Tales of Grandad‘s time driving Miss Disney
Tom Shanks of Blueline Taxis, with the gold Mickey Mouse watch given to his grandfather Colin Shanks by Walt Disney’s daughter Diane TAXI driver Colin Shanks thought someone was taking the Mickey when he was asked to drive Walt Disney’s daughter and her husband around while they were filming in Northumberland.
But after getting the prestigious job, the impressed pair sent him a gold Mickey Mouse wristwatch when they returned to America.
That was back in the 1970s, after Colin had set up Blueline taxis in 1958 with his wife Audrey.
As the company celebrates its 60th anniversary, proud grandson Tom reveals the amazing story that has helped mould the family’s history.
It came about when Diane Disney and Ron Miller, Disney’s president and CEO, were in the region for the filming of The Spaceman and King Arthur, released in 1979.
Colin was their official driver during their two-week stay as he ferried them around in his limousine.
“Grandad was contacted by Disney to drive Walt Disney’s daughter Diane and her husband Ron Miller around while they were filming at Alnwick Castle for the The Spaceman and King Arthur,” said Tom, 23, who is the company’s business development manager.
“He did that job for two weeks and when they were out and about they would ask him to join them for a cup of Colin Shanks with wife Audrey tea when they went to restaurants and cafes. But Grandad was old school and had good values so always refused and stayed in the car.
“Diane and Ron obviously really liked him and offered him a £20 tip when the two weeks were over, which was quite a bit of money in those days. But Grandad being Grandad, he refused to take the tip.
“They must have been impressed with him because when they got back to America they sent him a gold Mickey Mouse wristwatch and a lovely letter, which now takes pride of place on our boardroom wall of memories.”
Ron sent the watch with a signed letter saying: “In lieu of the pounds that I The gold watch given to Colin Shanks by Walt Disney’s daughter Diane offered you and you declined to accept and on behalf of Diane and myself for the most enjoyable tour of Northern England and parts of Scotland, we would like you to have this Mickey Mouse watch.”
Tom, of Gosforth, Newcastle, added: “We believe the gold watch allows free entry into all of the Disney parks. We haven’t tried it out as yet but we might in the future.”
Colin, of Wallsend, North Tyneside, died in 1990, aged 69, and the firm was passed down to sons Ian, 56, and Paul, 57, and daughter Jane Bell, 60.
On top of taxis, Blueline Group now incorporates; Blueline Property Services, Blueline Insurance Services, Blueline Telematics, Fisher Street Ford Garage and Blueline Media.
Tom said: “It’s a great story to tell and it happened after Grandad set up the company with one car, his Austin Morris, in 1958. By the time the Disney pair came over he had 27 cars and I suspect he got the job because he was probably the only person with a Daimler limo at the time.
“He would have been proud of us and how far we’ve come. We now complete more than 3.5 million journeys a year across the North East and have diversified.
“That watch is great to have on our boardroom wall, but it is a real reminder of how we have evolved.”