A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Hooptedoodle #177 - TB Maund - A Prince Among Nerds

I have occasionally mentioned here my interest in buses - I have also emphasised that it stops short of being a hobby, as my little box of model buses stops short of being a true collection. This is a matter of policy. My focus, if there is one, is on the nostalgia associated with vintage buses from my home town and the surrounding area during my childhood, which is a bit contrived, I guess, as are a lot of old men's follies, but there is something profoundly special about buses for a man of my age, in a way which may be less obvious to, even less easily understood by, someone from a later generation.

For a start, public transport was an ever-present in the 1950s and 1960s - just about everything I ever did, everywhere I went, involved buses - half the childhood conversations I can remember seem to have taken place on the bus. Life was arranged around bus routes and bus timetables - and the limits of everything acceptable and decent were defined by the times of the last bus home. I knew people whose families owned cars, of course, but my family never had one until after I had gone away to university (you don't suppose that was deliberate, do you?). Buses were, and remain, important to me.

The other thing about old buses is the photographs in the hobby books - wow! - time-capsule stuff. Some bus enthusiast taking a routine photograph of the number 82 driving along Park Road in 1953 is just another old picture of a bus, but if it wasn't for the bus enthusiast no-one in his right mind would ever have taken a casual picture of Park Road otherwise, so these old snaps are a goldmine of social history - absolute nostalgia bomb. I bought a couple of old books, to fill in some of the huge gaps in my understanding of the subject, and I was hooked. I am still concentrating on what used to be termed the North West (a term which must have mystified anyone from Fort William), but I have branched out (ha!) into trams, local railways and the Mersey Ferries, and my time horizons have widened a lot.

One common thread that I picked up on straight away is that a large proportion of these books is the work of one Thomas Bruce Maund - TB Maund - the high priest of Northern transport. I have learned to associate his name on the cover with a guarantee of a well-written, balanced, thorough presentation, and (OCD bonus point) I believe that I have not been aware of any transposed pictures, misprints, spelling errors or even incorrect punctuation. Mr Maund is the business. Bus-spotting may be another classic example of a minority interest (no-one ever got rich publishing books about Birkenhead buses), but it is blessed - TBM is a perfect example of the sort of quiet superhero without whom hobbies would be impossible - a man whose love of his subject becomes a treasure trove for those who come after.

Mr Maund is, of course, very famous in his field (though he would have hated the very idea), but I had never heard of him until last year. I have more of his works on order - this time a 2-volume history of the Mersey Ferries - and I know they will be excellent. He died just a couple of years ago - after a lifetime of painstaking research and careful, flawless documentation; he died before I had even heard of him, but I hope you will forgive me if I extend this off-topic post to offer a small tribute to him - this was his obituary in the journal of the proceedings of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, of which TBM was, of course, a Fellow.

Obituary: Thomas Bruce Maund FCILT

Renowned transport historian and author Thomas Bruce Maund, former bus company manager and author of some of the most authoritative transport history books, died on 1st October 2013 at the age of 89. 
He was born in Wallasey on 10th August 1924 and had remarkable personal memories of trams and buses in the Merseyside area, which he was able to date back as far as the age of four. He was almost certainly the last person alive with clear memories of the operation of Wallasey trams, the system having closed on 30th November 1933.

He attended the Oldershaw School in his home town and his first job was as a junior railway clerk in a local goods office. After army service in Africa towards the end of the Second World War and for a period thereafter, he began work in the bus industry in 1948. Initially he worked for Basil Williams’s Hants and Sussex operation, involved in what he described as: ‘the seamy side of what appeared to be a glossy operation’. The following year he obtained a position with Ribble Motor Services, where he was known as Tom. He served the company for 18 years, with the parent company and with Standerwick, latterly as District Traffic Superintendent in Blackpool and finally Preston. For a time in 1966/67, he was seconded to the Traffic Research Corporation to work on the Merseyside Area Land Use/Transport Study (MALTS) project. 

In early 1970, he took the opportunity to move abroad when he took up a position with United Transport in Kenya, working for Kenya Bus Service in Nairobi. Staying with United Transport, he moved on to South Africa in 1973, where he worked for African Bus Service in Pretoria, Greyhound Bus Lines in Krugersdorp and Rustenburg Bus Services in Rustenburg, before finishing his working days at United Transport’s head office in Johannesburg. 
He took a great interest in training and further education, lecturing at colleges at Blackpool and Preston and at Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg. He was a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Transport, having studied for his Institute exams in his early Ribble days. He retired in 1987 and he and his wife Kathleen (Kay, who died in 2002) returned to the UK in 1992 and made their home in Prenton, Wirral. 
Alongside his professional career, Bruce was developing a reputation as a thorough researcher of transport history and a prolific author of his findings.

He could trace his interest in transport back to the late 1920s, having vivid memories of the introduction of double-deck buses in his home town on 4th April 1928. His family accepted his interest but, in his own words: ‘All attempts to wean me off my “mania” failed.’ His adventurous nature took him on a solo trip to Liverpool via the ferry at the age of six (which he never told his family about!), and he remembered seeing Ribble buses in Lime Street, shortly after the company had changed its terminal arrangements. The Ribble terminus gave him a ready source of used tickets, and by the age of 10 he was already what he described as a serious ticket collector, identifying different types of ticket and forming them into sets. After school, he was often to be found watching traffic movements at the busy Seacombe ferry terminus and committed the full contents of the Wallasey Corporation destination blind to memory. Over 70 years later, he could still recite this verbatim. 

The reward of a Royal Enfield bicycle (cost £3 19s 9d) for passing the grammar school scholarship widened his horizons and he undertook ambitious cycle trips to places as far afield as Greater Manchester and the Potteries. He also got as far as Birmingham to visit his aunt unannounced, but she was out at the time and he and his bicycle caught the train home. Until this time, Bruce was unaware of the existence of any other bus enthusiasts, although he had a small set of contacts with whom he corresponded in connection with his ticket collection. One of these was the tramway expert W H Bett who lived in Birmingham and who persuaded him to take up membership of the Light Railway Transport League. Through the LRTL Merseyside area representative he met Peter Hardy, who, before being called up for war service, had been researching the history of Liverpool bus routes. This initial contact awakened Bruce’s serious interest in road passenger transport history, as well as starting a long friendship that lasted until Peter Hardy’s death in 1986. 
Through Peter Hardy, Bruce met a wide range of other enthusiasts, including Omnibus Society North Western Branch founder member Jack Baker. He joined the OS in 1943 and was one of its longest-standing members at the time of his death. He acted as the Branch’s visits secretary for a short time, helping to organise a fine array of summer visits that reached, in that pre-motorway era, as far as Darlington and Northampton. In the winter he was involved in arranging a programme of meetings with guest speakers. He subscribed to Buses Illustrated from its first edition in 1949 and it was fitting that the month he died coincided with the current buses calendar displaying a picture of Wallasey PD2 No 54. 

His first piece of published work was an article about Bere Regis and District which he wrote for Modern Transport while based at Salisbury during the latter years of the war, for which he was paid £5. He followed this up with a piece on Kenya Buses when posted to that country by the army in 1945–47. With respect to the bus industry, in his own words he had become: ‘interested in everything but as a consequence became expert on nothing’. He therefore made the decision to concentrate on the Merseyside area because that was what he knew best and began work in the early 1950s on what was much later to emerge as the five volume Liverpool Transport series, jointly authored with John Horne. He revelled in making new discoveries from minute books or other records, and in debunking some oft-repeated untrue statement. His first publication was a booklet in 1958 for the Omnibus Society on Transport in 
Rochdale and District, much of this being based on material left to the OS through the estate of a deceased member who had been researching the subject. This was followed soon afterwards by one on Local Transport in Birkenhead and District based on Bruce’s own research. He went on to author or co-author a total of 28 books during his lifetime. 
Through well-known Liverpool photographer and enthusiast Norman Forbes, Bruce was introduced to John Horne, who Forbes was aware was ploughing a similar furrow with respect to research on Liverpool. The Horne/Maund partnership produced the first volume of Liverpool Transport in 1975 (published by the LRTL) and the lavish set of books – including a significantly rewritten version of the first volume in 1995 – stands as probably the most thorough piece of published transport research on any UK city. It was all the more remarkable for the fact that for the majority of the period Bruce was living in South Africa and much of his contribution to the research was conducted on trips back to the UK, where he and Kay would work as a team at the Public Record Office and local archives to record as much information as they could in their limited time available.

Following his return to the UK in retirement, Bruce’s output averaged almost a book a year, with detailed books on Crosville, Ribble and St Helens (the latter jointly with Mervyn Ashton) and a series of illustrated soft-backed books for a Wirral-based publisher of local interest titles. Although predominantly targeted towards buses, his researches widened to cover titles on tramways (a Birkenhead and Wallasey title with Martin Jenkins in 1987), two volumes on Mersey Ferries (the second one again jointly with Martin Jenkins), and three railway books. He was persuaded to write up some of his previously unpublished material on Birkenhead and early bus services in South Lancashire and these were published by the Omnibus Society, the latter being his final title in 2011. He also undertook editing work for publishers such as Venture Publications and NBC Books, and was often asked to provide text verification for other transport titles. 
This prodigious volume of published work is a fitting legacy to a man who devoted a large part of his life to his research and, importantly, ensured it reached a wide public. Although at times appearing stern – and with what could be viewed as unreconstructed opinions forged in different times – Bruce was loyal to his friends and colleagues and a devoted family man. He is survived by his two sons Derek and Philip, granddaughter Vanessa and great-grandsons Liam and Ethan.

Charles Roberts and Ken Swallow     


  1. Tony - all respect to the bus dudes!

  2. A wonderful post sir! I could not agree more with your about these "quiet achievers" who collect, preserve and document so much of our past.

  3. Sadly there seems to be a lack of people like T.B.Maund nowadays , even though I'm not interested in buses I can appreciate his scholarship. Tony

  4. Thank you, gentlemen, for appreciative comments. Under my ongoing "Small World" heading, I have to record that Iain emailed to say that he was at school with Maund's son in South Africa. That's pretty good, isn't it?

  5. Thanks very much for posting this. I have the 5-volume Liverpool Transport history and they have given me an enormous amount of Nerdy pleasure over the years, but I never knew anything about the man himself. It was satisfying to learn more about his life, and nice to see such a moving tribute to a man who contributed so much to the hobby.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch. As I said in my post, I did not know the man, and thus my tribute to him is more to the spirit of what he represents than to an individual. Hobbies are hobbies, and everyone's priorities are subjective, but love and dedication are sacred in any context, and in its way Maund's legacy represents some of the glory of the human mind. I did not know Maund, but I knew my cousin very well - we were very close - he was the lifelong bus fanatic, and he is mentioned as one of the acknowledgements in a couple of Maund's books, as a supplier of official archives. It is largely on behalf of my late cousin that the post was put together.

      Best regards - MSF