Born: 7th March 1904.
Died 28th February 1999.
Walter Barnes, known by many, respected by all, was one of the great characters of Rishton. His driving speeds were legendary throughout the town, yet never failed to get people to their destination. Walter, in his time, took the junior football to their games, delivered the school classes to the baths, and had countless day and nights out with the factory workers of Rishton.
Born in Haslingden at Top O' Bonk Farm, in 1904. Walter moved to Rishton without his parents, starting his own business in the town, although it is unclear what Walter first did when he moved here.
Walters Dad, Mark, also ran a coach company and so Walter started his own run.
At the age of 20 Walter meet Alice Nuttall from Rawtenstall, whom he courted for four years, before marrying her, and stayed with her until his death. They were reunited again 6 months later in August when Alice passed away.
Walter and Alice had just one Child, Allan, born on 9th March 1939 in Howard Street in the town.
An application was made by Walter Barnes to take over Barrie Holden’s garage as from the 18th September, 1935. The Rishton Urban District Council agreed that Mr. Barnes be accepted as a tenant on the same terms and conditions that Mr. Holden held same. In November of the same year Walter was granted a petroleum licence for West End garage in Rishton. This was Walters first location for his business. The petrol pumps were accessed by driving the vehicles up the bank street to High Street, the garage being inaccessible from the main road due to the public toilets and bus shelter there.
While at West End Garage Walter had a couple of taxis, and it is possible that this is how Walter started his transport company, buying coaches when possible, and as the business built up.
Walter, and the Accrington Town council were approached by the council on the 28th May 1936, to see if they would be willing to undertaker to attend to the Ambulance calls in the evenings and on Saturday and Sunday, and what would their charges be for the same.
The engine of the Councils Ambulance required decarbonisation in May 1940. The work was given to Mr. C. T. Barnes, of the West End Garage, providing the work could be completed in one day.
Flat bed wagons were used for transporting goods during the day, and a coach body was placed on the flat bed to convert the wagon into a coach for any passenger trips.
Walter went on to buy a garage at the top of School Street before moving into Holt Street during the late 40's to 1966. By the end of the 2nd World War, Walter Barnes was using the premises as a garage for his coaches, which later became Eric Allen's garage. The building was burnt down in the 1980s, and the building demolished to make way for Peters Row on Holt Street.
Walter then moved into his premises in Albert Street which he owned for the rest of his life.
During the Second World War petrol was difficult to come by, and whiskey and paraffin was poured in the fuel tanks of Walters motor vehicles!! A dangerous practice, by any standards!
The garage on Albert Street, built in red brick, was first used by the Rishton and Antley Motor Co, before being taken over by the Ribble Motor Company. Walter then took the premises from them.
Walter obtained 39 High Street to run his business from in 1948, and day trips to Blackpool and Morecambe were advertised in the window from here for a shilling a time. These were known as Char a bancs at first, becoming day trips as the wording was dropped.
Walters company ended up being the main transportation for the local schools, carrying them to the swimming baths and on day trips for educational purposes. He also took the mill workers on their char a bancs, having to put up with the odd drunken passenger was nothing new to Walter after transporting the women from these places!! His customers were always good in return, my own mother tells me that if ever people dropped out of a trip that Walter and Alice were always offered the spare places.
Walter would often have kids at the front of his coaches, giving them free rides, or filling seats, he was, by all accounts, a kind and generous man, always thinking of others.
Whilst occupying Holt Street, Walter ran four coaches from there, once the move to the Albert Street premises was complete he went on to obtain a mini bus as well.
In later years, after the 70's Walter was renown for his driving speed, a small trip taking twice as long as a car journey, but Walter was a cautious man, knowing that an accident could lose him his license, and of course his business. Even in 1970 Walter was 63 years old, and had already started to prove that he was a fit driver, taking medicals every year for the driving license authorities.
The stories are coming in thick and fast about Walter, I am told of him transporting Rishton Junior football club to a match, and as they approached the canal at Clayton everybody had to get off so the coach could get up the hill!!
On another occasion, the exhaust dropped off, and all the kids had to stand at the front of the coach so that the exhaust wasn't scraping on the floor as much at the back!
Walter retired from driving at the age of 80, due to not be able to get insurance for the coach, although after passing his medical he was still allowed to drive a car.
Walter Barnes, died aged 94 on February 28 1999. His coffin was decorated with a floral coach-shaped wreath and his family put a silk-flowered replica on his grave.
Lancashire Evening telegraph, Monday 05 April 1999.
Allan Barnes (Walters Son)