The Robert Grieves Photographic Archive

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"Probably the most extensive collection of Scottish road transport images in private hands......a collection of this type relies on a lifelong dedicated enthusiasm which is volunteered"

So said  Nicholas Oddie a Consultant from Bonhams the Auctioneers when he first saw Robert Grieves' vast Collection of motoring transport images. Robert Grieves has had a mission in his life - to record and preserve Scotland's motoring history. He has collected photographs and ephemera for over 40 years. He started collecting  when he was 10. His lifetimes dedication has produced an Archive of extraordinary width and breadth covering every aspect of Scottish road transport.
The Heritage Lottery fund went further and described the Collection as "A collection of historic merit and importance that should be housed properly and conserved as a single collection and not dispersed" This unique collection is now being preserved, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, by the Scottish Motor Museum Trust, in the Vale of Leven and it will now be preserved in it entirety and will not  be dispersed.But this is not just a collection of bus or motor car images, it is much more. It is an archive of social history showing how life changed with the time the motor arrived. Robert has described his collection as "like a tour around Scotland showing glimpses of our motoring past"; for unlike many motoring archives Robert's vehicles are shown in real locations, all giving a strong Scottish appeal.

Robert collecting began in the 50s when, like many others small boys, he was given a camera, a Kodak Brownie, and started taking his own photographs. His hobby was identifying buses and he added written captions to his photographs. The photographic collection grew, he went to his local bus companies, Cunninghams of Paisley, Patons of Renfrew and Smiths of Barrhead - all now long absorbed into larger companies.
He begged and was given old unwanted photographs and ephemera. The "archive" history of these companies is now preserved and illustrated in The Robert Grieves Archive, and probably no where else - without Roberts young enthusiasm much of the illustrated history of Scotland motoring past would have been lost forever.
Here are to be found the early bus companies who gave the masses of Scotland cheap transport and a chance for the first time to get to know their own countryside. Railway lines were few and far between. No longer were the working classes  restricted to visiting an area within walking or bicycling distance of their own village or town. The bicycle boom encouraged exploration but it was the cheap charabanc of the 20s that opened up Scotland. Robert's Archive shows us these real people, the places they went to and, of course, the vehicles they travelled about in.In the 60s the Paisley bus companies got used to seeing the enthusiastic schoolboy Robert Grieves in their depots. They began to hear about his collection of old photographs, postcards and timetables - and gave him more and so the collection moved from a shoebox into a few folding files. At 17 Robert's Collection became local news when the Paisley Daily Express carried a story about the Photographic Collection and Robert buying a 1930 Albion bus for restoration!
And so the collection grew, Robert's interest expanded;  commercial vehicles were added to the bus collection and then cars. When Robert first started collecting buses and lorries they were still being made in Scotland by the world famous Albion company. Car production was long gone, but soon to see a brief revival  with the Rootes Bros car factory in Linwood. The Imps made there are not forgotten in the Robert Grieves Collection. The Collection now covers cars both of Scottish and English origin.
When Robert left school he went to work in the office of Western SMT (Scottish Motor Traction), a bus company of course. One of his tasks  was to accompany the depots taking's on a special bus run to the bank. Robert, forever looking at the chance of a photograph, couldn't resist the opportunity of adding this bus to his collection. He asked the driver   if he, himself, could move the bus into a good position for a photograph. Unfortunately Robert had no driving licence and few driving skills. His attempt to move the bus resulted in hitting a high kerb and losing control he and the bus descended 20 ft down a grassy bank - no photos exist. The bus had to be towed out - for Robert the result was worse - a court appearance and a driving ban for 6th months. This 18 year old who couldn't drive made the decision to move jobs. Despite this experience, or perhaps because of it, the Archive has a fascinating selection of pictures of vehicle accidents and crashes!
Robert moved to Grahams of Hawkshead as a conductor and office boy and then moved to Mcbraynes buses where he conducted on the Glasgow to Tarbet route over the Rest and be Thankful, starting at at 9.30 in the morning finishing at Tarbert at 6.30.
The photo collection expanded and at 21  Robert was at last legally allowed to take his public service vehicle licence - with the General Bus Company in Glasgow. Three years later, he left for Australia on the 10 assisted passage scheme, his photo collection left in good keeping for his return. He arrived in Melbourne as a tram driver and soon moved to Sydney and Brisbane to drive buses. A few years later he returned to Scotland travelling overland via Singapore, Afghanistan and India,  by bus, of course.

The most valuable single items in the collection are probably the minute books of the various now defunct Scottish bus companies. These documents are in effect public property and now preserved for historians in the future.  Robert even collected his own vintage car a 1922 Bullnose Morris, which he restored  It had belonged to two farming sisters who had owned the cars for 35 years.
Encouraged by others Robert started to write articles for magazines and even publish his own books using his vast Archive. At first these were specialist bus publications but in 1988 a general motoring book appeared, Motoring Memories - dedicated to those "who reminisce about their first car". The 5000 printed sold quickly.

Robert Grieves died in Dec 2009 of terminal cancer. He was still collecting photos and working on his books. He will be much missed.

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