A Facebook advertisement declares that Bus Éireann is twenty-five years old this week: twenty-five years since February 1987, the month when Garrett Fitzgerald lost power to Charles J. Haughey; twenty-five years since Córas Iompair Éireann was split into three to create Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus.
Bus Éireann seemed always a rather half-hearted attempt at a name for a bus company, though given the failed attempts at rebranding public companies in Britain (remember Consignia?), perhaps something dull and predictable was advisable. For a Sasanach, Bus Éireann never had the full-blooded Gaelic feel of Córas Iompair Éireann, nor would it ever have the same memories.
CIE was at the heart of my introduction to Ireland. Arriving at the end of August 1981 and buying a fifteen day travel pass, the CIE buses brought us to a place very different from the England from which we had travelled.
A CIE bus took us to Kildare, where we found the cathedral closed and the Japanese Garden an uninteresting prospect, and caught the next bus back. A CIE bus took us from Cork to an unspoiled Kinsale and back to Cork, having stayed in Summer Cove. A CIE bus took us from Cork to Killarney over roads the like of which is now a fading memory. A CIE bus took us out the Cahirciveen road and dropped us at the road for Aghadoe, where a wasp sting at a youth hostel brought a journey back to the hospital in Killarney and an invitation from a group of young women to abandon our planned itinerary and instead travel westward with them.
A CIE bus travelling west on the Ring of Kerry lulled an anti-histamine dosed, twenty-year old student to sleep, while his companions chatted and enjoyed the beauty of the landscape, only to be woken when the bus reached Cahirciveen and the group left it to walk to the ferry for Valentia.
A CIE bus returned the party to Killarney, and another took them to Cork, and one the following day took them to Kinsale; the two young Englishmen presenting themselves a seasoned experts on the ancient town.
Two days later, a CIE bus would take the Englishmen away to Cork for the train to Dublin, from where they would travel to Dun Laoghaire for the ferry that would take them away from Ireland. The departure from Kinsale would be as the end of a story, a long since lost photograph pictured a dejected-looking Englishman sitting with his back pack on a wall in the Co Cork town.
But it was not to be the end and there would be many encounters with CIE in the years that followed, and even the beauty of the Irish Setter used as a logo by Bus Éireann cannot match the dull CIE wheel for the romance of its memories.