We have been sent by a reader an article which appeared in the April issue of Taxi Magazine, which caters for London-licensed taxi drivers, about a most unusual race which apparently took place in the summer of 1932. I do not think the story is apocryphal because the event is said to have been thought up by Tom Dryberg, who as “William Hickey”, was then the gossip-column writer for The Daily Express. Dryberg, later Lord Bradwell, was a good friend of “cabbies” and in the end was taken ill in a London cab, which took him to hospital two days before he died. It seems that he got the drivers of eight different makes of London cab to stage a race from the cab shelter outside the Junior Turf Club on the south side of Piccadilly (the shelter has gone but the rank remains) towards Hyde Park Corner, turning towards Piccadilly, round the Eros statue, and back to the shelter. The shelter was close to a coffee-stall frequented by young gentlemen and their debutante girl-friends after all-night dances, and some of these acted as Stewards, it is said, the starter equipped with a bell and a chequered-flag possibly “borrowed” from Brooklands Track.
Dryberg seems to have worked out a system of handicapping based on age and hp of the taxis taking part. First off was a handcranked 1912 Napier, the last away a 1925 Hayes. As the town speed-limit was then 30 mph, the race was presumably illegal, so it took place at 2am, watched, it is claimed by some 300 “cabbies”. The winner was a 1919 Belsize cab, followed by a Yellow cab with the Beardmore Hyper just behind it. The Morris taxi, which had been favourite, limped home with a slipping clutch. Dryberg gave the winning driver £5 and they all shared a magnum of champagne. It never happened again, but I wonder whether the archives of The Daily Express contain any guarded references to this unusual race? — WB