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IT IS WITH much sadness that PHC wishes to announce that Fred Leaney (77) has passed away.

The founder of Carlton Cars in Bexleyheath, South East London, Fred was a popular figure within the capital’s private hire trade and received driver badge No 1 when Transport for London licensed the minicab industry for the first time. He was also a licensed London taxi driver.

Fred’s son-in-law Eddie Townson, also of Carlton Cars and the Private Hire Board, told PHC that Fred had a successful operation to fight pancreatic cancer in December last year, but suffered a heart attack two days later and had been battling with the effects ever since. 

Fred leaves Pam, his wife of 58 years, daughters Tracey and Dawn, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

CABBING IN THE SIXTIES  Fred was interviewed for London Minicab’s history of the capital’s private hire trade and spoke of his early days in the trade in the 1960s.

“I was earning just £11 a week and couldn’t live on that, so I decided to start cabbing as I could work as many hours as I wanted. The minimum fare was around five shillings (25p) and roughly the price of a gallon of petrol. We used to get around £2.50 for a job from Welling to Heathrow.

“I then started Carlton Cars in 1966 and everything at first was done over the phone as we didn’t have radios. Quite often I would ring back to base and if the telephonist said a pre-arranged password, you knew there was no work and you didn’t press the button!

Fred-Leaney-3

Fred at a PHV demo in 2017

“Finally I took the plunge and after nine months bought a few radios for around £180. I built up the number of drivers and bought more radios when I could afford them. We would also share what radios we had. Drivers would take the radio out of their car at the end of the shift and pass it on to someone else who was just starting.

“In the early days, the printer next door would also answer the phone if I was out on a job. He could see all the work that was coming in and he asked if he could help when his business was going through lean times. I didn’t mind because I was losing work because I couldn’t do it all. I’m not sure though if I ever asked to see his Hire & Reward insurance!”

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