Ayrshire Institutions: The Number 11 Bus

by James McLean

In most working-class areas, it would be safe to assume that there’s that one bus route that has a bit of a reputation. The one that you’d avoid except for the fact that you need it to get to work or it happens to be the cheapest way to get to where you need to go. As a Kilwinning native that bus for me is the double decker number 11 that travels between Kilmarnock and Ardrossan. Probably the most used bus in North Ayrshire the number 11 is regular, fairly priced, and even has free Wi-Fi these days! The drama really isn’t with the buses themselves; they are well looked after and a brand-new fleet was even commissioned at the start of 2018, which of course was very exciting. The thing is that everyone that has been on the number 11 at one point or another comes away from it with some kind of story about a crazy event involving some of the strangest characters you are likely to meet.

Such stories are usually equal parts shocking and entertaining so this week we have collected a few of these stories to share as we take a look at a bona fide Ayrshire institution.

Let’s begin with the top of the bus. In personal experience it can be a bit of a gamble going upstairs on the bus. Don’t get me wrong most of the time everyone just keeps to themselves and lets the journey go by, carefully avoiding awkward eye-contact with other passengers, but there is always the chance of something odd happening. To start with, from my own personal experience, myself and a friend were on our way to Ardrossan at some point in the evening. We sat upstairs. Other than us there was one other passenger who was occupying the back seats and looked as if he was asleep. Five minutes into this journey we heard a noise that sounded like a water tap being turned on. This was soon followed by the distinctive aroma of pish and a thin stream trickling it’s way towards the seats where we sat in increasing horror. Our fellow passenger obviously couldn’t hold it and relieved himself where he sat. We bolted downstairs before the frankly impressive flood could wet our shoes.

Another interesting story I’ve heard from the top of the 11 was told to me by a young woman who, at the time, was visiting her boyfriend. Everything seemed normal until the bus stopped in the Pennyburn scheme in Kilwinning. Suddenly two men wearing balaclavas sprinted upstairs. They quickly surveyed the passengers before shouting “He’s no here!” and running back off, seemingly to wait another ten minutes for the next bus to check that one instead.

The number 11 is no stranger to violent altercations. This next story comes from fellow ACU contributor Alex. Once while on the bus, two men came onboard and, through overhearing their conversation, it became obvious that they were attending their mums funeral while also wearing track suit trousers. This fact seemed to amuse a drunk passenger who was sitting behind Alex. The drunk started to make fun of their choice of wardrobe causing the two men to start attacking him, at which point our friend Alex stepped in to try and split them up. The two attackers commended Alex for looking after a stranger like that, while STILL trying to punch him. Meanwhile the drunk man insisted they would just have a “Rolly polly” for a bit and be best pals afterwards. The two men clearly didn’t share in the drunks resilient optimism, so Alex convinced him to get off and wait for the next bus.

It can be pretty easy to fall sleep on the bus, especially after a shift at work or a few down the pub. Sometimes you can even run the risk of missing your stop which would be annoying for anyone. The guy in this story definitely thought so. Another journey underway and as the bus passes Greenwood Academy he wakes up, realises he’s missed his stop, and starts screaming at the driver, wanting to know why he wasn’t woken up! He starts attacking the safety glass between himself and the driver, who swiftly chucks him off. Not satisfied with this outcome the guy attacks the bus in a tantrum, all the while screaming about how he missed his stop. After exhausting his attempt on the buses life, he decides to take on a more manageable opponent in the nearby bus shelter. The bus left him there, hammering hopelessly away at the shelter, likely until his arms grew limp.

This story in particular brings up an important thing to consider when talking about these buses: the men and women who’s job it is to safely transport everyone up and down this route really are unsung working-class heroes. They don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve. They make sure you get to where you need to go, and a lot of the time take a ton of abuse for doing it. I personally have witnessed bus drivers being shouted at and attacked on numerous occasions and nobody deserves to be subject to that while at their work. Your bus driver deserves respect so the next time you need to make use of the many bus services, remember and thank your bus driver.

These are just a few stories and we’d love to hear of any of your wild stories of bus travel! Let us know on out Facebook page and we can see who’s got the best one!