80 and still a city cabbie

North Albury taxi driver Alan English celebrates his 80th birthday reflecting on his years at the wheel. Picture: BEN EYLES
North Albury taxi driver Alan English celebrates his 80th birthday reflecting on his years at the wheel. Picture: BEN EYLES

ALAN English has always abided by the cabbies’ code of conduct: “What goes on in a cab stays in the cab”.

Unless of course it’s the police asking.

Albury’s oldest cabbie, who turned 80 yesterday, has had his fair share of encounters with criminal elements, not to mention his own brushes with the law.

On more than one occasion, his taxi has become a getaway vehicle.

He picked up a drug runner from Albury Airport about 15 years ago and drove him to Melbourne.

In his younger years, police threatened to charge Mr English for being an accessory to kidnapping when his customer abducted a girl from St John’s girls orphanage in Thurgoona.

“He came out of the orphanage with a girl under his arm and said ‘Go, go, go’,” Mr English said.

Both lawbreakers paid their fares of $500 and £10 respectively, which is more than can be said for so many other runners.

Mr English’s taxi driving career started in Albury, at age 17, when his father Jack English told him to quit his job at the hardware store and implanted him in the family business.

From then on, his father would get calls complaining about Mr English’s “wild” antics.

Once he was seen with 10 soldiers in the back of his 1949 Chevrolet taxi.

“Someone saw me and rang my old man and said ‘That bloody son of yours is going to kill someone’,” Mr English said.

“‘He’s gone past the Newmarket Hotel and I can’t count the number of people in it.

“‘And the boot is open so there must be people in there’.”

It took a fair while for Mr English to smarten up a little — as his two ex-wives might attest.

He worked all over Australia as a truck and taxi driver, doing bookie work, sometimes getting himself in trouble, before returning to Albury 31 years ago, meeting wife Wendy and eventually buying his own taxi.

While this cabbie has seen it all, his long career has left him with only the best impression of the public.

He recalls a night when someone threw a lump of wood at his taxi, puncturing a tyre.

Despite being highly intoxicated, his passenger absolutely insisted Mr English was “too old” for the task of changing it, and set about fumbling with the jack.

With the help of another cabbie, they were soon on the road again.

“There’s some lovely people, a lot of good people,” said Mr English, who strongly believes most problems with taxi drivers could be avoided by a good attitude.

“You need to be the sort of person who listens to people’s problems but don’t get involved in them,” he said.

“Just take them where they need to go.”

When asked what his favourite type of customer was Mr English said it was the guy who sat in back seat and said “Can you do me a favour? ... Don’t talk”.

“Yep, well that suits me fine,” he said.

Mr English is still working part-time with Albury Radio Taxis.

Up until August when he sold his cab, he was still carting young people home from nights out clubbing.

They would ask “pop” what he was doing driving so late, or so early in the morning.

He used to challenge them to guess his age — if they got it right they would ride for free and if they got it wrong they could pay double.

Mr English said he never made them pay.