From snooker stars to royalty, over the last five decades cabbie Billy Gray has driven thousands of people from A to B.
Preston's longest-serving taxi driver retires after five decades
FROM snooker stars to royalty, over the last five decades cabbie Billy Gray has driven thousands of people from A to B.
Preston’s longest-serving taxi driver has met sporting heroes and politicians from across the city and beyond, and has even driven a helicopter part to Aberdeen in a 16-hour round trip.
But the 76-year-old has now put the brakes on his much-loved career, retiring after more than 50 years as a taxi driver.
Billy, who lives in Larches, spent three years as a private hire driver, before driving black cabs for the next 48 years.
He said: “Nobody had cars in those days, they were all for rich people, and I thought when I pass my test I’ll go taxi driving and I just enjoyed it.
“It was never work to me, it was pleasure.”
Billy said he had met “so many people” during his career, even driving royalty without knowing.
Lord Snowdon - photographer and film maker who had been married to Princess Margaret - had been in the taxi without Billy realising his fame.
“Are you a professional photographer?” Billy recalled asking. “Do you make much money at that game?”
After saying he did “all right”, Billy finally realised the status of his passenger when he was met by police escorts at Blackburn station.
He said: “He said ‘Just park up here’ and I said ‘I’ll just go past, they are waiting for somebody’.
“He said ‘They are waiting for me’ and then they came over and said ‘Good morning my lord’. Then the penny dropped.”
Billy said he had been on trips to Stranraer, with passengers sailing to Ireland, and was even once sent to Aberdeen.
He said: “I went to Aberdeen with a part for one of the oil rigs - there were no passengers.
I think it was a helicopter part from BAE Systems at Warton.
It took me about eight hours each way, because cabs aren’t the fastest things.”
Billy said he has never had a speeding ticket, or an accident where he was to blame.
Mayor of Preston, Coun John Collins, said: “It’s wonderful to be in a position to acknowledge the service and commitment Billy has given to Preston over the last 48 years. What a fantastic achievement!
“It makes you realise what a small world it is, as I knew one of Billy’s previous employers, the late County Coun Brian Johnson.
“Meeting Billy and his family was lovely and listening to some of his stories and how Preston has changed over those years.
“I wish him all the best for a long and happy retirement.”