Joe Clough The first Black Bus Driver

Joe Clough was born in Jamaica in 1887 and orphaned at an early age. He became the first Black bus driver of a London motorbus.

As a boy, he was employed by a Scottish doctor, Dr R C White, to look after his polo ponies. In 1905 while they were returning from a dance at the governor’s house in Kingston, they had a conversation that was to change Clough’s life. Dr White asked him, ‘How would you like to go to England?’ ‘Well,’ replied Clough, ‘I’d like that very much’. He was 18 years old.

In winter 1906 Clough came over to Britain as White’s servant and companion. He would have needed the brand new warm underwear he was wearing when he landed in Bristol. The first things Clough noticed were the trees. On remarking, ‘Dr White, why are there so many dead trees about?’ he was told that it was winter. Clough commented later, ‘We don’t have trees like that in Jamaica, I’d never seen anything like it before.’ He was never to see his old home again.

When Clough arrived in London, he drove Dr White around town in his coach and horses. However, the doctor was keen to try out the new motorcars, which were becoming popular; so Clough learnt to drive and became the doctor’s chauffeur.

Clough remembered later that, after he had left the doctor’s employ, the White would entertain him in the drawing room, treating him as an equal in spite of the attitudes of the day. ‘The doctor was a lovely man. After I left him, I could go to see him, go up to the front door, knock, saying “Is the doctor in?” He treated us just the same as you and me talking together, no nose in the air.’

In 1910, Clough applied to work at London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C). He became a spare driver. He passed his bus driving test and started driving a number 11 B.-type bus between Liverpool Street and Wormwood Scrubs. Joe Clough was the first Black London bus driver.

This was also the year that he began taking his wife-to-be on weekly visits to the music hall. The daughter of a local publican, Margaret worked as a domestic servant. She and Joe married in 1911, and enjoyed a happy married life together. Margaret was always prepared to support her husband in the face of racism. Clough wanted to rise above it, however, and met people’s stares and comments by raising his hat and wishing the person a good day.

When the First World War started, Clough wanted to join up to help defend his adopted country. He enlisted in the Army Service Corps based at Kempston barracks in 1915. He drove a field ambulance for four years in Ypres on the Western Front, the area that saw some of the bloodiest battles.

After the war in 1919 Joe, his wife and two daughters moved to Bedford. He was almost the only Black inhabitant there until after the Second World War. He first worked for the National Omnibus Company, before buying his own taxi in 1949.

Joe died in 1976 at the age of 91. In the last decade of his life he had become a local celebrity thanks to a book, ‘The Un-melting Pot’ by John Brown, published in 1970, which featured a chapter about Joe and Margaret Clough. Many local people remember him with great affection.


A good question might be does he have any living relatives he does look like someone I know who lives in Bedford. His name is Andrew and may be known by some as Boomer! Is he related?

I knew Joe Clough when he was a taxi driver in Bedford. He was a friend of Frank and Mrs, Close who were stewards of the Electricity Works Social Club in Cauldwell St. He often popped in for a pint and was very sociable, all the members got on well with him.

Remember Mr Clough..he did my wedding taxi..we lived at 15 Dents rd in the 40s and he took my mum to Northampton Hospital where my brother died..we moved to Harrowden Rd early 50s and when I got married in 1961 my mum insisted in having him do my wedding taxi as he had been so kind to her

My grandad Percy Dewitte was the only black man to own his own cab in Liverpool in the forties
I know very little of his life he would have been born in the late 1800s
He was a chauffeur to a general in the First World War
He was also a mason in the empire lodge
He married my nana who was small and fair as he was a Blackman of 6.4 they made a handsome couple
They had five children all who made good lives
He played Paul robe sons records

Presently working on a project to honor the Montgomery Bus Boycott Dec. 05, 1955. So Right On Bro. Long Live the Spirit Of the 1955 Boycott. I salute Mr.Joe Clough.

I so enjoyed that Story. Thank you

My great grandfather was a clough in Jamaica. I was told that he was a Judge who died in his chamber. It was only three brothers of them who are from Scottish decent that came to Jamaica and lived at Lawrence Tavern in St.Andrew. Can someone tell me the complexion of Joseph?

Lovely story and piece of history. Thank you for sharing.

One person – so what is so wonderful – good for him but not a racial empowerment.

What a fantastic piece of history. I am glad this has been brought to the wider public’s attention,

Ditto to the comment above. Thank you for sharing this story of a brave and kindly man. My ancestors on my mum’s side were Cloughs, probably not the same family, but would be more than proud if they were.

Joseph Clough is also likely the 1st Black UK ambulance driver – given the very low percentages of Black Paramedics here in the UK – his story deserves to be better known. Indeed Mary Seacole has been claimed by Nurses – despite that the fact she both treated and conveyed the sick from the front line. About a decade ago I published an article about Joseph for ambulance trusts – perhaps one day we will have a lasting memorial

This story truly touched my heart. it shows that when we work together good things can happen. As far as I am aware, I am the first black Tram-Train driver in the United Kingdom. I started driving on this new project in Sheffield in 2019. I am proud to be among such great legends that have gone on before me and hope that I can do them justice.

As a child around 1971/2, I appeared in a BBC news item with Mr Joe Clough along with my brother and neighbour when lived in Dents Road. We called him ‘Uncle Joe’.

Amazing story – and thank you for sharing !

And there are many more firsts, we just need to shake history’s cloak and bring them to the fore.

Post a comment