In the days before my family owned a car we often travelled the four miles to Ulverstone from our South Road farm by taxi. We mainly used the husband and wife team of Mr and Mrs Holmes. I have since discovered their names were Cyril and Doris I recall them both as grey haired and ‘elderly’ but in the late 1950s to the early 1960s they must only have been middle-aged.
Cyril Holmes announced his entry to the taxi business with a brief advertisement in the Advocate;
HIRE CAR – I wish to notify that my hire car will be available to the Ulverstone public from Monday, November 24. Day and night service. Book 14 King Edward Street, or Halley’s Newsagency, Reiby Street. ‘Telephone 211.Cyril Holmes. (Advocate, November 22 1947)
A taxi-stand was established a few months later, and that is where I remember hopping in for the ten shilling ride home. I swear the fare remained the same throughout my childhood. Oddly enough I don’t remember there being a meter. Maybe they didn’t bother with the flag-fall for ‘country’ trips.
On the application of Mr. C. Holmes it has been decided to recommend to the Transport Department that the section of the eastern side of King Edward street and the right-of-way at the rear of the premises occupied by Mr. Piper be reserved as a taxi stand. (Advocate, April 23 1948).
A lady taxi driver was a bit unusual in those days and I remember being rather in awe of Mrs Holmes. She had almost became a sole operator at one point, after her husband was involved in a spectacular car crash on the Bass Highway.
One night in 1952 Mr Homes was driving home to Ulverstone from Wynard. About four miles east of the town there was a narrow section of road called Mackenzie’s Slip. It was a blind corner, and as he entered the curve he was hit by a truck coming the other way. The taxi left the road, somersaulted over the adjacent railway line, and ended up 60ft below on the rocks at the beach. The car was virtually a write-off, with a damage bill of £500. Mr Holmes was lucky to be alive. He did have some injuries, but was able to scramble back up to the roadway. He was admitted to Wynyard’s Spencer Hospital. The truck was unmarked and its driver, Lawrence Hall from Burnie, was probably the person who transported Cyril to hospital.
Hmm, could excessive speed have been a factor in this misadventure? Well, evidence suggests it probably was. 😎
I had to read the following article a couple of time for it to sink in. Oh my word Mr Dobbie, if this happened today I think Cyril would be behind bars, with his licence cancelled for life.
Wow! Not a word of censure for the defendant, whose escape from punishment seems as miraculous as his escape from death in the car accident the previous year.
It’s difficult for me to reconcile this speed fiend with the Mr Holmes I remember….and our sedate journeys to town. I only hope he was flying back to Ulverstone solo to collect another fare, not endangering the lives of passengers. In his defence, he had been through the trauma of bankruptcy during the Great Depression, so the urge for financial security would have been strong.
The reason I remember Mr and Mrs Holmes so fondly is that they regularly drove our family to the beach, most notable on Boxing Day. We filled the taxi to capacity, with Mum, Dad, three kids, buckets and spades, beach balls, the Box Brownie and a suitcase full of festive food.
Oh dear, we probably left a lot of sand in the taxi after the return trip home, along with smelly shells and the odd piece of cuttlefish.
TAXI HOME OR LOLLIES?
One year my father drove me and my sister into Ulverstone to go to the circus. He left us with enough money for the tickets and a taxi home, but not much more. Now our friends were all buying ice-creams and lollies etc., so Robbie and I decided we would use our taxi money to do the same, and walk home. It seemed fair enough to us. Our undoing was that we failed to take into account the time it would take to walk four miles, and that our parents would be worried. We were about halfway there when Dad came looking for us. No doubt he was relieved that we were alright, but he was also absolutely furious. 😨 ‘Don’t bother asking to go the circus again!‘ he said, as we sat in the ute, subdued and as silent as mice.
It was an empty threat really, because by the time the circus came to town again we were earning our own money.
Of course Mr and Mrs Holmes were not the only taxi drivers in Ulverstone. I certainly remember Bert Hingston and Mr Gorringe. Paddy’s Taxi Service is less familiar to me, but was operating around the same time.
Cyril Holmes died in 1989, aged 83. He is buried in the Wynyard cemetery. I don’t know whether Mrs Holmes lies beside him, but I hope she does.
FOR GREAT PLACES TO VISIT IN AND AROUND ULVERSTONE, CLICK HERE YOU COULD HIRE A TAXI!