Memories of a Ballarat taxi driver found at the Mechanics' Institute

A busy man: Irene Hill and Jenny Greenbank with the portrait of Henry discovered in the collection of the BMI. Picture: Kate Healy.

A busy man: Irene Hill and Jenny Greenbank with the portrait of Henry discovered in the collection of the BMI. Picture: Kate Healy.

When Irene Hill opened the Weekender in The Courier recently, she was glad to be sitting down at her daughter Jenny’s home.

“My mum sang out to me,” said Jenny Greenbank.

“She said ‘Come and have a look at this. Who can you see in there?’

“I said ‘Oh my god! It’s Dad!’”

The picture of Jenny’s father and Irene’s late husband Henry Hill sitting in a Ballarat Radio Cab in the 1960s is just one of thousands from the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute’s Max Harris Collection, and one of several pictures from the In The Frame exhibition that is running until September 30.

Exhibition curator Amy Tsilemanis is hoping more of the pictures will spark someone else’s memories of life in Ballarat in the period 1950 to 1970.

But for Jenny and her mum Irene, the photograph was all the more poignant because they hadn’t seen it before.

It’s possible it was a Courier picture, as Henry Hill worked at the town’s newspaper on the overnight shift, rolling and packing the next day’s edition from 1.30 am to 7.30 am.

In fact it’s hard to imagine when Mr Hill had time for anything. When he wasn’t driving or dispatching taxis, he worked at the Victorian Inland Meat Authority in Learmonth Road, Alfredton, represented the National Servicemen’s Association, was playing golf or simply helping people.

Irene says she would sometimes accompany Henry in his taxi when he began to drive.

“It didn’t seem to matter whether you were with them or not, because it was an old car; it wasn’t like the Radio Cabs,” said Irene.

Jenny said the taxi was a Valiant. 

“It was car number 35. I remember it was a black Valiant, and many weekends he would polish it up and put white ribbon on the front and white tulle In the back windscreen and it was used for weddings.”

Mr Hill drove for many owners in Ballarat, including Jack Stewart, Clive Dallas, Knoll Vordrey, Jeff Armstrong and Ray Lane. Irene says seeing the picture was astonishing. “It felt like he was sitting next to me!”