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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Vincent McKenna 1951-2013

I am very sad to report the death of my old friend Vin McKenna, who died aged 62 on Tuesday of a heart attack.

For anyone in the bus industry, McKenna is an instantly recognisable name - that of producers of destination blinds, a business which Vin and his brother Paul set up in 1978.

From small beginnings, their business benefitted from a bus industry rapidly outsourcing. Today, their products are in use worldwide. They now produce electronic displays, powered destination equipment and a complete design, print and fit vehicle vinyls service.

From their earliest hand-cut lettering days McKennas carved a niche market in producing high quality destination blinds. Just as London Transport’s own in-house production department was giving way to outsourcing, McKenna's caught the market. Before long they were producing material to the highest quality standards for which they are deservedly renowned today.

As technology developed they broadened their range and inevitably gained international acclaim for their work. Only a couple of months ago they were visited by Mayor Boris Johnson to acknowledge the work that they do.

Vin was one of the industry’s colourful characters. His dry wit, laconic delivery, and huge generosity was his marque. A family man, he also enjoyed playing a part in the huge family which is the international public transport community.

To enjoy more leisure time, he had handed over daily responsibility to others – Derek Dawson, Malc Randles and team but, remained ‘in charge’ in his own special way.

It is not always easy to describe in a few words how someone may be remembered after they have gone. For Vin it is very simple. On the front, side and rear of every London bus - is a destination blind made at his Middleton, Manchester factory by his team of dedicated staff - showing us the way.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

The conclusion of my 2009 Christmas Eve story

Regular readers will remember the story from four years ago, the one about the old London bus we found in France - of all places.

To recap go to

Originally brought home in 2004, it was despatched for restoration. It was a huge job! As I had previously described – the interior, the hole in the floor, etc – it was a complete wreck.

The photos speak for themselves:

As originally found in 2003

One of our bigger challenges for the journey was a major fuel problem which was overcome by feeding the header tank from a 25litre plastic container down a hosepipe through the front saloon window.

The before and after of the lower saloon
Incredible considering the length of time of disuse and all we know about the degradation of fuel systems and the fungus that grows in it.

A final problem was the refusal of the DVLA to return its original registration number – the authorities confused as ever of decades of identity swaps by London buses and an ever-reducing number of us who know how/why it was done and how to convince modern young officials of the legitimacy of it all.

And so eventually they were – and just in time for the vehicle to make its first official debut on Saturday along with other vintage vehicles at the annual Ensignbus running day.

You will agree that a fabulous job has been done.