National Express has honoured a retired driver on his 84th birthday for his bravery on the night of the Birmingham pub bombings back in 1974.
Anthony (Tony) Gaynor worked as a bus driver for over 20 years out of the garage in Hockley. On November 21 1974, he was driving his bus past the Mulberry Bush pub in the Rotunda in central Birmingham just at the exact time the first of the terrorist pub bombs went off.
“I thought at first someone had crashed into the back of my bus,” Tony explained. “It was such a terrific bang.
“It was only when I got off the bus and saw the damage from the shrapnel that I realised it was something else. Shortly afterwards, the other bomb went off and people quickly left the area, leaving me to look after those that were injured on my bus, including my conductress.
“It was only some time later that I realised I too had been injured by the flying metal. I was told later that if it had been an eighteenth of an inch nearer, I might have had it.”
Although in shock, Tony helped all his passengers and his conductress off the bus and helped find taxis to take them to hospital. He then stayed with his bus for two hours before returning to the garage with the night’s takings and ending his shift properly. He then turned up to work the next day exactly as if nothing had happened.
“I don’t feel that I’m a hero,” he said. “I think this is something that any bus driver, then or now, would do.”
The explosions that night killed 21 people and 182 were injured. 10 people died in the Mulberry Bush pub.
Richard Smith, from National Express’ Pensnett bus garage, presented Tony with a special certificate of thanks. The bus company also took Tony and his family on a personal trip in one of its newest buses.
“I’m delighted that we had the opportunity to say thank you to Tony for his bravery and his dedication to his passengers, and to give him a special treat on his 84th birthday,” said Richard.
“Today has been a great experience for me and my family,” Tony said. “I worked on the buses in both Dublin and Birmingham and I have to say, I always preferred driving in Birmingham. I really loved my job.”
Pictured above: National Express' Richard Smith and 84-year-old Anthony Gaynor
Published 2nd February 2016