who knew George better than I did – men such as Ron Logan and David Wright – are better placed to offer him fuller tribute. So I would not wish anyone to think that this brief note was an attempt to do justice to his breadth of knowledge, his documentary labours, or his unstinting support for public transport and its subsequent preservation movements. It is, rather, a respectful nod to a man whose work will ensure that the memory of arguably Scotland’s greatest bus company – Central SMT – will not be lost.

No two enthusiasts ever seem to share precisely the same degree or quality of passion for their hobby. Rarely do two enjoy quite the same specialised field of interest. How refreshing, then, to meet George Dawson, through this site's webmaster. His passion for the ticketing and timetabling systems Central employed complemented my fascination for their long-dissolved routing and scheduling structure. George’s treasure trove of pre- and early post-War anecdotes, and rare publications, made his mentorship uniquely valuable to me and a stimulus towards friendship, despite his being twice my age.

To have heard of exactly how Baillie Brothers’ services were merged into Dunbartonshire’s operations; of depots such as those at Helensburgh and Whitburn; and of peak time duplication and journeys involving two conductors on one bus, only reinforces the sense of real loss we have suffered with the passing of George Dawson. He has, however, left us a legacy of priceless data and irreplaceable artefacts. The unique ticket collection displayed on this website symbolises his efforts which began at the very origin of Central SMT. Among other points, we learn the imperative to: ‘Hold tight [as] most accidents occur at the rear platform’(!).

Perhaps, however, the Jewel in his Crown was a small Memo Book date-stamped 23 November 1940. Into this, during Britain’s darkest hour in World War II, young George hand wrote finely-detailed records of Central’s routes, Fare Stages, ticket types and prices, and much else related to Alexander’s, SMT and Western. Without George, who, today, could fruitfully research the Workers’ Fares system which Central came finally to abandon in October 1941? Thankfully, his legacy is now safely preserved and will, hopefully, provide the basis for a history of Central’s formative years.

With George’s death, in early January, enthusiasts of Scottish transport, and Central SMT in particular, lost an irreplaceable companion. His devoted, sober, and methodical personality will be greatly missed. He was responsible for adding new momentum to two living, developing, projects: the website you are now browsing, and the restoration of ex-Central Bristol LD6G Lodekka, B87. George, despite serious illness, visited the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust’s first open day last year, for a second look, having seen the bus moving under its own power the previous summer. He looked forward, in his Christmas message, to future visits. It is only fitting, therefore, that on completion of restoration, the bus will be dedicated to his memory. May he rest in peace.

Father Alex Strachan, 28 January 2005

Jack Dunsmore

News of the death of Jack Dunsmore, announced a few weeks ago, has been met with sadness by many involved in the bus preservation movement. Jack had established himself as the major bus dismantler in Scotland since starting his business in Larkhall in 1986. He was also a specialist in commercial vehicle recovery and his yellow wrecker trucks are a familiar sight throughout Scotland. The yard in Strutherhill Industrial Estate has been a Mecca for enthusiasts over the years and Jack was always on hand to provide a warm welcome. He was always hands-on and drove the trucks at all the unearthly hours when the phone rang with cries for help.

Jack was renowned for his humour and always conducted his business in a fair-minded manner. I remember meeting him for the first time in 1999, after I had acquired my own bus, Western SMT Leopard SCS333M. After spending hours in the yard gathering up spare Leopard bits and the odd souvenir number plate, I climbed the staircase into the office to meet the Great Man, wondering how much he would charge me. He knew every nut and bolt on the Leopard and after we had exchanged pleasantries, I rhymed off all the bits I had taken. "How much ye geein me fur them?" was his method of putting the fear of death into you. Frightened in case I hurt his feelings, I made a reasonable offer. Jack accepted the offer and for the next 5 years he provided me with tyres, lamps, a set of seats and other items to help restore my bus.

In recent times, with his health failing, Jack worked on with great determination and dignity. Jack's son Donnie will look after the business. We wish Jack's wife Myra and the other sons good luck in the future. It was a privilege to have known Jack. He will be sadly missed.

Gordon Stirling, 28 January 2005