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Forty years since Cork made history with first female bus conductors

Forty years ago today, Cork made history by becoming the first place in Ireland to hire female bus conductors.

On July 18, 1979, Maura Wallace, Geraldine Horgan and Angela Stout began work as bus conductors employed by Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE) in Cork city.

The women were employed under the same conditions as the male conductors, earning the same wages and wearing the same uniforms.

All three women were attached to the Capwell CIE depot in Cork at a time when there were no female bus conductors employed in Dublin.

Geraldine Horgan was a former hospital attendant, Angela Stout was a former bus conductor on London Transport and Maura Wallace held a Diploma in Youth and Community Work.

Geraldine passed away in 2008 but speaking to The Echo, her daughter Erika Ní Thuama, said it is great to know her mother is part of history.

“It was a big thing to have three women starting at that time and breaking down barriers in that way.

“I have one memory of being on a bus around that time that my mom was driving but I don’t remember many other female drivers at the time or even in the years after.

“Even now, it’s still a rare thing in Cork,” she added.

“It’s something that my mom always instilled in us growing up, that we could do anything we want, and she meant it.

“She went into this industry that was male-dominated and did what she did at a time when female workers in the CIE were usually working in the office, not out as bus conductors or drivers.

“So from that point of view, she always told us to push on and that we could do whatever we wanted.

“She definitely wasn’t one for listening to people telling her she couldn’t do something - if that happened, it would have made her more determined to do exactly that,” said Erika.

Around two years after becoming a conductor, Geraldine went on to drive the number two bus in Cork, making her one of the first female bus drivers in Ireland.

Geraldine Horgan (centre) who made history as one of the first first female bus conductors in Ireland and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in the country.
Geraldine Horgan (centre) who made history as one of the first first female bus conductors in Ireland and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in the country.

“She used to drive the number two bus which was a double-decker that went down the Convent Road,” said Erika.

“So when I was learning how to drive, one of her favourite lines was ‘I could drive a double-decker down here, you can at least get a car down it’.

“That was one of her favourite lines when you were out in the car with her,” she added.

“She could be driving up Sunday’s Well and she was stuck behind someone, she’d be saying ‘ah for god’s sake, I used to get a double-decker up here, would you come on’.

“She’d use lines like that all the time,” laughed Erika.

“We were always reminded that our mom was one of the first female conductors and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in Ireland.

Erika revealed that it was in fact how her parents met.

“Dad was actually a mechanic with CIE and when mom was out driving one day, the bus broke down and he was called out to fix it,” she said.

“So that’s how they met.” 

Geraldine Horgan, who made history as one of the first first female bus conductors in Ireland and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in the country, on her wedding day with her father Larry. Geraldine travelled to her wedding on a bus.
Geraldine Horgan, who made history as one of the first first female bus conductors in Ireland and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in the country, on her wedding day with her father Larry. Geraldine travelled to her wedding on a bus.

While Geraldine was the only one from her side of the family to work with buses, Erika said it is easy to see where she got her enthusiasm for driving from.

"Her dad, my grandad, owned a car garage out in Kerry Pike that my uncle owns now and they were always around cars growing up,” she explained.

“My grandad was a big hot rod fan and driver and they used to go rally’s the whole time.

“I don’t know how she managed to end up on the buses but I can see where that early influence came from,” she laughed.

“On my dad’s side, his brother worked in CIE and Bus Eireann for many years and his dad was involved on the trains so it was definitely a family thing on his side.” 

Geraldine Horgan, who made history as one of the first first female bus conductors in Ireland and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in the country, with her late husband Danny Twomey.
Geraldine Horgan, who made history as one of the first first female bus conductors in Ireland and then went on to become one of the first female bus drivers in the country, with her late husband Danny Twomey.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 18 July 1979 captured footage of Geraldine, Angela and Maura in training for their new roles as bus conductors.