In the years following the First World War the char-a-banc outing became popular with the public - for many this was their first taste of travel and the new found freedom it brought to the masses. Many enterprising men set up in business to provide for this newly developing market - amongst them one Frederick Cecil Hoare who commenced trading on the Isle of Portland in 1924.
Searching for a novel name to distinguish the business from the local competition ("you gotta have an angle!") he happened upon a four-penny tin of chocolate toffees - the once famous "Blue Bird Toffees" of our childhood. And so it was that the name BLUEBIRD COACHES was to become synonymous with Portland and Weymouth all those years later.
Starting with a small Fiat char-a-banc, business was brisk and soon demanded that a Crossley and later a Ford were added to the fleet.
Compared to the hi-tech, luxury coaches of today the vehicles of that period were very basic, but tours to such exotic destinations as Cheddar Caves and the New Forest were readily undertaken with a spirit of adventure! By the late 1920's the first "all-weather" covered coach appeared - an unbelievable luxury in its day. In 1931 Bluebird joined two other Portland operators, Fancy and Tolman in the "Portland Express" syndicate, running a bus service in opposition to Southern National. The competition was fierce and lasted until 1936 when Southern National bought the service out. Fancy and Tolman retired from the coach business, while Hoare kept one Bedford coach that had not been included in the take-over, and immediately purchased a Dennis Lancet coach using his portion of the sale proceeds. The following year another Bedford coach was acquired in order to cope with the growing private hire, tours and Naval leave services.
Unfortunately for Southern National, they had not taken the precaution of acquiring Hoares' Express Service license at the time of the syndicate take-over. They now found themselves in direct competition with him again for the Naval leave services operating from Portland Dockyard. Having already removed the "Portland Express" undertaking at great expense they were now back to square one! When the matter was referred to the Traffic Commissioners there was a different interpretation of the terms of the license between the Western Area and South Eastern Area commissioners. Both parties appealed against the decisions of both commissioners - the result going in favour of Bluebird, who were allowed to continue with their service.
The outbreak of war in September 1939 could well have brought operations to an end, but shortly after local press adverts stated that Bluebird Coaches were still available for private hire and Naval leave services. In 1940 the opportunity to acquire the coaches and premises of Monarch Coaches of Chickerell brought Bluebird to Weymouth. Within weeks of moving into their new depot the two best coaches of the fleet had been requisitioned by the Army, following the fall of Dunkirk. Contract work transporting workmen on various Government contracts kept the remainder of the coach fleet busy until the end of the war.
In 1946 a small excursion programme was offered for sale to holiday-makers at the entrance to Westham Coach Park, and as restrictions eased, further vehicles were added to the fleet as Bluebird became the leading coach operator in the town.
In 1951 the first "full-fronted" coach was purchased (up to that time all coaches had been of the "half-cab" design or with protruding bonnets) this new innovation being a Leyland Royal Tiger with a Plaxton 41 seat body. It was the first of its type in the area, turned heads whenever it drove past, and proved extremely popular with the travelling public. With son Trevor and his wife Margaret now actively involved in the business continued to thrive with the introduction of holidays at first in the UK and then further afield to Europe. Above all else, this was the foundation which lead to a reputation for up-to-date highly specified vehicles, presented to a high standard in their distinctive livery - a reputation which is jealously guarded and maintained by the present generation of the Hoare family.
Following Cecils untimely death Margaret and Trevor continued to run the business moving to new premises as the business grew. They were joined by their two sons Stephen and Martyn during the 1980s both working both in the workshops and driving coaches. Their daughter Elaine worked alongside Margaret in the Weymouth Office now moved from Westham Coach Park to its current location on the Esplanade. During this time the Private Hire business continued to thrive alongside the day tours, holidays and School Contract work.
With Margaret and Trevor passing the reins to Steve and Martyn in 1985 the business continued to adapt to the changing market. The appointment of a Tours Manager in 2001 led to the first full colour brochure and an increased holiday programme. In 2012 the business was proud to be involved with the Olympics transporting Police Officers from all parts of Dorset to their duties around the Sailing events. In challenging economic times the business continued to adapt and thrive. In 2013 the business was delighted to welcome the fourth generation in the form of Martyns Daughter Gemma to the business as Commercial Manager. In 2015 the company was delighted to announce they were the chosen coach supplier of new promoted AFC Bournemouth to the Premiership supporters.
We continue with our policy of providing first class service with a fleet of state of the art vehicles all maintained by our team of highly qualified engineers. We continue to advance our IT systems with online booking now available for all our day trips and holidays and online quotations. We will however always pride ourselves on the personal touch and welcome visitors to our Weymouth office and telephone enquiries.
Bluebird has always kept abreast of the latest trends in the coaching business, changing to suit the requirements and expectations of the travelling public. Today the day trip to Cheddar or Evening Mystery Tour do not hold the attraction that they did 50 years ago, although there is still a demand for day trips. Extended UK and European holidays, Private Hire & School Contracts now form a large part of the company's operations, and although Westham Coach Park is now buried deep under the Weymouth by-pass, the business is still very much alive and at the forefront of coach travel in Dorset today, 94 years after its formation.