TAXI interviews volunteer cabbies


As the cabbies and veterans assembled at Harwich on 2 May for their ferry crossing to the Hook of Holland, Taxi interviewed some of the cabbies who were volunteering for the week, driving veterans to The Netherlands for Dutch Liberation.


 

Dave Hemstead, 61 has been a cab driver for 20 years and has volunteered for the Taxi Charity for the last 18. He has been on many trips over the years including taking older veterans to The Netherlands and Normandy as well as driving younger veterans to Belgium, to support Waterloo Uncovered.


Why do you volunteer for the Taxi Charity?

Dave: I enjoy military history and being able to spend time with these veterans is an honour. They are a very special generation and I really appreciate that when we are out in the areas where they fought during WWII, they share so many memoires with us and we learn so much. Their stories are very powerful and really make history come alive. I picked up three Chelsea Pensioners this afternoon and they are all so excited about the trip. They will no doubt all head to the bar before we can get them settled in their cabins!


If you could only use one word to describe the Taxi Charity what would it be?

Dave: Outstanding


 

Mike Hughes, 74 is one of the few London cabbies who has done the KOL twice. He got his badge in 1977 and did 20 years before leaving the trade. After a break away running a

printing business he then worked as a cab driver in Brighton for 6 years while he did the KOL for a second time and has been driving in London again since 2004.


Why do you volunteer for the Taxi Charity?

Mike: I have made so many friends amongst the drivers and veterans and it is a pleasure to volunteer. For the last four years, I have been driving 102-year-old WWII veteran Major Ted Hunt who lives near me in Worthing. Ted and I have developed an amazing relationship. Anyone looking at us might think I was being incredibly disrespectful to him but it’s only banter. This year when the rest of the drivers’ head home, Ted and I will be staying out in The Netherlands a little longer as he has been invited to another event the following week at which he is the guest of honour.


If you could only use one word to describe the Taxi Charity what would it be?

Mike: Unselfish.


 

Gillian Concannon, 55 has been a London cabbie for 19 years and has been volunteering for the Taxi Charity for the last seven. On this trip, Gillian has been paired with WWII naval veteran Peter Smoothy from Herne Bay, who very nearly didn’t make the trip as his passport got caught up in the well documented delays at the Passport Office. But thanks to the charity alerting the media and his MP and asking for help, Peter got his passport just in time.


Why do you volunteer for the Taxi Charity?

Gillian: It is a privilege. I have been on many trips with the Taxi Charity but for me nothing compares with being in The Netherlands. When I see the bridge at Arnhem it gives me goosebumps remembering what this special generation went through. And my highlight is attending the Liberation Parade in Wageningen, when the streets are lined with people shouting and cheering ‘Thank you for our freedom’.


If you could only use one word to describe the taxi Charity what would it be?

Gillian: Brilliant


 

Danny Shelton, 54 has been a cabbie for 26 years and his first trip with the Taxi Charity was in 2017 for their ‘Back to the Beaches’ tour when Danny was one of the 78 taxis that took 95 veterans to Normandy for the D-Day commemorations.


Why do you volunteer for the Taxi Charity?

Danny: I feel like this country has let this generation down, no one seems to care about the huge sacrifices these men and women made so that we have our freedom. I love driving

the vets, the older guys have seen so many changes in the world and have some excellent advice and certainly know a thing or two. I was also happy to do my bit to drive the two cabbies who did the Three Peaks fundraising challenge last year as the charity relies entirely on donations and every penny counts.


If you could only use one word to describe the Taxi Charity what would it be?

Danny: Fantastic


 

Ron Geraghty, 67 has been a cabbie since 2008 and has been volunteering since he got his

badge. He has been a driver on many of the charity trips and today he picked up veteran Les

Hammond in Northampton to bring him and his son and daughter-in-law to Harwich.


Why do you volunteer for the Taxi Charity?

Ron: It’s a simple answer - I like to give something back for what these veterans did for us! It’s the least I can do. My first trip was the charity’s annual trip to Worthing. On route we stop at South Holmwood and after I had offloaded my passengers and parked the cab, I headed back to the village hall to find a room full of veterans straight on the beer at 10.30am. I asked if anyone wanted a cup of tea and they looked at me as if I was talking a different language.


If you could only use one word to describe the Taxi Charity what would it be?

Ron: Tremendous


 

Tony Neal, 57 has been a cab driver for 19 years and has been volunteering for the charity for 13 years. He will be driving WWI veteran Geoff Roberts on this year’s trip.


Why do you volunteer for the Taxi Charity?

Tony: It is a great charity and volunteering allows me to give something back. I have driven Geoff Roberts who was a POW during WWII, many times and hearing first-hand what his life was like during that time is unforgettable. My most memorable moment was on the trip to the Netherlands in 2012 when during the Gala Dinner the veterans all joined in to sing ‘Roll out the Barrell, ‘We’ll Meet Again’, ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ and many other songs that got them through the war.


If you could only use one word to describe the Taxi Charity what would it be?

Tony: Phenomenal


View this article on page 30 of Issue #516 of TAXI.