Tales of Grandad‘s time driv­ing Miss Dis­ney

Sunday Sun - - News - By Lisa Hutchin­son Re­porter lisa.hutchin­son@ncj­me­dia.co.uk @lisachron

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.”

IAIN BUIST

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