A poem by Abe Gibson that tells the story of Britain’s first black bus driver - Joe Clough

Adaptation for the stage by Neil Gore

A magic lantern show: with original artwork by Scarlett Rickard and new music by Tayo Akinbode

When hundreds of people travelled from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad to work on London’s transport network and drive London’s buses, following a recruitment drive between 1956 and 1970, little did they realise they were following in the footsteps of London’s first black bus driver, Joe Clough, who drove his General Omnibus Company B-type bus from Liverpool Street to Wormwood Scrubs through the heart of London from 1910 to 1914

Joe was a driver. First, a horse and carriage driver in Jamaica, before moving to Britain with his employer, and learning to drive new motorcars. He passed his omnibus driving test in 1910, and drove field ambulances in Ypres during the First World War. After the war, Joe made his home with his family in Bedford, driving for the National Omnibus Company, before buying his own taxi after the Second World War, which he drove until his retirement in the 1960s.

Screenshot 2021 01 15 at 14.32.22

 He is remembered with great affection in Bedford to this day, as a modest, kind and gentle man. However modest his achievements may appear to be, Joe Clough was a trailblazer; his contribution a testament to his determination to confront those that aimed to deny equality of status and opportunity for black people during his lifetime. It reveals too his resolve to confront barriers placed in his way to attempt to belittle him or diminish his ambitions and the world in which he lived.