Ian McMillan's anecdotes from the number 219 bus to Barnsley

I’m on the 18.50 219 from Barnsley to Darfield. The 219 is a real workhorse of a bus, trundling between Barnsley and Doncaster via lots of the small towns and villages in the Dearne Valley

Ian McMillan
Ian McMillan

Mind you, it’s not as long and winding a route as the old 70 bus that used to go from Sheffield to Upton. Next to that epic-on-wheels, the 219 is a City Hoppa, as some of those minibuses used to be called back in the day.

The 18.50 is fairly quiet, and one of the passengers remarks on this; it’s true. In the past, pre-pandemic, I’ve caught this bus and had to stand. Now there’s plenty of room. That’s a shame because buses are essential things, important ways of getting from A to B and even as far as H when, like me, you can’t drive.

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I like the 219 because people talk; many of the passengers know each other and, like me, they’ve been on this route for years. “What are you having for tea?” a woman asks her mate. “I’m not sure because my face is hurting” her mate says. A man is shouting into his phone: “I’M JUST ABOUT TO PASS YOUR HOUSE, PETER. CAN YOU SEE ME? I’M WAVING.” I glance out of the window but I can’t see Peter.

Many decades ago me and my mates Dave and Bob crossed America on a Greyhound Bus and maybe that’s what cemented my love of buses. Stories got told on those buses. A man in a battered hat said to me “I’m going to Biloxi, brother; and do you know why I’m going to Biloxi? It’s because I like the word. Biloxi.” We changed buses somewhere dusty in the middle of the night and he raised his hand to me as he boarded another bus and shouted “Biloxi, brother, Biloxi!”

Somewhere near New Orleans a man in a Hawaiian shirt said to me “Are you English?” I said I was. “Hey, I’ve heard you guys drink warm brown beer. Is it true?” I said that it was. He looked astonished, his mouth a widening O. Then, to my embarrassment, he announced the fact to the bus. “Hey, everybody; this guys from England and he says they drink warm brown beer”. Everybody laughed and cheered and I said that if he ever came to Barnsley, I’d buy him a pint of Barnsley Bitter. That was 1977 and he’s not arrived yet.

Back on the 219 our attention is grabbed by a bright yellow melon rolling down the aisle like a golden rugby ball. “That’s a melon!” somebody shouts, unnecessarily, and they grab it. Someone asks “Anybody lost a melon?” but the woman whose bag it’s dropped out of is deep in conversation with her young daughter. The bus rocks with joyful laughter at the sudden melon-appearance and the man who was shouting for Peter takes it to the front of the bus and presents it to its rightful owner.

More bus journeys, please: they’re stories on wheels!