The Christmas Bus Lady

It started with just a roll of tinsel on a bus’s dashboard and a cassette of carols playing. Nineteen years later and the infamous Christmas Bus is now a firm and much-loved part of the Christmas season for Novocastrians.

From the beginning of December to Boxing Day, the State Transit Newcastle bus can be seen brightening up the streets of Newcastle. Both children and adults scramble to get on board the bus that is jam-packed with more Christmas paraphernalia than Santa’s Grotto.

The brainchild behind the Christmas Bus is State Transit Newcastle Bus Operator Trainer and long-time Bus Driver, Margaret Pannell, otherwise known affectionately in the community as ‘The Christmas Bus Lady’.

This year will mark the twentieth year Margaret has spread Christmas Cheer throughout the Newcastle region.

“I’m the second eldest of seven children, so Christmas was always a big deal at home. Mum would have the house done up like The Griswold’s and there has never been a time when we didn’t have Santa,” says Margaret.

“When I first started driving the buses I found myself picking up the same passengers on my Dudley to Newcastle, Newcastle to Belmont route 322. I discovered many of them were not looking forward to Christmas, as their partners had died or they were unhappy for some other reason. So I decided to try and brighten them up with some Christmas cheer in the form of tinsel and a cassette with carols. Since then, every year the bus has become more and
more elaborate…

Story Helen Ellis, Calvary Mater Newcastle.