Cast Iron Billy (Image Source)

Came across this interview from 1877 of an omnibus driver driver called Cast-Iron Billy (his real name was William Parragreen) and it gives some insight into the life of an omnibus driver in Victorian Era London.

I found out about Cast-Iron Billy on the London Transport Museum website and his name intrigued me (I though it was kinda funny and gave off some character). Before I read into his background, I imagined a tough man with a temper, often getting drunk and into scraps, either sneering or smiling at everyone. Once I researched him and found this interview, I found a much more sympathetic story than I’d expected. He worked long hours, was paid little and taxed most of his wages; what little money that was left went to supporting his family (his first wife is described as an invalid and his children are sickly) and an occasional drink. He then lost his job as a driver as he had become feeble, often requiring help to get on his coach and had to have the reins tied to his coat as he had lost partial use of his left hand. To top it off, younger opposition drivers often quickly picked up passengers before he could.

The reason why I’m interested is because I think that this could make for great material for my entry to the London Transport Museum Competition, as the subject is London Stories and I’ve been wondering about doing a comic which is a ‘slice of life’ comic. So basically showing someone doing normal things and giving an insight into their life, and I think that this could be quite good subject material for it.

I think I would like to put a spin on it, and an idea I’m currently toying with is comparing my expectations of Cast-Iron Billy to the reality. So the strong and surly drunk to the caring family man who was unfortunate enough to be a lower-class man in the Victorian’s harsh and unforgiving class-system.

All London Transport Museum project related posts:

Third year Project 1: London Transport Museum Brief
Cast Iron Billy
London Transport Museum Competition Progress 1
London Transport Museum Progress 2
London Transport Museum Progress 3
London Transport Museum Progress 4
London Transport Museum Progress 5
London Transport Museum Progress 6 – Final Submission
London Transport Museum Progress 7 – Epilogue and Reflective Summary


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