Stepping back in time and waiting for the Darfield bus - Ian McMillan

Every now and then I get heckled by people from passing cars as I stroll.

Ian was dubbed Yorkshire Television’s investigative poet. (JPIMedia).
Ian was dubbed Yorkshire Television’s investigative poet. (JPIMedia).

Many of the heckles are related to my ability as a versifier and/or my appearance and most of them aren’t suitable for a family newspaper, although I still treasure the memory of the man who shouted: “Did that belly come with that shirt?”

The other day, though, I was standing at a bus stop for the first time in ages and a car slowed down and somebody yelled: “Are you waiting for the Darfield bus?” and then sped off. Ah, the Darfield bus; I’ve not heard that one for a while.

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The Darfield bus takes me back to the days when I used to make little films for a programme on Yorkshire TV called Tonight. They were looking for new presenters and I was a new presenter and a visionary producer from Thurnscoe called Dave Beresford taught me, more or less as the cameras rolled, how to walk and talk at the same time without falling over, how to interview people without interrupting them and how to do the same thing over and over again and make it sound fresh each time.

The films were about four minutes of screen time and we sometimes used to make two in a day, in subjects ranging from the bloke who buried himself alive in a field near Barnsley, to trying to find things to keep my goldfish Bob occupied.

I was billed as “Yorkshire Television’s investigative poet” and I’d write a poem on the hoof for each film and then read it at the end from my trademark notebook.

One of the films was about the composer and songwriter Bert Lee, whose most famous piece is Knees Up Mother Brown and who, amazingly, came from Ravensthorpe. My poem went along the lines of: “To me/Bert Lee/Should have been a cockernee/All that Knees Up Mother Brown/Should have come from London Town”, which I performed to a riotous crowd in a Ravensthorpe pub that had been kept waiting just that bit too long.

Dave Beresford filmed me performing the poem and then he said we needed a more definite ending and so I began to walk out into the darkness and then turned to camera and said: “Well, I’d better go for the Darfield bus” and strolled into the night and so a catchphrase was born and at the end of every little story I’d look straight into the lens and say it.

People soon picked up on it and they’d say: “Are tha going for t’Darfield bus?” even if they saw me wandering through Scarborough and I’d nod and they’d say: “Well, tha’s missed it!” and we’d all laugh.

The phrase followed me for years, long after I’d finished being the investigative poet, until it resurfaced the other day like an old friend.

Oh well, time for the Darfield bus.

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James Mitchinson