This edition of Far North Express is overshadowed by the untimely death of Bob Barnes-Watts, one of our committee members who very sadly passed away on 13th August.
Bob, who had the most extraordinary career, including many years as a radio D.J. in the U.S., had one overriding aim in his work as a transport consultant and his involvement with FoFNL and SAPT [Scottish Association for Public Transport]. He was passionate about public transport and just wanted all operators to understand that travellers need, above all, accurate information, both real-time and printed, and connections that work, and maps.
He told me recently that in some circles he is known as the "Connections Zealot", something he was clearly proud of, whilst amused at the slightly pejorative use of the word "zealot". He had no time for unnecessary "studies" and "consultations", he wished that the money be spent instead to "Just Do It!" because in so many cases what should be done was totally obvious. If buses and trains do not connect properly at a particular place all that is required is a few phone calls to the companies concerned, and perhaps the local authority in question - not a study.
He was baffled that no comprehensive transport map of the Highlands exists, and he was puzzled that no-one has taken the initiative to set up a body, independent of the various operators, to ensure that all public transport connects properly.
Bob's passing leaves a void in FoFNL which we are unlikely ever to fill. Here are some words I have received from various people who knew him:
...Plethora was Bob's favourite word, and he did indeed have a plethora of transport and other interests. At times he seemed equally passionate about all modes of transport, but it was on how they related to each other that his focus lay. He could be steely in his determination, but soon a merry twinkle would return to his eye as a reminder of his great kindness and generosity of spirit. It became my privilege to count him as a friend, and I shall miss his effervescent wit and thorough decency.
...I had the pleasure of meeting him on a number of occasions. He was always well-informed, interesting (and interested) and courteous.
...I learned a lot from his detailed knowledge of bus as well as rail from Devon to Durness. He will indeed be sorely missed.
...Bob's encyclopaedic knowledge of public transport and other matters in the Highlands and Islands was a great help to me when I was convener.
...What I think I shall miss most was his ability to see the lighter side to the darkest of clouds.
...I'm just so sad that I'll never be able to have beers with him again in Inverness, discuss the Far North Line, public transport, bus timetables between Wick and Thurso, airport lounges and obscure airline routings - I'm delighted one of his last flights was from Bristol to Inverness via Amsterdam for the additional lounge access!
A plaque, with these words by John Yellowlees, is to be erected in the beer garden of Platform 1864 in Tain, with the kind agreement of the owner, Graham Rooney:
Remembering our friend, campaigner and timetabling expert Bob Barnes-Watts (1955-2018) who tirelessly championed all that was best in public transport.
Here is his sister Mary's description of Bob's funeral:
"The funeral was a beautiful and touching service and Bob's ashes were scattered from the sea lock into the Caledonian Canal as he wished. It was very moving and some of his great friends came together at his favourite Clachnaharry Inn to share their memories. As we returned from the funeral, as if by magic, the Royal Scotsman went past the Clachnaharry Inn, sounding its whistle as if in tribute. When Bob's ashes were scattered a rainbow appeared over Inverness - it was a reminder to 'look on the bright side of life'."