More than 150 people gathered at Acacia Ridge Hotel in Brisbane on June 17 to mark 60 years since the first Denning bus
Arguably no Australian coach builder has left more of a legacy than the late Alan B. Denning
More than 150 people gathered at Acacia Ridge Hotel in Brisbane on June 17 to mark 60 years since the rst Denning bus. Memories were shared by past and current owners and former Denning staff alike, and the camaraderie was something that you couldn’t fake, even if the ribbing was less than gentle at times!
In many ways, Denning is a symbol of the golden era of coaches in Australia. This was an age when many of the ‘roads’ in central and northern Australia were untamed by sealed surfaces, 4x4s were largely used for work, serious off-road caravans did not exist, and there were far less regional airports capable of handling large aeroplanes. Buses evolved from servicing suburban and school routes, day charters and inter-city work, giving birth to luxury coaches taking regular organised tour groups on the adventure of a lifetime, to parts of Australia that had not previously been readily accessible.
On the day, stories were told of up to 60 coaches parked up at Uluru (then known as Ayers Rock), a classic image of a coach (Denning, of course!) launching itself over a sand hill, and an abundance of images of coaches parked up when the road was a boggy mess – or brushing past trees on narrow tracks with not a sealed road in sight. In this era, inter- city coaches also carried a lot of the parcel freight.
Although other types of buses
bore the Denning name, it was the touring coaches that established the reputation that saw family, past employees and a host of owners, drivers and enthusiasts come together to celebrate Alan Denning and the coaches that bore his name.
The Denning coaches were strong and reliable enough to conquer the challenges of this demanding application, and the condition of the coaches on display at the reunion – many of them still in active service despite their age – is testament to the build qualities of a Denning.
ORDER OF THE DAY
Saturday started with a viewing of the diverse display of buses of various vintages that occupied a carpark, and had come from as far aeld as Melbourne.
The display comprised: • Fully restored 1987 Denning
Landseer, Blanch’s, Ballina • Denning Majestic on Leyland Tiger chassis, Thompsons, Strathpine • Fully restored Landseer converted to motorhome, Greg McKay, Gladstone • Landseer, Logan Coaches • Landseer – star of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, Stan Biega, Sydney • 1978 Denning air-spring coach,
Sexton’s, Paterson (NSW) • 1983 Den-Air, Dyson Group,
Victoria • 1978 Denning on Hino chassis and 2010 Denning Manufacturing Phoenix, Haidley’s, Warwick • 1975 Dennmak, South Bundy
Buses, Bundaberg • Queensland Omnibus & Coach Society Inc. (QOCS) – exBrisbane City Council bus that shuttled guests between the nearby motel and venue, and 1983 Denning Denex donated by the Proston Country Bus Service. The $2600 proceeds of the memorabilia auction are being channelled into restoration of this bus. This display was complemented by an abundance of memorabilia – A.B. Denning memorabilia such as company ties, commemorative glasses and mirrors, bus scale models, brochures, photo albums and other items from the companies who operated, and still operate, Denning buses. Much of this was supplied or organised by Eric Horder. This material was scattered around the room in which the talks were delivered, and drew a constant audience throughout the day. Select memorabilia and some wine was auctioned by Stan Biega, who donated the model collection that attracted the highest bid.
Dick White, the driving force behind the reunion, opened proceedings with a welcome that was followed by a talk by former managing director Ted Rolls, who worked his way up from a subcontractor electrician to employee to supervision, and then to the top job after Alan Denning’s nal departure in 1975.
Ted saw Denning as a strong, protable business with a good apprenticeship system (17 in training at a time), WHS systems that were ahead of their time, and a strong, well-designed product that was widely supported.
Following this, Alan’s wife Joan cut the giant cake that celebrated the occasion, with slices distributed at morning tea. Joan attended for the full day and night, accompanied by son Wade.
Both Wade and Nick Wilson,
Rear (L-R) Stan Biega, Dick White, Nick Wilson, Pete White. Front (L-R) Graham Bristow, Graham Kircher, Lorraine Douglas-Smith Graham Bristow in front of QOCS’ Denflex bus Joan Denning cutting the anniversary cake with son Wade looking on