Chairman's Blog: London cabbies and taxi charities



I am extremely proud of the Taxi Charity’s response to the pandemic and delighted our efforts have been recognised.


Engraved on our Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) crystal trophy are the words “With Special Recognition – Covid 19” – a lasting tribute to all the volunteers who supported our veterans and charity throughout this very difficult period. Thank you once again for all your help.



On the day of the QAVS ceremony (27 September), I felt it appropriate to remember our predecessors and asked that the following words be circulated across social media and other media outlets:


"This morning’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service presentation at Westminster Abbey was a very proud moment for our charity and trade. As a London cabbie, I was deeply honoured to receive the award on behalf of the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans. I am fully aware it is thanks to the efforts of all those who have supported our wonderful charity since its modest beginnings in 1948 which made this possible, and I would like to take the opportunity today to pay tribute to all concerned."

Since then, I’ve been reflecting on our trade’s long and distinguished history of charitable activities, primarily on the magnificent work and efforts of London’s black cab drivers over the decades.


We have much to be proud of.


Pick a year of your choice and I’m confident you’ll find the archives of our trade’s press filled with stories of good deeds.


In 2008, for example, the three major taxi charities each celebrated their own landmark anniversaries in very different ways, as I discovered whilst flicking through old issues of The Cab Driver and Taxi Cab News.



On 31 October 2008, The Cab Driver newspaper’s front page reported that the London Taxi Drivers’ Fund for Underprivileged Children held a gala dinner at the Palace of Westminster to mark their 80th anniversary. The LTDFUC (now known as the London Taxi Drivers’ Charity for Children) is best known for its annual Mad Hatters Tea Party at Grosvenor House Hotel. However they also organise other events such as day trips to theme parks and the seaside. On this particular week, they were also in the news having donated four boats which had been adapted for children with special needs.



Splashed across page 11 of Taxicab News on 3 November 2008 was news of the Magical Taxi Tour which had just returned from its 15th visit to Disneyland Paris. This annual three-day round trip is a huge venture involving over 100 vehicles. The convoy, which often stretches over five miles, is comprised of colourfully decorated London taxis and a wide range of support vehicles, including ambulances, breakdown trucks, a 'tuck shop' wagon, British and French police cars and motor cycle outriders – and on one occasion, to strike a topical note, a fuel tanker. Such an ambitious undertaking was never straightforward and the organising committee have on occasions been confronted by major problems, including a blockade at Calais, a lorry strike across France (hence the tanker) and a fire in the Channel Tunnel. Yet each time a solution was found. Nothing ever stopped this trip... except Covid.



Meanwhile, page 12 of the same paper was devoted to the London Taxi Benevolent Association for War Disabled (as the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans was then known) which marked its 60th anniversary by organising a concert at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.


2008 was a very busy and wide-ranging year for our charity. In addition to our annual outing to Worthing – a huge affair usually involving at least 120 cabs and twice as many veterans – we also escorted 160 WWII veterans back to Normandy. This was our second visit, the first was in 1994 for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.


Whilst these three charities dominated the trade news in this particular week, other taxi charities were also keeping active, including the Albany Taxi Charity for children with special needs, the East London Cabbies Outing and the Southend Fund for Underprivileged Children. Each and every charity providing heart-warming examples of London cabbies coming together and making a difference.


And it’s not just the established taxi charities that drivers support. There are numerous examples of cabbies forming their own local groups to provide a helping hand to those in need.


I first experienced this in 1992, when I joined a group of drivers from the Ealing Broadway Station rank who had organised an outing to Chessington World of Adventures. It was a great success, the children loved it as did their mums, teachers and carers, so we did it all over again the following year.



Of all these driver initiative groups, as I would describe them, the most well-known by far is Poppy Cabs.


Founded in 2009, Poppy Cabs has become an integral part of Remembrance Sunday.

It’s a major operation requiring hundreds of London cabbies who each Remembrance Sunday morning collect veterans from London’s mainline stations and military clubs such as the Victory Services and Union Jack and transport them free of charge to the Cenotaph.


The drivers then converge on Westminster Bridge in readiness to collect veterans following the service and parade to provide a free ride to their onward destination.


Photo: Kevin Portch
Photo: Kevin Portch

If there is one picture that perfectly captures the generosity of spirit of London’s finest it would be difficult to improve on the image of the lines of black cabs parked under the shadow of Big Ben, stretching across the entire length of Westminster Bridge and beyond. It is a breathtaking sight and I’m sure I speak for every driver when I say it’s a privilege to be a participant.


We are the best cab service in the world because of the Knowledge and the rigorous and regular checks we and our purpose-built taxis go through. However, it’s moments such as this which remind us there are other reasons why we are proud to be London cab drivers.


Poppy Cabs is often confused with the Taxi Charity which is understandable. In fact they donate money to us (and the Royal British Legion) from the proceeds of their special pin badges and I would like to thank Poppy Cab co-ordinator Mike Hughes and his team for their help and support. See you on the bridge Mike.


Each year, we also receive a generous donation from the Taxi Driver of the Year Charity Fund. The highlight of their year is the excellent gala dinner dance organised by Russell and Barbara Poluck which raises money for five separate taxi charities. Many thanks to Russell and Barbara for all that they do.


Every year, hundreds of London cabbies give their time and vehicles for free. Without their wonderful support, the Taxi Charity simply would not exist – or indeed any taxi charity.


Thank you one and all.


Ian Parsons

Chairman

Taxi Charity for Military Veterans