Most firms would kill to get the approval ratings that Silver Star of Caernarfon do.
People today stood outside their offices on the town’s square and told me how they loved to travel with them – how wherever they went in the world, they took that close knit Caernarfon atmosphere with them – how friendly the drivers were, how good the service was. And on the other side of the door, the sign told all the world that the recession, or slump, or however you want to put what we’re going through right now, meant they had ceased trading.
If you’d walked round town a couple of years ago you’d have nipped into Woolies – then passed by this and never thought that either could ever go. Silver Star were around as long as Woolworths, venerable institutions in their nineties. The name had started in Caernarfon just after the armistice – the first world war one, not the second.
At their yard, the locks are locked, the bolts shut tight: the sad sight of coaches that won’t travel under a name they’ve carried for long working lives. People will get their money back – Silver Star have been phoning the hundreds of travellers who were off to the X factor, or on a specially Welsh themed guided tour of London. For many that seems to be a minor annoyance: they’re mourning the loss of the company they kept.
One pensioner high up in Colwyn Bay, Ifan – rocked back in his chair and told me what the trips were like – how cosy the whole things were, how no trouble was spared; how they once ate dinner at the Houses of Parliament – how much camaraderie a coach trip could bring. A lot of little shuttles from Wales going round Europe – or past Anne Hathaway’s cottage – or the Pulteney Square of Bath. He was grieving: by the note pinned in Silver Star’s window, the owner was too.
‘It is with deep regret after 93 years of trading……’ – years travelling past Charlie Chaplin at the flicks and the working men who weren’t finding work in the thirties, and the squaddies pressed into the second world war, past Teddy Boys and Denis Compton advertising Brylcreem and the Space Race and the fall of Nixon and the rise of Wales’ own language and on – everyone assumed – towards the next time Caernarfon would be crowded for an investiture; and all that history has fallen into the hands of the receivers.
People queued up to check the notice just to see if they could believe it, and wandered away, not sure if they did. And if that sounds like nostalgia, then look up what nostalgia really and literally means – it isn’t merely memory, it’s literally the pain of an unhealed wound. The shutters are up. Another gap for the high street.