New book recounts epic 1930 taxi adventure

A CROSS-COUNTRY trek which encompassed south-west Victoria and is believed to be the world’s longest-ever taxi ride has been documented in a new book.

Author and publisher Larry O’Toole has released a book covering the Depression-era tale of Lorne woman Ada Beale, who decided to take two friends on a trip around Australia in a taxi.

Mr O’Toole said the book, The World’s Longest Taxi Fare, examined an intriguing tale that had been shrouded by the mists of time until recently.

Ms Beale, 68, came from a wealthy pastoral family near Colac and had long desired to see continental Australia at a time when few people ventured further than their local communities.

She commissioned Geelong taxi driver Charlie Heard to drive her and two friends — Lil Wilmot and Eileen Glenny — in his Hudson taxi to Darwin and back.

The three-month trek covered more than 11,000 kilometres at a time when much of regional and remote Australia lacked roads or even well-maintained tracks.

“If you did the same taxi ride now, it would be pretty extraordinary,” Mr O’Toole said. 

“Back in 1930, it was really out of the box. In today’s money, it would have cost between $30,000 and $40,000 but Ada Beale didn’t care.

“It was a dream she always wanted to fulfil and she was determined to do it.”

The three senior citizens and their driver set off on their journey from Lorne, driving to Colac, Camperdown, Warrnambool then staying the evening in Port Fairy. They then stopped by Portland before heading across the state border to Adelaide.

“Back then, there were few bridges so you either had to take the long route or a punt across the river,” Mr O’Toole said. 

“Heading through the centre up past Alice Springs to Darwin would have been the tricky part. 

“Charlie Heard had to customise his taxi in order to sustain the required extra petrol and water.”

The publisher of Australian Street Rodding since 1977, Mr O’Toole was persuaded to write about Charlie Heard’s marathon taxi fare after meeting fellow hot rod enthusiast Steve Heard, one of Charlie’s grandsons, five years ago.

“Charlie’s grandchildren recreated the journey six years ago in a 1928 Essex and kept a diary like the original trip,” Mr O’Toole said.

“My book has two parts — the first covers the original trip and the second relates to the recreation. I just didn’t rely on the original diary. There’s a fair bit of research into the background of the trip, the people behind the places the trip would have stopped at.

“There were some fascinating coincidences and intriguing historical details that may have otherwise been forgotten about.”

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