Reg Varney/Stan
Bob Grant/Jack
Stephen Lewis/Blakey
Stephen Lewis chats about ON THE BUSES
Doris Hare/Mum
Anna Karen/Olive
Michael Robbins/Arthur
Quick Episdoes Guide
ON THE BUSES behind the scenes
Stephen Lewis visits Weymouth
Ronald Chesney
Ronnie Wolfe .
Ronnie Wolfe's Book Launch
Stuart Allen Producer/Director
Cicely Courtneidge
Doris Hare photo career page
Kate Williams/Nurse in Holiday
Andria Lawrence (Turnaround Betty)
Roger Ferris (Hon Member)
Hal Dyer/Shirley Robbins in memory
Terry Duggan
Albert Moses
J P Trevor Honorary Member
Ron Savage Hon Member
OTB random Photo album.
The Clippies
The Series
Guest Stars
Wendy Richard
Wilfred Brambell/Bert in HOLIDAY
Michael Sheard depot manager
Reg Varney Exhibition
On holiday GALLLERY
In the Depot GALLERY
Movie Posters
Movie locations
Movie location photo gallery
The Water Fall shop and tea room DYSERTH
Memories from Doris's Grandson
The Buses and Bus Depot
Real bus stories
Geoff Unwin Honorary member
Memories and articles updated 10th Jan
Magazine Covers
NEW Windmill Theatre NEW
Look In TV Comic
Overseas DVD video covers
Boreham Wood and Elstree Times
Famous Bus Man Tommy
NEW Bus Photos
Luxton Bus Company Complaints Department
2009 morning events page 2
Celebration Event on 22nd May 2011



Click on Blakey to see the latest Go Compare advert and watch out for the painting on the wall during the ad.


Below are some pics sent into the fan club, was one of them you or can you identify anyone in the photos, who send in the ON THE BUSES drawing?
If you know the answers to any of these questions, please email the fan club so I can give you a mention. email busesfanclub@aol.com






Who is this with Kate Williams (Nurse in Holiday ON THE BUSES)

Channel 5 are not planning a remake of the London Weekend Television classic sitcom, instead the broadcaster has commissioned an eight part series about a family run bus company operating in Hull, Scarborough and the surrounding areas.

The series has the working title, On the Buses and will feature the staff of East Yorkshire Motor Services (EYMS) as they go about their work during through the busy summer of 2013.

The series, of hour long episodes, will feature the general operations of the company from top to bottom; with crews filming behind the scenes in the board room and the control room, the canteens, the bus terminals and out on the buses – featuring a characterful cast of drivers and of course their passengers.

The series will offer a real insight into what it’s like to be a bus driver, the pressures they have to work under and how they keep themselves smiling.
Information from ATV TODAY
Channel 5 also air 'Big Brother' which is filmed at 'Elstree Studios where the ON THE BUSES movies were made.   

Re the above how about this for what I think is a great idea for Channel 5 TV makers from Dan in Canada;
Maybe we should ask them if they want to do a series like Airport where they do different bus companies in different countries,Im sure we have some members that could contribute like myself from Canada!

The new sitcom after ON THE BUSES starred Bob Grant as a milkan. It was called 'Milko' But only the pilot was was shown on ITV Wed 28th November 1975 on ITV it was written by Anthony Marriot. Only the pilot was shown before it was cancelled.
With thanks to Jayson
(Further information or images of the show wanted please email) busesfanclub@aol.com

Here is an email from some of our fan club members from overseas, who have get togethers with other friends to watch ON THE BUSES

Its been 13 years of the very best Nostalgia, a gift that keeps giving through out the year
7 series of "On The Buses" will make you smile, laugh, and feel part of the Butler family
share this gift with your friends, and neighbours, show how simple life was, the golden
days of television, when the family sat together and laughed with the butlers.
Thank You Steve

Jim and Family Victoria British Columbia

Hi ....just wanted you to know that i love OTB sooooooo much .....i am fifty this year and still love watching Stan and family ....my hubby and i often quote lines from OTB...i have such happy memories as a child watching this show with My dear late Mum and Dad...I love all the banter between all the characters n....I want to send Anna Karen best wishes and hope to meet hr one day ....my dad used to crack up at her and Arthur ...i have many favourite episodes and one that always always makes me laugh is Stans New Uniform ....also when Blakey goes to tea with his niece to the Butler family house. Oh yes not forgetting when Olive makes Arthur Jealous! kind regards Maxine from Dartford in Kent

Tell us why you enjoy ON THE BUSES at email busesfanclub@aol.com
And your email may go up on the canteen noticeboard just like the one above

Gladys in the Hammer Film Production 1971 film ,"On the Buses"

Gladys was  played by actresss Maggie McGrath.

You may like to know that Maggie McGrath worked like Red Varney at the Windmill Theatre in the Revudeville revue.

Maggie was know as Margaret at the Windmill Theatre and was a Revudebelle. The Revudebelles were a small group of female artistes who did the posing and fan dancing at the Windmill Theatre.
Maggie McGrath married the actor Michael Rennie.

The Windmill Theatre revue was called Revudeville no.104 which Reg Varney was in and also featured Margaret [Maggie McGrath].
Reg Varney was on the stage in Revudeville no.104 and not in the orchestra pin as well as Revudeville no.103.
Below is a 1938 British American cigarette card which dates from then when Margaret was at the Windmill Theatre.
Margaret was one of the small group of artistes called Revudebelles and not a Windmill Girl.The Revudebelles did the tableaux.

With thanks to Maurice

The Caledonian Scribe by Caroline Walker
Where you will find TV Quiz Books for 'Dad's Army' and 'Last of The Summer Wine'
Plus photos of Caroline's home town Edinburgh


ON THE BUSES fan and friend of the fan club George, runs a number of comedy forums. You can visit them by clicking the links below

The Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em Website

The Original Royle Family Forum

The 1970s Comedy/tv & films 1980's Forum

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Dear Steve:
My family and I have decided to take our trip to the UK in July 2013, and also take the OTB tours of "all the spots" from the series, and the three movies, we will be watching for your updated e-mails, and also the club site. as mentioned before, we have seven couples and three single friends who meet at each others home's once a month, and watch the OTB series or a movie and talk about the antics of the Butler's,...Mom, Mrs.M.Butler,Stan,Olive,and Arthur..Cyril Blake,Jack Harper, and the stars at the Bus Depot.

Thank You ,, and all the very wonderful fans in England, and around
the world ,from Victoria British Columbia we wish a very Merry
Christmas to all, and a happy New Year ...

Jim Norman and Family..

Ding ! Ding !

Thanks Jim,  (and Alan below) Always great to get emails from other parts of the world and Merry Christmas to all our overseas friends of ON THE BUSES fan club.
Hello Steve,
Great web site for a great show! The characters & bits are priceless! We had a show here in the States based on On The Buses starring Dom DeLoiuse. They even had the good for nothing brother-in-law. It only lasted one season though.
I'm a "Tube Driver' here in the States (The PATH System). We have a supervisor named Blakey!
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Festivus & all the rest!
Alan Zelazo

I've just spent an enjoyable afternoon visiting your excellent website and it has brought back great memories of OTB which I watched in my mid teens. I would like to share a particular piece of trivia with you all.
In 1969 I was living in Hendon, London NW4 and I remember watching OTB being filmed on location nearby. Thanks to your site, as well as Google and YouTube, I've managed to identify the episode in question. It was from Series 3, Episode 2, The Cistern.
This episode is on The ComedyTV channel on YouTube. From 06.40 to 07.04 the cast are seen going into Jack's house to use the loo. This was filmed in Algernon Road, Hendon. I remember it well because the crew were directing hosepipes into the air to simulate rain. The houses on that side of the road no longer exist as they were demolished during the extension of the M1 motorway down to junction 1 at Brent Cross. From 15.04 to 15.13 the bus can be seen travelling south down Station Road in Hendon, just around the corner from Algernon Road. In the background can be seen The Midland Hotel, a pub which still exists today. At the end of the episode, from 23.00 to 23.20, the cast are once again back in Algernon Road sharing Jack's loo!
There is one final personal anecdote I'd like to share with you. A year ago someone turned up at my home and it was my half brother whom I'd never met. It turns out that he was living in Algernon Road at the same time as OTB was being filmed and he and I were just yards apart watching it, not knowing that we were brothers! How amazing was that?
Terry Carter, London.
Thanks Terry always great to get emails like this at the fan club.


For a great article about the book and ON THE BUSES click here *****


Bristol KSW, WNO 484, picture above. This is a sister vehicle of WNO 476 which appeared in the three On the Buses movies. WNO 484 was one of 10 buses converted by Eastern National to open top in 1965 for use on seafront services in Clacton & Southend. Following an accident, it was sold to South Wales Transport in 1974 and restored for seafront services around Swansea Bay. Now at Swansea Bus Museum. Thanks to John Adams
Click on the bus to visit the web site of Swansea Bus Museum

Below is a photo of Nick when he was a conductor on Exeter City Transport in 1969.  He is  standing in front of an Orion-bodied Guy Arab, Fleet No 52. 



Time for a visit to Aunt Maud's with a rare opening of the episode CLICK HERE



From Ross in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria, Australia
Thanks so much for your newsletters.
One day I'll visit Britain and join you on one of your OTB excursions.
Thanks for keeping alive the time, the mood and the memories of an era past that we all will never forget.
You have put so much of yourself into setting up the website, the fan club and its activities.
There is a real love and a unselfishness in what you are doing - and I for one am very grateful.
Best regards
Ross Shakespeare

Thanks Ross, always a pleasure to get emails from fans around the world
our email address is busesfanclub@aol.com

Are you a fan of On The Buses? Can you recall the many memorable characters who helped to turn the series into one of the best-loved British sitcoms of all time? Do you miss the uncensored humour and risqué scripts of television past? If so, The On The Buses Quiz Book is certain to appeal to you.
If you enjoyed the hilarious antics of Stan Butler (Reg Varney) and his family or Jack Harper (Bob Grant) and the long-suffering Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis), take a trip down memory lane and find out how many of the 1,000 questions you can answer in this exciting new quiz book. With sections on the iconic characters, actors, writers, directors, producers and locations, this book covers the whole 'On The Buses' journey from inception through to the three spin-off feature films and follow-on series Don’t Drink The Water.
This book is for anyone who remembers On The Buses and would like to find out more about one of the most controversial and popular sitcoms ever to appear on British TV.
Downloadable and viewable on pc's, laptops, mobile phones and other electronic book readers.

Paul Welsh MBE has wrote an excellent book 'ELSTREE CONFIDENTIAL' that is packed with photos of famous faces of film and TV he has meet in Elstree and Borehamwood over 50 years of Studio memories . If you want to know more see link


Cheshire/Oxfordshire /Hereford & Worcester.
For preserved buses and commercial vehicle storage. Secure sites with facilities and 24 hour access.
Prices starting from £20/week + VAT. Good undercover accommodation also available; email for more details.....

Join the ON THE BUSES fan club forum by clicking the banner

If you are a fan of 1960's and 70's sitcoms then you'l like this site called 'Retrosmiles'. The link will take you to Barry Took interviewing Reg Varney and from there you can view the rest of the site


What is the connection with this photo and HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES?
Answer at the bottom of the page
Still making the news!
Is it okay for bus drivers to call female passangers babe.
See what you think click the image below

On The Buses Stars Stephen Lewis, Bob Grant and Anna Karen all performed at the Windmill Theatre Great Yarmouth

A nice SNIPPET from MERIDAN TV about Arthur's 63 years at the same bus company


Romany Jones - series 2, release date 23rd January 2012.

In this second hit series, the recently married and permanently skint Bert and Betty Jones resume their never-ending search for la dolce vita. But their carefree existence receives a jolt when Betty announces she's expecting a baby and there s further upheaval when Betty and Lily finally rebel against their work-shy spouses, throwing Bert and Wally out of their caravans until they prove they can hold down decent jobs...

(This is the last series that James Back and Jo Rowbottom starred in due to the death of James Beck on 06th August 1973, as they were written out of the series).

The last 2 series starred Jonathan Cecil as Jermey Circhton - Jones, and Maureen Sweeney as Susan Circhton - Jones
Thanks to Craig Hill




Joey Boy (1965). Being released by Network DVD.

Starring -

Reg Varney
Harry H. Corbett
Bill Fraser
Featuring a legendary comedy line-up, Joey Boy charts the wartime misadventures of a gang of London spivs who decide that a tour of duty with the Army is preferable to another stint at His Majesty's pleasure. Directed and co-written by St. Trinains' Frank Launder, Joey Boy is presented in a brand-new transfer from original film elements.

While posters urge austerity and vigilance in wartime Britain, 'Joey Boy' Thompson has never had it better. In a cellar beneath his East London fish shop, a gambling club thrives - and austerity provides a nice black-market sideline. But the dolce vita crumbles when police arrive in a lightning raid, and offer Joey and his fellow reprobates a stark choice: sign up for active service, or face another stint inside. Thus the lads find themselves heading off to Italy, determined to make the best of it

DVD release date 10th March 2014. Now available to pre-order.
RRP: £12.99. Priced about £8.32.
Thanks to Craig Hill

Hi Steve, We had a great holiday in Wales. I think about it all the time. And it was wonderful to meet you and take part in the HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES event. I hope we can meet again. I also hope to again see the other people who came to the event.and would like to wish them a Merry Christmas from: John, Cheryl and Isaac Clark CANADA

Here is The Sun news paper in which is say’s "I hate you bus stop” where Blakey crashes his car. From May 2008
Thanks to Craig Hill for sending this article into the fan club

Of all the things he could have hit it just had to be a bus shelter. I seem to remember someone else demolishing a bus stop in an ON THE BUSES movie.... DING DING!


Our artist in residence has produced another piece of art work celebrating classic sitcoms. To visit Steve Lilly's web site just click on the image below.  



I have a limited edition print of one Reg's paintings and it is signed
by Reg with a small bus sketch by Reg a well.
The photograph of the Reg Varney painting (print), dimensions of the mount are 56 x 48cm with the print 44 x 39cm.

If you could advertise the print for £ 55 including post and packing and give my email address for any enquiries.

Many thanks for your help!



Network DVD are going to be releasing the last of the series of Romany Jones - series 4 on DVD, the release date is 20th January 2014. And is priced about £10.19 RRP: £12.99.
Thanks to Craig Hill

Reg officially opened the worlds first cash machine and was the first customer to use it. The plaque at Barclays bank commemorates this but does not include Reg Varney's name. Please click on the petition box and sign to show your support, to hopefully get Reg Varney's name on the plaque at Barclay's Bank in Enfield.


Hello Steve,
The VHS coverseems to be from 1994  London Weekend Television", though all the episodes are from series three - Going Steady, The New Uniforms, Brew It Yourself and The Cistern.
The sleeve is by Video Collection International Ltd, Brian Burrows.

As well as Blake's medal ribbon bar being on the wrong side, the company lapel badge you can see on his jacket seems to have been lifted off another image and is not sitting quite right as one corner overlaps Blakey's shirt, it also sits upside-down compared to Stan's badge.

cheers Julian .  (Thanks for sending this in Julian)

Here is link to a Ronnie Wolfe tribute page on facebook by Cliff Harris ***CLICK HERE***

Following the sad news the Nosher Powell has died here is an obituary for him from 'South London Press'

Nosher was in ON THE BUSES and played Bert in the episode Bus Driver's Stomach.


We met Stephen Lewis about 9 years ago in Stafford and that I had a lovely photo taken with him and my boys - well Jonathan has now managed to find the photo and so I am sending it to you. My boys are now 18 and 21 lol so they look very different!!

Spoken to Jonathan today (the youngest) and he said he had very fond memories of when that picture was taken and that he remembered how nice Stephen Lewis was to them.

Many thanks to Maxine

I own a 'On The Buses' fruit machine that I have had for around 10years which I now have to sell to make space in my home for a new bathroom.
I thought before I list it on eBay or Gumtree I would offer it to a real fan first.
If you feel any of your members would be interested could you pass my email address to them please.
I live in Hainault Essex and it would need to be collected, asking price is £225 ono.
Thanks for your time


 Which production Michael Robbins was acting in in the attached photograph. I found the photograph in Sydney, Australia

Lisa sent this photo, but I have been unable to say which production it was.
Can any fellow passegners shead any light on it?
email busesfanclub@aol.com

On Sunday May 19th there will be a celebration of the classic horror movie VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED to be held at the Village Hall in Letchmore Heath where the film was made.It is hoped that Barbara Shelley,several of the DEMON children and surviving crew members will attend.There will be a screening of the film,a panel,autographs and a locations tour hosted by me together with lunch at The Three Horseshoes pub [not included in price]...Price..TBA,Nearest rail stations..Elstree or Radlett then a taxi.For further details including how to book will be on the  soon to be opened web-site

Title:On The Buses: The Complete Story
Author:Craig Walker
Foreword by:Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney
Craig at the book signing in Paisley 29th May
Thanks to Michael for the photo
Craig Author of The Book

On the Buses: The Complete Story by Craig Walker was launched on October 3, 2009, at the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden. The book includes: brief synopses of all the episodes and films, crew details, filming locations, and a complete list of the supporting cast. The forewords are written by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney  Apex Publishing Ltd

East Kent Nostalgic Bus & Coach Trust


here is a link to a some-what unusal bus video filmed by Gabor Szucs  lives in Hungary and is a bus driver


hello, on the buses fans! i have been a big fan of british comedies for 31years now,even though im only 43 years old! i love the show!i try to watch my, on the buses dvds every week.ON THE BUSES IS THE GREATEST BRITISH COMEDY OF ALL TIME!!! we will miss you REG,BOB,MICHAEL,DORIS! thanks for all the memories!!!  from david in the new york usa!




Budleigh Salterton where Reg spent 10 years of his retirement is remembered by the local museum.
see link below;

Budleigh Salterton Museum

Thanks so much for your newsletters!
I'm in Olinda, Victoria, Australia and love the British comedy shows - there
will never be anything to better them.
The USA has tried to recreate them, but has failed in every attempt.

Thanks for keeping the memories alive!!

Best regards

An enquiry from Pippa,

My grandad was the editor of on the buses when it first started but then he died in early 70's. I know this to be true and some of the cast would go to my Nans for dinner or even to babysit. My granddads name was Leslie Tennyson-smith. I was never lucky enough to meet him but have heard some rather funny stories. Does anyone remember him????

please contct the fan club busesfanclub@aol.com if you knew him


Richard Gottfried finds stars of ON THE BUSES on the wall of fame at the Windmill Theatre
Indoor Adventure Golf Course in Great Yarmouth

See how many famous faces you can name on the wall of fame, and see if you can spot a HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES guest star amongst them

Also see poster on the left, thanks Richard

Hello all,
Can you please do Richard (who sent in these pics) a favour and vote for his Miniature Golf Hole Design as part of the Putter King Miniature Golf contest?
You just need to visit the website at http://www.putterking.com/en/hole-design-contest-content/jewel-crown-0 and click on the thumbs-up symbol.
Many thanks DING DING


An Inspectors Tale

I can immediately recall one (slightly) amusing tale concerning that same inspector after he'd transferred from Wood Green to Victoria Coach Station during the late 'seventies/early 'eighties;

Catering for VCS was provided by Barclay brothers who had several restaurants in operation around London. As can be imagined, they were quite wealthy and one of them (the younger of the two Barclay brothers) often parked his Rolls Royce on the premises. At times, it got in the way during busy interchanges, so three inspectors were designated to move it as required; this in turn offered a little 'prestige' to their regular duties.

On one occasion, the ex Wood Green inspector positioned the car close to the loading bays for services to the Midlands with the intention of parking it by the coach exit once some of the vehicles had departed, but he returned to the office (for whatever reason) leaving the car open. In the meantime, an elderly Indian gentleman enquired of another inspector "which way to Leicester?", to which the inspector, opening a back door of the Rolls Royce, replied "in here, mate, he's going to Leicester." The Indian uttered his bewildered thanks and clambered into the back seat of the Rolls.

A few minutes later, John came back and plonked himself in the driver's seat, totally unaware of the passenger sitting in the back seat. "Oy, John" yelled the other inspector, "aren't you going to collect the tickets first?"
"What 'effin' tickets?" replied John

As he slowly turned around, there was the Indian leaning forward, thrusting the ticket in John's face - "ticket, ticket!"

Well, it still amuses me. I guess you would need to have been there to fully appreciate it!

Best wishes,

Steve Thoroughgood

Here is an interesting newspaper article about sitcoms transferring
from TV to the big screen

CLICK HERE to view *****

The Bus and Coach Photos site contains many pictures for and by Bus / Coach professionals and enthusiasts. There are over 5000 pictures and many comments on the site for you to browse through, cick link below

The Bus and Coach Photos site

Q. What do the 4 guys below have to do with HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES?

answer at the bottom of the page
Thanks to Darryl 1st on the left for the photo

Thanks to Morgan C for sending in these photos and if you want to see lots more photos of converted buses and coaches please see link below



Dads Army Museum, Thetford
Enthusiasts of the famous Dads Army TV series, made on location in and around the Norfolk town of Thetford from 1968 to 1977, should visit the Dad's Army Museum, Thetford or why not take a guided walking tour.
Highly recommended, especially for smaller parties, and a perfect inclusion as part of a coach tour itinerary as private groups can be accommodated.
For more information contact the Tourist Information Centre, Leaping Hare, Belmont House, 20 King Street, Thetford IP24 2AX - Telephone 01842 751975





ANSWER: They were the lifeguards on duty at Pontins during the filming of holiday ON THE BUSES But which of them can you spot appearing in the movie, diving into  the pool after Olive losses her bikini bottoms or does she?

Did you know that ANNA KAREN was a drama teacher to one of the main guys from
Did you know that ANNA KAREN was a drama teacher to one of the main guys from


Budleigh’s Reg was a superstar
Article from the Exmouth Journal

Reg Varney, star of 60s sit-coms The Rag Trade and On the Buses – which was shown in 35 countries - he even made it to Hollywood; incredibly the 1971 film of the same name outgrossed both James Bond film Diamonds are Forever and Michael Caine’s gangster flick Get Carter, combined.

In fact, he was so famous he was featured as a guest in This is Your Life and opened the world’s first ever cash point! So it is apt that, three years after his death in Budleigh Salterton’s Pinewood Nursing home, after living in Dark Lane for 20 years, fan Tex Fisher has completed his book ‘I ‘Ate You Butler!’- a lovingly crafted book on the series that made Reg a household name across the world, and shot him to superstardom.

And, like the series, the book is laden with appropriately smutty innuendos – one chapter is entitled; ‘Lovely pair of Bristols’ – obviously referring to the couple of Bristol FLF/ FLF6LX Lodekka buses featured in the series.

It tells the story of the origins of the series, the cult of personality surrounding Reg Varney and the end of the series after seven seasons. Both adored and panned in equal measure - critics despised the ‘working class humour’ - the comedy followed the life of the skirt-chasing bus driver Stan Butler and his work at the dysfunctional Luxton & District Traction Company, together with conductor best mate Jack Harper and petty martinet Inspector Cyril ‘Blakey’ Blake.

“There is a book, many fan clubs, and many websites - all devoted to this wonderful show, but nobody has bothered to dig a little deeper into the programme and peek behind the depot doors. So, 41 years late - here is that story.”

It was the late 1960s and, following several classic sitcoms, Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney were looking for a new idea: “We didn’t really have an idea of what we wanted to do,” explains Ronald Chesney. “All we knew was that we wanted to use Reg Varney again, as he had been very good to us in The Rag Trade.”

Ronald Wolfe said: “We knew we wanted Reg in the lead. We then thought what this character would do for a living - a shopkeeper, a plumber, an electrician?”

“Everything just seemed to fit around a bus driver,” Ronald Chesney said.

Reginald Alfred Varney was born in 1916 in Canning Town, London. A keen piano player from an early age, it was his impressive instrumental skills and general showmanship that secured Reg his first public performances.

After leaving school at 14, Varney started work as a messenger boy at the Regent Palace Hotel in London, prior to obtaining a paid position as a pianist at the Plumstead Radical Club in Woolwich.

It was this musical talent that helped in the development of Reg’s character, Stan Butler; it is suggested that the character was partly based on crooner Matt Monro, a man commonly referred to as the ‘singing bus driver.’

Being of a similar height and stature, Monro could have been the perfect model for Reg Varney to build his character, and the pair were in fact friends.

“Matt and Reg knew each other fairly well,” explained Matt Monro’s daughter, Michele.

“They would all see each other on the circuit.”

But the two Ronnies insist that there was no deliberate connection; “I think it was just a coincidence.”

During the Second World War, Varney served with the Royal Engineers in the Far East, progressing his entertainment repertoire with gang shows and army concerts. This fuelled Varney’s ambition to perform and, following demobilisation, he returned to England, appearing in the revue Gaytime, alongside another future comic Benny Hill.

Variety halls led to television, and his first major role, as cutter Reg Turner in The Rag Trade in 1961. Further television followed, and after a brief hiatus due to a heart attack, Varney added to his success in the 1967 sitcom Beggar My Neighbour.

The rise to fame led him to becoming the celebrity of choice to open the world’s first ATM at Barclays, Enfield, in June 1967.

Following this, Reg was the first choice for Stan Butler. “He had been our foreman in The Rag Trade, and we knew that his superb experience and charisma would make him a wonderful Stan,” Chesney said.

“But Reg was in Australia at the time, so we weren’t sure if he could be in the show. We sent him some details of our idea, and thankfully he was more than happy to do it. I remember the wire we got from him - it just said, ‘Right, I’m learning to drive a bus!’”

The Rag Trade

Reg was delighted to be offered the job, and was sure the show had potential. “Dad thought it would be a safe bet as it had both work and home life combined,” Varney’s daughter, Jeanne said. “It had the contrast that could give rise to many funny situations. He was thrilled to be working with the Ronnies again, as he had done The Rag Trade. He considered them to be excellent writers.”

While by today’s standards the plot lines were not exactly politically correct but with upwards of 16 million viewers tuning in during the show’s prime, On the Buses swiftly became a staple of British TV and spawned three films.

When the turmoil of the working day was over, Stan would retire home to be greeted by his overbearing mother, dowdy, bespectacled sister Olive and her indolent husband. Life was seldom smooth in Luxton.

“We just had to have real buses,” explained Ronald Wolfe. “Having real buses just added to the show and made it more realistic. On the Buses could not have happened without buses.”

But London’s largest and most respected bus operator, London Transport, wanted no part of the charade. “The director wrote a letter to them and asked to use LT buses,” said Wolfe.

“They just came back with a letter saying ‘No’. They thought the idea of us having lazy, work-skiving drivers would give them a bad reputation. That letter was framed and hung in the office for a while!”

Surprisingly, Reg Varney left mid-way through the seventh series - Varney, who had been with the show for an incredible 68 episodes was sad to leave, but felt that the programme was nearing its natural end. “Dad decided the show had had a good enough run by the time he left it,” said Reg’s daughter, Jeanne.

“Perhaps the new writers were not so good, but I think he just didn’t want On the Buses to be remembered as being repetitive and less funny, as it surely would have been. Shows have a natural limit and On the Buses had to come to that limit.”

Reg did, however, return, along with Michael Robbins, to appear in Holiday On the Buses in 1973. “That film had a very funny script,” added Jeanne. “It also made a nice goodbye to the series.”

In 1975, Reg began concentrating on his own brainchild, a sitcom centring around the life of a fish porter at Billingsgate Market, entitled Down the Gate, however, the series wasn’t a major hit and viewers found it difficult to think of Reg in a new non-bus related, role.

“I think there was always a chance of typecasting,” said Jeanne. “Stan had so much of dad in him that it was inevitable. I think dad would have loved to do straight acting, which he was very good at, but he never got the chance.

“He did, however, do a lot of work in Australia, which he loved, until he got a heart problem and retired.”

Reg suffered his second major heart attack in 1981 and chose to take life at a slower pace afterwards. He returned once more to Australia, a place where he was still very much a celebrity, having co-starred with Billy Raymond in the Channel O production of Rose and Crown which ran for 13 episodes back in 1969, and he toured with his cabaret act to packed theatres across the country.

In 1988, he returned once more to resume his role as Stan in an Australian On the Buses stage play.

Soon after his return to England, Reg felt it was time to leave the public spotlight and he retired to his home in Dark Lane, Budleigh Salterton.

“He always said he was never stagestruck,” said Jeanne. “He enjoyed his career and his retirement in Devon with my mum.”

In 1990, viewers of Wogan were astonished when the full cast of On the Buses assembled on stage to discuss plans for a revival series.

At first, Reg Varney walked over to Terry Wogan’s sofa, and after a chat about his early life and career, the rest of the cast joined him to discuss the prospects of Back On the Buses.

“The old gang are still incredibly popular,” explained Varney, gaining huge cheers for the audience.

To all intents and purposes, a revival of On the Buses seemed to be definitely on the cards.

The idea sounded tantalising to fans, but it soon became apparent that the proposed Back On the Buses would not materialise.

Varney took time from his absence in television to write his autobiography, The Little Clown, although a second, promised, volume never appeared.

The first one stopped before his time at the Luxton and District Bus Company. He dedicated his time to piano playing and painting. Among his many talents, Reg was a skilled artist.

Having remained popular for an astonishing 40 years, with its own series in America and constant reruns in primetime slots around the world, On the Buses maintains its position in the top echelon of the most influential and memorable television series of all time.

● The article has been written thanks to extracts from the book with permission from Tex Fisher. Extracts of the book have been reproduced with thanks to Tex Fisher.



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Just to let you know we still have some stock left of the popular 'I 'Ate You Butler - The Making of On the Buses!' book which hit stores in September. You can now buy a copy signed by author Tex Fisher for just £10 with free postage - http://bit.ly/JGfRvJ - or download it on Kindle with our brand new "Best Digital Edition" which has been freshly re-formatted for your e-reader! - http://amzn.to/IX5XUG

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