Memories of a taxi driver

The swan, Park street, 1964

Memories of a Taxi Driver


By Roger Froude

Reading about the memories of Yeovil pubs reminded me of when I was driving a taxi, usually the ex-London Austin cab owned by Joe Shire in Victoria Road, evenings and weekends in 1964. No taxi ranks, no mobile phones or two-way radios - in the evening you cruised the town with a “For Hire” sign on. The town was busy especially Friday and Saturday nights with Army personnel from Houndstone Camp and Lufton Camp and Navy personnel from Yeovilton.


An advertisement for Shire's Taxis in the 1967 Yeovil Guide.


The Red Lion in Kingston was favourite for the Army and the Pall in Silver Street for the Navy but another favourite for the Army was the Swan Inn in Park Street.


The Swan Inn, circa 1950.


Park Street had the reputation of a tough area, I remember my father saying when he was a lad Policemen would only walk Park Street in pairs, never alone. In 1964 most of the Park Street houses from South Street were partially demolished however the Swan was still open for business. The best attire would be a hard hat and wellies.

Very often cruising slowly along Park Street an arm would appear from a semi demolished house. After coming to a halt a couple would get in the back of the taxi and utter the words “camp mate”. Stopping in the pull-in just before the main gate the couple would emerge, sometimes from the floor of the cab in the back, pay the fare of seven shillings (equivalent to 35 pence today) then the WRAC (Women's Royal Army Corps) would weave her way up the road to Lufton Camp and the “Squaddy” would go through the Houndstone main gate.

My choice was then whether to go back to Yeovil or through Thorne to Chippy's (the Carpenter's Arms, Chilthorne Domer) and pick up a fare back to camp. Very often you would not get as far as Chippy's as there were numerous Squaddys or WRAC's who had been on the cider slumped on the banks alongside the road that would wave you down. One particular evening cruising along Park Street, as I approached the Swan, a body came hurtling out though the window (just like in a film) picked himself up, waved me down, got in and uttered the words “camp mate”.

The Swan, now the Swan Theatre, I am sure could tell it's own stories and if they were performed there they would be a sell-out. For the record 35 trips to Houndstone Camp in one night was the most I ever did.


Austin Taxi similar to Joe Shire's - 1950s or early 1960s.