FROM POSTIE TO ENTHUSIAST.
Phillip Cunningham remembers vividly the moment the old Postmaster-General said to him, ‘you’re not riding your bike today, Phillip – come with me.’
“There it was in the car park,” says Phillip, “the Leyland Mini with the two doors at the back – and it was wonderful.”
Phillip worked as a telegram boy for the Postmaster-General’s Department* (PMG) in the 1970s. He started out riding a bike to deliver his telegrams.
“My uniform was green and I had a leather satchel where I kept the telegrams.
“In 1978 I turned 18, and the Postmaster informed me that the government would pay for my driving lessons.”
The two-door Mini Clubman waiting for Phillip in the post office car park was the first car he drove by himself after obtaining his driver’s licence.
“The very first thing I remember about that Mini was walking into the car park of the post office, and the number plate started with a red ‘Z’, which all government vehicles did.”
A typical day would start at 8 am. The Telex machine, which operated 24 hours a day, would usually have 10 to 20 telegrams ready to be sent in the morning from overseas.
People were often apprehensive about receiving a telegram, recalls Phillip, because they were expensive to send and were often associated with bad news. So, delivering congratulatory wedding telegrams was something that he looked forward to, “out we’d go, if someone was getting married – on Friday all the telegrams would come through”.
Driving a MINI while working for the PMG sparked a lifelong passion. “I fell in love with the MINI,” he says, and was “overwhelmed with joy” when BMW bought MINI in the 90s and there was a revival of the iconic car. “I saved and saved and saved to get myself back into a MINI.”
Phillip has now owned several MINIs and currently drives a red MINI 3-Door Hatch. “I treat it like a baby, my MINI – it’s in the garage, I park at supermarkets and places where I’m away from everybody else.”
He is now planning to buy another.
“I’m hoping my retirement car will be a Countryman. I’d be happy to end my driving career driving one of those.”
Phillip has also already thought about what colour he’ll get.
“I like colour in cars. I like reds and greens. When you look around the world today, most cars are black, silver or white…. I’m somebody who’s against the grain. I’d love a British racing green colour.”