*Eamonn Glenny, Cian Crimmins, Shane Óg Brigdale, Julian Crimmins, Eddie Brigdale, Shane Brigdale, Ann Marie Crimmins, Ruairí Crimmins and Daragh Crimmins of Brigdale Coaches. Photograph: Natasha Barton
BRIGDALE COACHES were toasted among the best in the country at the Fleet Transport Bus & Coach Awards 2024.
Founded in 1977 by Eddie Brigdale, the Clarecastle based Brigdale Coaches claimed its biggest accolade to date when it received the school transport operator award at a gala banquet at the Johnstown Estate Hotel, Enfield, County Meath on November 16th.
Almost five decades ago, Brigdale Coaches started off with a single minibus and it is now deemed as the best school transport operator in the country. The award acknowledges best practice and customer service excellence and was re-established for the first time since 2020. Back in 2020, Glynn’s Coaches was named bus operator of the year.
School runs account for “about ninety percent” of the activity within Brigdale Coaches according to Director and Transport Manager, Shane Brigdale. “We started off with one school run and we’re up to over twenty, even though the schools are specific runs on a daily basis, there is so much in between in the schools and involved with the schools to be done,” he explained.
Over 20 people are employed by Brigdale Coaches, the figure largely resting at 25 between drivers and their maintenance crew. They now have over 25 vehicles, with the fleet ranging in size from 14 to 54 seater vehicles including a selection of wheelchair accessible minibuses.
Family is to the fore in the running of Brigdale Coaches. Operations Manager, Cian Crimmins who is a grand-son of Eddie, outlined, “There’s eight of us directly in the family, the rest are made up from all over the county at this stage”.
Eddie continues to keep in touch with proceedings at the Killow base, his children Shane and Ann Marie are involved in various capacities. Shane is joined by his son Shane Óg while Ann Marie’s husband Julian Crimmins, a Clare SHC winner with Newmarket-on-Fergus in 1981 and ex Clare minor and U21 hurler is among the drivers, their sons Cian and twins Daragh and Ruairí maintain the family links.
This family orientated nature of the business is important, Shane noted, “To say my father, my sister and myself, Eddie’s grand-children and son-in-law are all working and heavily involved in the company is something special”.
Given that it’s been in the blood it’s no surprise that Cian and his siblings always had an involvement even in their younger years, “I was involved when I was younger but it’s only been in the last five years that I’ve been full-time, I had been doing small jobs growing up, cleaning and that kind of thing”.
Their unity comes across in their operations too, Cian added. “Some Monday mornings there could be words said but it’s all grand, we all make the decisions at the end of the day, we’ve one big role and we’re off one position, you wouldn’t do it on your own and watch the 38 buses every day of the week, it is a real group effort”.
Recognition of that group effort led them to winning a national award for the first time. “It was great, it took us by surprise really,” Cian acknowledged. “The school transport was the one we won which is our main source of our business, ninety percent of it is school work, we’ve over twenty school runs every day which could be growing too. We do a lot of work with the local schools for the matches, the pool runs, the sports days and the school tours, every day is different. We do the majority of school runs around Clare, we’ve one or two into Limerick”.
He felt the manner in which they helped with under-pressure school bus services in September was a reason for their success. “We took three runs from Bus Éireann this year when they were badly stuck for one in Cratloe and Bodyke, we were lucky to swap drivers around, it is handy with Shane Óg and Daragh that they are able to go on any run now which gives us a chance to bring in new drivers and show them where to go. In terms of the award it was great and I presume how we helped out at the last minute under pressure stood to us. It was great to get recognition, it is nearly around fifty years in total at this stage, Granddad would have been selling buses back in the 1970s and doing school runs for thirty plus years, after all that time it is great to get a bit of recognition at the end of it so it means a lot to us all”.
Cian told The Clare Echo, “I think it was the family aspect that stood to us, it gave us an upper hand because there are three generations here now and we’ve grown over the last four or five years, we had fifteen runs four years ago, we’ve over twenty now so maybe that is what stood to us in the end”.
Shane who has been working with the company for over thirty years reflected of their accolade, “It’s very special to be honest and to be recognised. We’re so family orientated as a business that stood to us”. They were nominated along with operators from across the country who made the shortlist.
Since receiving the gong, they’ve recorded an increase in the amount of drivers expressing an interest to drive for them. Shane said, “Even from around the country, different operators have contacted us and Bus Éireann to congratulate us on it and reiterate how important the award is”.