‘Forty-three years on the road, and more . . . I’m not so ’andy wi’ the ribbons [reins] as in my younger days . . . I can’t sit at ’ome. My perch up there was more ’ome to me than anythink.’
Cast Iron BillyEnd of the road
William Parragreen was known as ‘Cast-iron Billy’. He drove cabs and omnibuses in London for over 40 years. When this photograph was taken by John Thomson in 1877, Billy had just lost his job with the LGOC.
‘Our veteran,’ wrote the journalist Adolphe Smith, ‘had become so enfeebled as to require help to mount his perch, while the reins had to be secured to his coat, as he has partially lost the use of his left hand’. Younger drivers from rival bus companies raced ahead to steal passengers from Billy. He was unable to keep up and feared that he would end his days in the workhouse.
Related story:Professional pride
Horse bus drivers carried whips, but a good driver would only tap his horses very lightly. Drivers and conductors had to wear visible licence badges, usually attached to their coat buttonhole with a leather strap. Like Cast-iron Billy, Alfred Brown worked on the buses for decades. The medal displayed here was awarded to Brown for 20 years’ service with Thomas Tilling Ltd, a large company that owned cabs, carriages and horses, as well as omnibuses. People often stayed with the same employer for their entire working lives.