'Iconic' Leyland National buses return to Whitehaven, as its first ever passenger recreates journey

Fifty years ago, Leyland National buses were introduced to West Cumbria. Made at the Lillyhall factory, its first journey was from Workington to Whitehaven.

This weekend (30 April - 1 May), the anniversary is being celebrated with a free 'Leyland National 50' event in Whitehaven by the Workington Transport Heritage Trust.

Around 30 vintage Leyland buses will be on show at the Whitehaven harbour, alongside a continental festival.

Ahead of the event, on Thursday (28 April), those who helped bring these buses to our roads, came together to recreate that historic first journey, with the oldest surviving Cumberland.

One of those was June Begg. At four years old, she was the first person to get on the Leyland national back in 1972.

She travelled to Lowca from Workington bus station to visit her Aunt.

"People couldn't imagine, who were younger than me, how amazing a bus was in 1972"

June said: "We didn't go anywhere, we didn't have a car, we didn't have a telephone. So this huge beautiful red thing pulling in, was really phenomenal.

"My sister and I being small children, we loved the sensation of going round a corner and sliding over the seats. Because of course, the seats were quite shiny in those days.

"It was like a fairground ride, but I think during this journey, I'm pretty sure my mum was saying 'sit down, keep quiet!'"

Leyland buses were made at the Lillyhall factory until the early 90s, but was troubled by a turbulent history - with takeovers and recessions hitting the company hard.

Nevertheless, they had a reputation of being incredible durable and top quality engineering. And were a much loved feature of Cumbrian public transport.

Ken Hargreaves worked on the testing of these buses at the Leyland factory site. They tested the vehicles in arctic conditions in Lapland, and hot climate testing in Spain.

The company even pushed the bus off a cliff to see how it could withstand a fall. Ken said the buses always fared better than ever thought.

"In between times there was a lot of endurance testing," said Ken. "Ultimately there was a big investment in buses at that time."