Obituary: Doree Barratt, pioneer of women in coaching

Doree Barratt, former head of Barratts of Nantwich

Doree Barratt, one of the coach industry’s first female drivers and for many years the head of well-known Cheshire operator Barratt’s Coaches of Nantwich, died on 18 September. She was 98.

Born in 1924, Mrs Barratt took on leadership of Barratts after her husband Walter died in the early 1970s. The business was later passed to their daughter Gill, whose own daughter Nicky obtained her PCV licence in 2008 and then her Transport Manager CPC. While Nicky did not enter the coach industry and is an aeronautical engineer, Gill proudly notes that she nevertheless represents a third generation of female coach drivers.

Doree obtained her licence in 1957, when she was pregnant with Gill. A pass was gained in a half-cab Foden. Speaking to then-routeone Editor Mike Morgan on her 80th birthday in 2004, Doree recalled driving the Foden and a Dennis Big 4 to seaside destinations including Blackpool, Prestatyn and Rhyl.

Following the birth of Gill, she accompanied her parents as a baby in the Foden, gaining a taste for the coach industry that later saw her take over from Doree. The Barratts operation was by then built on home-to-school services and other duties common to family-owned coach operators, and it also carried out work with nearby operator Copelands Tours of Stoke-on-Trent.

Doree, Nicky and Gill Barratt
Three generations of women coach drivers: Doree, Nicky and Gill Barratt

In 2004, Doree noted that while Gill had long since taken over the reins, fully retiring from the family business was not on the table. Even at 80, she was still driving a short Plaxton Paramount-bodied Ford on a regular school contract.

A move away from European work towards more local duties had helped Doree to keep her hand in, although she was less positive about the rules and regulations that had come to surround coach operation by the time of her 80th birthday. Doree continued driving until she was 81.

Gill later moved Barratts to Sandbach before reducing the size of the business in 2021. It now operates with two midicoaches driven by Gill and her partner largely on home-to-school services, having returned to its previous home in Nantwich last year.

“Although I am 65, I cannot give up work entirely. I would go round the bend,” Gill notes, remarking that a life in the coach industry “is not often a conventional one.”

Doree’s funeral will be held on Friday 7 October at 1015hrs at St Mary’s Church, Church Walk, Nantwich, CW5 5RG. Her former industry colleagues are warmly invited to attend.