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Bus returns to its routes

ITS name will bring a smile to the faces of thousands – and a Jolly bus is set to feature again on the streets of Wearside.

Darren Parker-Dix has hunted one down and bought it so he could restore a piece of Sunderland's history.

Darren, 32, a bus driver, of Penwood Road, Pennywell, said: "I used to travel to school on these buses for 15 years and all my family used them.

"After the dream I started to research them on the Internet."

Darren contacted Ken Roddam, from the North East Preservation Trust, who tracked down the last existing Jolly bus, which was in Shropshire.

The company, Minsterley Motors, was replacing its fleet and planned to scrap the bus in four weeks' time.

Darren jumped at the opportunity and brought the Jolly bus safely back to Wearside.

Dad-of-five Darren said: "I couldn't believe it. We got there just in time.

"I'm really pleased. I know it will bring back a lot of memories for people living in Sunderland."

It is believed the only other surviving Jolly bus was donated to Asia Bus Response, for relief from the tsunami disaster of December 2004.

Darren's bus is being stored in Wearside and restored with the wooden rear seats and the cream and brown paint job which distinguished the WH Jolly Company.

The service used to run from Sunderland town centre to Evesham and Claxheugh Road in South Hylton but shut down in 1990 after the extension of the Metro service to South Hylton.

The last Jolly bus to serve South Hylton ran on July 1, 1995, and for Darren it was the end of an era.

Darren is married to Tina, 30, and lives with their children, Demmy, 12; Demsy, 11; Thomas, four; Callum, two; and Amila, 10 weeks.

He said: "I didn't realise until I started doing this that my wife used to get the same bus to school.

"She went to St Anthony's and I went to Thornhill.

"The back seats were made of wooden slats because the school kids used to slash them.

"It became a loved feature of the bus because people used to slide backwards and forwards when the bus went around the corners."

The company's original owner, William Henry Jolly, died in 1952 but Darren has visited the family who still live in Hylton Bank, South Hylton.

They have donated an old ticket machine. An engineer, who used to work on the bus, has given Darren the old destination board.

Darren has roped his whole family in on the cleaning job and is hoping to display the restored bus later this year.