‘All aboard’ -The bus driving methodist minister who spent 35-years on Norwich’s buses
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 January 2020
Norfolk and Norwich has some great characters....people from all walks of life who contribute to our culture and community in many different ways to make our neck of the woods so special.
Last week we looked at life in the old bus station in Norwich but no stories about the buses would be complete without mention of a certain driver by the name of Jack.
Many of you will know him, or heard of him, he is the Rev Jack Burton, our very own Mr Bus.
It was 10 years ago when Jack, now 80, wrote a book The Wonder of Buses and Trams, one of the best of its kind - a wonderful offering with wise words and rare photographs.
This bus-driving Methodist minister and former Sheriff of Norwich writes with such wisdom and humour about his extraordinary life along with tales of buses and trams not just in Norwich and Norfolk but also in across East Anglia, Birmingham, Glasgow and Yorkshire.
He has spent his entire life in love with buses and believes he may have heard their rumble while still in the womb!
Indeed by the time he could prop himself up enough to look out of the window at his Norwich home he could see buses trundling past and he was hooked.
And we can all be thankful for that. Where else could you find a bus driving priest, author, and former Sheriff but Norwich?
As Jack says: "I've not travelled the world, but I've travelled up and down the streets of Norwich in all seasons, mostly at the wheel of a double-decker. There are few better vantage-points from which to watch and learn (And, when the cab was half a cab-cab, few better places to think)."
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Apart from being a Methodist minister, serving in Glasgow and in Cambridgeshire, he has spent his life as a worker priest and his "flock" were the men, women and children were travelled on buses he drove...and most of them seemed to know him.
Jack wrote in his book: "I abandoned the bus world to enter the scared ministry of the church.
"When I was left hurt and disillusioned by my discovery of the way organised religion tends, sometimes, to function (inflexible, out of touch, obsessed with trivia, judgemental, disunited, less than honest) I didn't pack it in.
"Instead I won permission to become a worker-priest. Thereafter I was on bus driver's wages: but at least, I no longer felt out of touch," explained Jack.
Born in Norwich during the Second World War he grew up to the sounds of bombs dropping on his beloved city. At 16 he got a job with Eastern Counties Omnibus Company but he has also become a Christian after hearing the American evangelist Billy Graham preaching.
He spent 35 years driving buses in Norwich and how the people loved his warmth, kindness and sense of humour. So many of his passengers were also his friends.
And how delighted they were when, in 1988, he was made Sheriff of Norwich and served alongside Lord Mayor David Bradford. They were a very popular double act.
In 1995 Jack was elected to the board of the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company. A proud moment for the staunch trade-unionist and the man who saw buses as so much more than mere vehicles.
"I suspect that - certainly at one level - sitting in the panelled board-room at the oval table where the decision to abandon the Norwich tramway system must have been taken, meant infinitely more to me than anybody else present."
Thank you Jack...you have served us well.
Look out for his book The Wonder of Buses and Trams: Enthusiasm examined and illustrated by Jack Burton and published by the United Enthusiasts Club in 2010. It is an absolute gem with some great photographs and stories and still available on line.
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