ONE of Leeside's best-known barbers taxied elderly clients to and from their houses yesterday to lighten the load during Cork's bus strike.
The “On the Buses” team went off the beaten track this week to find out how the industrial dispute was affecting Blackpool locals.
Many of those stranded were thankful for the kind gestures of well-known community figures.
Owner of the Baldy Barber in Blackpool, Mick Moriarty, was up against the clock as he transported elderly clients determined to make their appointments.
Michelle Brooks from Knocknaheeny, who is employed by Mr Moriarty, shared his sentiment.
“I also work in a salon in town and the footfall has decreased quite dramatically,” she said.
“It's hard on the elderly people. I don't know who they rely on to be honest, especially when there aren't a lot of private buses outside the city.”
Her colleague Alex Karkalas from Bantry agreed, adding: “People are always going to need buses so the strike is having a huge impact.”
Barber, Dorota Kowackiewicz remarked on the quietness in the village.
“Everything is different now and it's all very quiet. I always prefer when it's busy.”
Bill Dunlea, who owns the nearby cafe the Coffee Pot, was feeling positive in spite of the negative effect on business.
“This has affected business, very noticeably so,” he said.
“We have experienced a 20% drop in customers.”
This won't be the first time Mr Dunlea has overcome adversity.
“We lost 80pc of our customers overnight after the closure of the local post office a few years ago. At that time I didn't think we'd survive.”
The difficult period only made the family more determined.
“My son Stephen used to run the place with us. It gave him the push he needed. Now, he owns Ruth's Diner in the Marina Commercial Park with his partner which is doing really well. We stuck things out and find that in recent years a number of young couples from abroad have moved to the area. The Italians and Polish seem to be more into coffee than most so this has really stood to us.”
Despite a decrease in customers at his cafe, Bill is supportive of Bus Éireann drivers.
“Nobody wants to take cuts, especially when there's an upturn. We're being told the recession is over so it just doesn't add up.”
Passerby, Ciarán Donovan from Sunday's Well also voiced his support.
“It's unfair to have the buses in competition with private companies. Private buses have the option to cherry pick routes inevitably affecting rural places where there are two little old ladies at every bus stop.
“I believe this should be a public service on par with healthcare and education. We can't have an organisation like this that's strictly commercial. The world keeps changing but we need to maintain the service for people who need it most.”
Tadhg O'Leary, who owns O'Shea's Pharmacy in Blackpool was availing of the “quiet time” to get to know his customers.
“One of the nice things about working here is the broad range of characters we come across during a working day,” he said. “It's amazing the number of fascinating stories we hear just while waiting for prescriptions. One of our customers was an airforce commander who used to fly around Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - with supplies. He told of how he would fill his pockets with cash and do a few laps of the village to signal to locals that he needed help with unloading. Once they knew there was a job going they would come tearing over. Everyone lined up and he would hand them out cash to unload the plane.”
Tadhg found himself entertained by some interesting stories inside the pharmacy too.
“We recently had a work experience student who hailed from East Tennesse. The characters were quite taken aback when she told them about her life back home. Many of the locals were shocked to learn that sometimes after work she enjoys going bear hunting.”
Tony McGrath from Dublin Hill shared his thoughts on the strike after leaving mass in Blackpool.
“The drivers had to go on strike, they were losing too much money. It's still tough on people who have to get to work. I have a car myself but it's hard for those forced to climb uphill with the messages.”