One of Sunderland’s longest-serving bus drivers has called it a day.
Andrew Jackson was one of the last drivers from the old Sunderland District Omnibus (SDO) Company and has retired after 43 years of helping Wearside commuters get around.
I’ve enjoyed my time as a driver and I have some great memories but I’m happy to be going.Andrew Jackson
Andrew, 64, from Shiney Row, was 22 when he started driving the distinctive dark blue and white SDO buses at the Philadelphia depot. Today he works for Go North East.
Andrew started work an apprentice joiner, but when the construction industry hit hard times he called into the SDO and asked if they had any jobs.
The two main local bus companies when Andrew started in 1973 were the SDO and Northern – SDO drivers were known as ‘the blues’ and Northern staff were ‘the reds.’
Andrew worked on the pit contracts in the 1970s and 1980s, getting miners to and from Boldon, Wearmouth, Vane Tempest, Dawdon and Seaham collieries.
One of his fondest memories is still getting paid for the ‘pit runs’, which he didn’t actually have to do when the miners went on strike for the best part of a year: “The pit contracts were great; it was money for old rope really,” he said.
“We’d take them into the pit and we usually had to wait at least an hour for the next miners to come out so we could take them home. So I’d have something to eat there and chat to the lasses working in the canteen.”
And he recalls how busy Sunderland city centre used to be at weekends: “The buses coming into Sunderland on a Saturday, from places like Bishop Auckland, were absolutely jam-packed with shoppers,” he said.
“It was heaving.”
Andrew now plans to enjoy his retirement by spending time with wife Denise, tending to his car, garden and greenhouse and walking the four Labradors owned by son Iain, who also works for Go North East as an engineer at the Deptford depot.
“I worked every hour when my son was little so it’s nice to be able to spend more time with my grand-daughters,” said Andrew.“I’ve enjoyed my time as a driver and I have some great memories but I’m happy to be going.”