It’s all aboard as company gives bus-mad Hilsea boy Harry the perfect present

Harry Cooper at the steering wheel on his tour of First Solent's Portsmouth depot in Hilsea
Harry Cooper at the steering wheel on his tour of First Solent's Portsmouth depot in Hilsea
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FOR most 11-year-old boys a typical day out might range from a trip to the park to an afternoon in the pool.

But for Hilsea schoolboy Harry Cooper his perfect day out is a jaunt on his local bus chatting happily to passengers.

With his knowledge of buses, and especially bus safety, he could teach some of us here a thing or two!

Noel Lawless, First Solent’s control inspector at Portsmouth

Since the age of three, the quirky youngster has been obsessed with buses of all shapes and sizes and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the vehicles.

And for years he has been desperate to build on this knowledge and visit the Hilsea depot of bus operator First Solent – a dream which has finally been fulfilled after the company gave him the full VIP treatment on a guided tour of its city hub.

‘I was really excited when they told me – it was great,’ said the Year 6 Isambard Brunel Junior School pupil.

The trip was set up after the 11-year-old emailed First Bus’s customer service desk asking if he could visit.

Accompanied by his dad Brian, Harry of Northern Parade, Hilsea, was shown around the engineering section and even had the chance to sit behind the wheel of a modern Streetlite vehicle.

Taking him on the guided tour was Noel Lawless, First Solent’s control inspector at Portsmouth.

‘With his knowledge of buses, and especially bus safety, he could teach some of us here a thing or two,’ admitted Noel.

To round off his visit, Harry was presented with a First Solent goody bag, packed full of sweets, a hat, gloves, a scarf games and some pencils.

Harry added: ‘My favourite thing about loving buses is it’s quite unusual.

‘My friends don’t really get it though.’

Mum Katie Kercher said buses ran in the family – Harry’s great-grandfather Clifton Allenby was a bus driver in the South Downs.

‘Harry’s loved everything to do with busses since he was three,’ said the 34-year-old. ‘I don’t find it very fascinating but he just loves it.

‘A typical day out for Harry would be going out on a bus.’

Harry said he wasn’t keen to follow in his great-grandad’s footsteps and become a bus driver.

Although he did say he wanted to have a career in the industry.

‘I would really love to design the next generation of bus,’ he explained.

Noel added: ‘We have promised that Harry can come back to see us again when we get any new vehicles for him to look around.’