Jimmy has no airs about him, despite having chauffeured for no less than five of our Chief Ministers – only missing out on CM Sir Bob Peliza in the early 70s. He chronicles his previous jobs, “That’s right, and I don’t mind telling you I was a messenger in the Dockyard in the 70s and joined Government as a driver in the Public Works Department (PWD) mainly driving the water bowser – La Bota!”.
Keeping the townscape green was his task until he moved on to government staff cars driving for the Director of Public Works. The trend then, as now, is that when other staff car drivers go on leave, you’re asked to fill in, so Jimmy would invariably cover for the Mayor’s driver and the CMs – Sir Joshua Hassan, at that time. “Yes, this would happen from time to time until I became the Mayor’s driver followed by Sir Joshua’s, full-time. During that time I had applied for the Deputy Governor’s driver’s job but I didn’t get it!” And really, as they say, the rest is history!
Joe Bossano initially didn’t want a driver.
It’s been nonstop driving G1 from the very early 80s serving for Sir Joshua first, then Adolfo Canepa in 1987, Sir Joe Bossano from 1988 to 1996, when Sir Peter Caruana entered No 6 through to 2011, right up to his present retirement in 2019 driving for Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo for the last eight years. “Each Chief Minister, as you can well imagine, has been different: different character, different ways of doing things and so on, but I’ve always been treated well and there’s always been mutual respect from all of them. I remember Joe Bossano initially didn’t want a driver, he’d want to make his own way to meetings or functions, or have a colleague drive him there.” Jimmy tells me how the protocol dictated you didn’t join in conversations being had as you drove along unless specifically asked for an opinion and always opened the car door for the CMs wife or other passenger whilst the CMs car door would always be dealt with by his Close Protection Officer.
After so many years on the job, there are probably issues and incidents Jimmy has been witness to which despite my ‘delicate endeavouring’ to scoop out of him, he would not divulge… “Oh no, anything that may have happened or I was witness to, sensitive conversations etc., will go with me to North Front Cemetery!” Well said, Jimmy.
However, he does recall one occasion when the Chief Minister was made to wait for a minister who was still sitting in the car, for some reason, and was not moving. “Well, when I approached him I could see he couldn’t unclip the seat belt, he’d given up and that was it! Another situation where CM Sir Peter was left waiting was when I had to pick up the Chief Secretary first who was late. On arrival at Sir Peter’s residence he was standing there waiting, not a happy bunny. I was reprimanded and told he should be picked up first and let the other man wait… ‘so don’t do it again.’ Since then, going to the airport for example, I set off two hours ahead of pick-up just in case.”
I imagine there have been potentially awkward situations when there’s been a changeover of government and the new incumbent would welcome information about this or that. Jimmy tells me he’s always held back with ‘no comment’. Jimmy has also dealt with acting CMs and had good relationships with those too and highlights the GSLP’s Juan Carlos Perez as a true and excellent friend. Anecdotes abound as Jimmy tells me about our hard working Chief Ministers… “Peter Caruana’s child was about to be born and as he waited in hospital he was busy working away. Fabian Picardo once pointed out that the guests at the Ceremony of the Keys should not rise for his arrival as we drove into Casemates but only for the Governor. Thinking back, I suppose Fabian was the Chief Minister I felt most comfortable with [CM Fabian drove Jimmy home in G1 on his last day!] However, Peter Caruana had a really good sense of humour – but all five have been pleasant and a pleasure to serve.” Jimmy’s proud too, of the moment he met Margaret Thatcher and shook her hand at the Convent! “There’s respect and knowing your place, but in a way, you become part of the ministers’ families,” Jimmy declares, “And I think I’ll miss that. My advice to the new driver would be, it can be a delicate situation sometimes, don’t offer opinions, and do the job well.”
Thinking back, I suppose Fabian was the Chief Minister I felt most comfortable with.
He’s driven a number of CMs vehicles from a Ford Taunus to the latest all electric Tesla, “And it’s been fantastic, I wouldn’t change anything. Over time, I’ve observed how the general public behaves when a Chief Minister is no longer…It’s very interesting!”
And so it’s time for 66-year-old Jimmy to exit also and spend time with the family, and of course there’s scouting. He also feels the time is right ahead of the next imminent election. He’s been presented with the first G1 number plate signed by all the Chief Ministers he’s served. I know he’s going to treasure that fondly.
Well I too will treat him differently, as I won’t be able to threaten to report him for parking G1 in ordinarily No Parking areas when driving the CM to some meeting or event!
Happy retirement Jimmy.