Peter Bradley converses with UKCOA members Martyn and Gemma Hoare of Bluebird Coaches of Weymouth
Bluebird Coaches has a fascinating history and yet it also has its eyes set firmly into the future.
It all started in 1924, when Frederick Cecil Hoare commenced trading on the Isle of Portland, picking up on the popularity of the charabanc outings following the First World War. The name, too, is intriguing; Frederick (or Cecil as he was known) happened to look at a four penny tin of toffees – the once famous Blue Bird Toffees, which some of us can still recall – and thought that would make him stand out from the other coach operators of the time.
The outings and tours developed, and for a time Bluebird even ran a bus service from Portland with two other local coach operators in competition with Southern National. During the Second World War, in 1940 Bluebird acquired the coaches and premises of Monarch Coaches of Chickerell, brought Bluebird to Weymouth and became the leading operator in the town during the 1950s. Other events at this time included the purchase of its first full-fronted coach: A Leyland Royal Tiger with Plaxton bodywork, and the involvement of Cecil’s son Trevor with wife Margaret in the business.
Following Cecil’s untimely death, Trevor and Margaret continued to run the business, moving to new premises and were joined by their two sons Stephen and Martyn during the 1980s.
Their daughter Elaine was also involved working alongside Margaret in the Weymouth office, now located on the esplanade. During this time the private hire business continued to thrive alongside the day tours, holidays and school contract work.
In 2012, Bluebird Coaches was proud to be involved with the Olympic sailing events in Weymouth, transporting police officers. The following year the business welcomed the fourth generation of the Hoare family, Martyn’s daughter Gemma (pictured, with Graham Hares and John Bennett), who took on the role of Commercial Manager. Martyn, his wife Chris and Gemma now run Bluebird Coaches following the retirement of Stephen in 2020.
Martyn is particularly proud that Gemma has joined the family business and would like to see more daughters or female family members get involved in family coach firms up and down the country. He feels strongly that they can bring a fresh perspective to what can still be seen as quite a male-dominated environment, where especially in the touring business operators are generally carrying more customers who identify as female than male.
I ask Martyn and Gemma as to how they coped during lockdown. “It gave us a good opportunity to have a long hard look at the business and re-evaluate what we do; what we could do more of, what we needed to get better at and even some bits that perhaps we should not be doing,” answers Martyn. “For example, we doubled the capacity in our workshop so we can work on vehicles outside the business and also planned to enhance our tour programme.”
Both Gemma and Martyn are very proud of the small turnover of staff within the firm. “We never ask our team to do things that we ourselves wouldn’t do,” Martyn adds. “And we abide by the old saying ‘treat staff as how you would want to be treated’.”
The challenges are still there; PSVAR, the return of international travel (“we need more guidance as to what we can and cannot do,” Gemma points out) and investment in new vehicles. “However,” Martyn muses, “day trips are slowly regaining the confidence of our customers and I believe we can build on this.”
Martyn and Gemma have had much to look forward to: The restart of the tour programme on 19 May; the impending arrival of what is hoped to be the fifth generation of the Hoare family to be involved in the business; and, in 2024, the 100th anniversary of its formation. “We intend still to be at the forefront of coach travel then, as we were back in 1924,” concludes Gemma.