Dial-a-Cab, with its modern 4-storey office block on the outskirts of London's financial district
and 2500 drivers, is quite probably the number one radio taxi organisation in Europe.
But however big DaC has become, it has never forgotten its roots.
Those roots were planted on Sunday 29th March 1953 and perhaps with great relevance, in the back of a London licensed taxi!
The cab belonged to the man who would become this organisation's founder Chairman one year later -
Bonnie had spoken with several drivers about the lack of a radio taxi organisation that would be
purely for owner-drivers. Bonnie's logic was that owner-drivers were more likely to look after their
vehicles than those who just rented a taxi. He asked some of those drivers to meet him at 6pm on
the taxi rank at Grosvenor Place, Victoria. Five like-minded drivers turned up and together with
Bonnie Martyn and two others, eventually formed the first Committee of Management for the soon to
be called Owner Drivers Radio Taxi Service. That first Committee consisted of Bonnie Martyn,
Arthur Cutmore, Frank Duncan, Doug Naismith, Albert Hall, Eric Stoffel, Alec Cobden and David Fiertag.
The drivers in Bonnie's cab back in 1953 agreed to try to recruit members and once they had
around fifty names, they would call an open meeting. That came on Sunday June 7th 1953 at the
Albany Tavern close to Great Portland Street station. Although fifty said they would come, records
showed just 22 actually came through the door! Bonnie Martyn explained that he had spoken to Pye,
who had agreed to supply rented radio sets but needed some money "up front" as a sign of good will.
Those 22 drivers raised a total of just over £200 between them and when you consider that the
average weekly wage back then was under £8, it really was a momentous effort.
ODRTS were born - at least in name!
Word soon got out that an owner-driver radio circuit was a possibility and just two weeks later
a further meeting was called. This time the hall was packed out. The newly formed Committee reported
that they had negotiated a rental deal with Jack Rose Estate Agents of Berkeley Street, Mayfair,
to lease premises at 172 Pentonville Road. We would end up buying the building for £2400
just 10 weeks later!
Another momentous occasion came on October 1 1953 when Frank Duncan, on behalf of the Committee,
agreed to pay a deposit to get several phone lines put into the new office. In the meantime, the
office was being rewired and decorated with Committee members doing much of it themselves with no
money coming in yet and the original £200 almost gone. We also advertised for a despatcher
and telephonist and at the first ODRTS Committee of Management meeting held on Thursday 12 November
1953 at the home of Bonnie Martyn, in addition to deciding that they would become a Board of
Management, they also named the starting date for ODRTS to go live as December 1953.
The day arrived, but after several jobs went out it was decided to stop as there were too many
dead spots around the City. On January 26 1954 they tried again and the first jobs were successfully despatched.
Two months later in March, and in front of photographers from the Daily Sketch, The Star and
The Evening News, Conservative MP Sir Ian Fraser officially opened the new organisation and
despatched the first official trip to the 47 ODRTS mobiles - all of whom went out in their cabs
on that first momentous day. Sir Ian had become famous through his WW1 war heroics when he became
blinded. Yet years later, he still managed to become an MP. He also became the Chairman of St
Dunstan's, a charity for blind ex-servicemen that still operates today.
Our new despatcher at £10 per week, Mr Fizackerly, then took over.
However, he soon decided that the job was too difficult with drivers constantly asking questions
and a driver, Mr Defries (Dan 03), took over and began the tradition of our own drivers becoming
despatchers during our years with voice dispatch.
In May 1984, we took on the trading name of Dial-a-Cab - although ODRTS is still our registered
name - and moved to Brunswick House from our then second home of Shirland Road, W9.
Within five years we became fully automated when despatching via our data system and in mid 2007,
we arrived at our current home of Dial-a-Cab House...
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Dial-a-Cab House, 39-47 East Road, London N1 6AH