MITCHELL, James Leslie. Jim the boat builder/bus driver from Dover passed away peacefully overnight December 20, 2014. A true gentleman, perfectionist and a mentor. You loved the boats and looking at what you created. Never an argument.
I don’t think I ever met a man who enjoyed his job more than Jim Mitchell. I won’t say I knew him well. I was one of his passengers, a regular for several years and an occasional traveller in recent times. Jim used to be a boat builder but he gave it up, I believe because he had a bad back. When I first met him he was the relief driver for the Dover to Hobart route but when another driver moved to another route the Dover run was given to him full time.
Dover is about 80 kilometres south of Hobart but Jim’s run started from Raminea a little south of there. In fact I think that Jim’s route is probably the most southerly bus run in Australia.
The day started early for Jim preparing the bus which was kept near his home ready to depart before 6:30 am. A lot of the early morning passengers were students travelling to Hobart College and other schools around Hobart. The bus always made a stop at Hobart College to drop them off in the mornings. I actually learned of Jim’s death on Facebook and there was a long line of comments from young people who had travelled on the bus. They were all devastated as Jim always had a smile and a joke with each of them when they boarded the bus. I often sat and listened as he said goodbye to every single kid that got off at the college, sometimes twenty or more of them. That was typical of him though. When you travelled on Jim’s bus you were a guest not a customer. He was always welcoming to the adult passengers as well. I don’t catch the bus as often as I used to so I didn’t see Jim very often but whenever I did he would always give me a big smile as if he’d really missed me.
Jim adored children and sometimes if we had time for a little chat he would tell me about the school charter trips that he was occasionally asked to drive in the middle of the day. He was never happier than when the children had come up to thank him for being their driver or given him a little note or a drawing.
He was also very kind to the travellers from overseas who often visit the Huon Valley during the summer. I know that a few of them kept in touch with him for a long time after their holidays. Jimliked to travel himself and he and his wife Maggie had a few overseas holidays. On a couple of their European trips I know that they visited people that he’d made friends with on the bus.
I think that the job must have been very tiring sometimes but Jim didn’t complain, he was always cheerful on the job and he really did care about his passengers. If he felt that they were being inconvenienced by over crowding on the bus or timetables that made them late for work and school he was not afraid to say so to his bosses. At 4 pm when the bus left Hobart for Dover he was always just as welcoming to everyone as he had been in the morning. It would be after 6pm by the time that he reached home each night and then he would clean the bus ready for the next day. I know that over the past few years Jim cut his workload back a bit. The last time I saw him was two or three weeks before he died and he wished me a Merry Christmas in case he didn’t see me again.
I decided to write this piece because I felt that Jim was a rather special person. He made everyone’s day just a bit better. I’ll miss him.