Alan Cooley, who has retired as a painter at Southern Vectis after 49 years. He is seen with his last trademark caterpillar. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
YOU can always spot a Southern Vectis bus painted by Alan Cooley — just look out for his signature caterpillar.
Alan, who has retired after almost half a century with the Isle of Wight company, has been adorning the buses with caterpillars for more than 20 years.
"It started with a Blackgang Chine advert I painted on one of the buses. There was a dinosaur smelling a flower and I painted a caterpillar on the stalk.
"Ever since then, I’ve put one on almost every bus I’ve done. It became a gimmick, I suppose. There must be hundreds of them all over the Island," said Alan, 65, of Kitbridge Road, Newport.
Southern Vectis managing director Andrew Wickham said: "Alan has firmly established himself as a legend among bus staff on the Island and he will be a hard act to follow after so many years.
"I’d like to thank him for everything he has done over the years to help make our buses stand out above the rest.
"His colleagues say Alan has been a pleasure to work with and his presence at the depot will be greatly missed."
After joining Southern Vectis as an apprentice in 1964, having trained as a painter and decorator at the Isle of Wight College, Alan unveiled his final masterpiece at the company’s Newport depot, at Nelson Road.
"I was only 15 when I started working there. My mum saw they were asking for people and said I should apply," said Alan.
"I’ll miss the job, especially the sign-writing, which I enjoyed a lot, and I’ll miss the chaps at work. We had a lot of fun, a lot of banter."
Alan celebrated his retirement with a trip to Mexico, and plans to spend his retirement travelling the world.