Colins Place
© Colin Parker
Shamrock & Rambler
Fleet History

   Shamrock & Rambler Coaches stemmed from a business started in 1885 and motorized in 1913, by William J. Whitelock. His Shamrock coaches had joined forces with Ransom & Moncktons "Bournemouth Rambler", in April 1924, in order to present a greater challenge to Elliott's burgeoning "Royal Blue". Charlie Pounds, having driven horse-drawn coaches for Elliott's, finally motorized his father's tours business in 1919. His firm eventually came under Shamrock & Rambler's control in June 1963. Shamrock & Rambler's orange and cream livery was a result of the surrender of a controlling interest in the company to Keith & Boyle (London) Ltd, in 1929, when an express service from Bournemouth to London commenced in competition with Royal Blue and, later, offices for tours and excursions were opened  in Southampton. Thus Shamrock & Rambler became a subsidiary of Keith & Boyles "Orange Luxury Coaches" until 1952, when control passed to a joint management of representatives from the George Ewer group and the United Service Transport Company Ltd.

    It was the sale of United Service Transport shares in the company to Tilling Association Ltd, in 1966, which effectively nationalised Shamrock & Rambler Coaches Ltd, together with its subsidiary Charlie's Cars (Bournemouth) Ltd. Both the orange and cream and "Charlie's Cars" plum and spilt milk liveries, would last for another six years before uniformity set in. On 8th July 1966, Hants & Dorset directors David Deacon, Douglas Morison and Thomas Pruett were appointed directors of both coaching concerns and management of their affairs was transferred to the Square.

    Between 1967, when the Transport Holding Company purchased four small coach firms on the Isle of  Wight, and 1969 when the incumbent Southern Vectis Omnibus Company Ltd took control, the Hants & Dorset management enjoyed a foothold on the other side of the Solent through the medium of "Shamrock & Rambler (THC) Ltd", set up to establish the "orange ands cream" upon that island.

    The Southampton based Shamrock & Rambler tours fleet of seven coaches was subsumed under the Hants & Dorset's in May 1969, which transferred four of its own into Shamrock & Rambler livery to augment it. There were plans to expand this process but, in keeping with the foot shuffling which began to afflict the industry, they were all back under the control of Shamrock & Rambler by August 1973.

    The National Bus Company established the Central Activities Group, following its decision to place the express services and long distance tours of its subsidiary companies into one easily recognisable and marketable entity. Both Hants & Dorset and Shamrock & Rambler's coaches were painted into the standardised overall white livery, the Shamrock & Rambler vehicles leaving Hants & Dorset control in 1974 and joining the separate National Travel (South West) Ltd, but with a coach station still at Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth.

    In May 1981, the renamed National Travel (West) Ltd, placed all its local bases under the control of the local NBC subsidiary. The whole of the Shamrock & Rambler fleet, based at Bournemouth and Southampton, came under the control of Hants & Dorset. This included its allocation of 39 vehicles, which were renumbered into the Hants & Dorset series, and bolstered by the coaches owned by Hants & Dorset and used on coach hire, excursions and tours. The vehicle fleet then comprised of Leyland Leopards, of various sub types, with bodywork by Duple, ECW, Plaxton and Willowbrook.

    On 1st April 1983, Hants & Dorset was split into three service bus operating companies, an engineering company and one coach operating company, Shamrock and Rambler. Its headquarters were based at Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth. Also acquired was the coach operations in the Southampton area. In 1984, this was separated and transferred to a small coach operation, Pilgrims Coaches Ltd, closely associated with Hampshire Bus. Shamrock & Rambler therefore concentrated its operations upon Bournemouth.

    With deregulation in October 1986, it reintroduced the name of a subsidiary company, Charlie's Cars, for a new venture, the operation of green & white minibuses on local services in Bournemouth Poole and Christchurch, an operation which was to expand considerably during 1987. Shamrock & Rambler Coaches Ltd, was purchased by Drawlane Ltd, a subsidiary of Endless Holdings of Salisbury, on 6th July 1987. In December 1988, it was decided to abandon the Charlie's Cars operation, most of the drivers were taken on by Bournemouth Transport, for its short lived "Yellow Flyers" operation. Shamrock & Rambler tried a short lived service bus operation, S & R Buses, using ten Leyland Nationals, in its green & white livery, but gave up to concentrate on coaching operations. This decision coincided with a slump in the popularity of coach tours and private hire. The loss of the National Express contracts at the end of April 1989, therefore led to the closure of the business on 29th April that year.

    A new company, Dorset Travel Services Ltd, was set up by National Express, to take over the contracts, and some of the vehicles, previously run by Shamrock & Rambler. Dorset Travel Services became a subsidiary of Bournemouth Transport Ltd, the former Bournemouth Corporation Transport Department, in April 1992,  and amalgamated with its Yellow Coaches operations, from Bournemouth.