February 16th 2008, saw the loss of Brian Crowther.
Ten years ago, The Crowther family lost a Dad, Grandad, Father-in-law and of course Husband to Sheila.. many many people lost a good friend and the bus world lost an entrepreneur, an enthusiast and a proud bus and coach operator, who built up one of the most well known bus and coach businesses in the UK, from the town of Morley near Leeds.
Brian was a railwayman, who became disillusioned with the railway and in 1968, bought his first bus, the AEC "Regent", which had been new to Douglas Corporation Transport on the Isle of Man. Those lovely red and yellow colours certainly provided some great inspiration later in life...
Below, a young Brian is seen posed with the wonderful machine after shipping from Douglas to the mainland-little did he know what the purchase of this bus would lead to!...
Brian purchased Number 50 as a preservation project, but in 1969,
a partnership with a friend, Bert colley, saw the pair start up in business-Black Prince was born, named after the statue in Leeds City Square.
After the tragic death of Bert, Brian took the reins and spearheaded Black Prince Coaches, operating local works contracts and shoppers services, then expanding at the time of the de-regulation of our national coach services. Brian is shown here looking rather proud of his Volvo, 6571WF!.
Brian's wonderful wife, Sheila, helped him to build the coach business and lay foundations for the bold steps into international coach touring, for which the couple became very well loved in the Morley area.
The "Dutch Dash" weekend tours and Blackpool "Holiday Express" trips were very popular and became a real part of the fabric of Morley. Sheila worked alongside Brian at the business until the very last day of operation in 2005.
The photograph below is Brian's Van-Hool coach, proudly named "DNC", the initials of David N Crowther, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin-shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall.
The big changes surrounding bus de-regulation in October 1986 re-focussed the operation, Brian's familliar red and yellow service buses made their debut on the streets of Morley and district, the bright and cheerful livery designed by son and daughter David and Katie, the junior members of the family, with David taking on more responsibility in the company from a very young age!.
The company went from strength to strength, with Black Prince buses becoming a well known and much loved sight across the wider Leeds area.
Black Prince was a haven for bus enthusiasts, with an eclectic and varied fleet of interesting buses operated over the years.
The above photograph of a red and yellow Leyland bus, operating on the 424 route, shows the earlier days of Black Prince operation-the 424 route was set up after local requests for a bus service from Thorpe to Morley, Brian duly obliging to his fellow residents!. The 424 ran until the last day of service in 2005. Below is a Volvo, carrying one of the more exotic livery variations of the red and yellow scheme seen in the fleet!.
The photograph below shows a very proud Brian, flanked by his two brand new Mercedes-Benz buses, purchased in 1998, which were the very first "S" registered buses to run on UK roads.
Brian and Sheila decided to take it easy in 2005, retiring with the sale of the Black Prince route network to larger local operator, First Leeds.
The very last Black Prince departure from the City of Leeds was at 2315 on 30/07/2005.
Service X51, to Morley Tingley Mills, with David as the driver and Brian as the conductor, roared off into the night, FTF702F doing the honours and with the rest of the family and a whole bus full of well wishers and loyal supporters coming along for a last ride to say goodbye.
I wonder what Brian and the family were thinking that night, after 36 years of service to the people of Leeds and Morley.
Brian and indeed Sheila are very sadly missed, but his memory lives on, with several of his former vehicles now safely in preservation and with a huge following wherever they go, our Black Prince events proving ever popular.
I'm sure Brian would be very proud to see his legacy and the Black Prince name living on into the present day. Our thoughts are all about Brian Crowther today, with greatest wishes to the whole Crowther family.
Thank you for the wonderful memories-below is the link to the Morley newspaper of the week, about the loss of Brian.
Bradley McMullan, written on behalf of David & Katie Crowther.