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

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS & IM­AGES GREG KEANE

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 aeld 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 Denex 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, prota­ble 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

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