How writing helped cab driver after attack

George McDougall after graduating from Napier University. Picture: contributed
George McDougall after graduating from Napier University. Picture: contributed
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HE was subject to a savage beating that left him so terrified he was unable to leave home for six months.

But cabbie George McDougall is making a comeback after graduating from university as an aspiring screenwriter – at the age of 75.

The pensioner suffered a broken jaw while a crazed customer rained blows on him during a late-night taxi ride from Gilmore Place bowling green to an address in Cramond.

The violent passenger, whose girlfriend was also in the taxi, launched the sickening assault after being asked if he wanted to go via a turn-off at Davidson’s Mains.

George, from Broxburn, said: “I was told, ‘you’re the f****** driver’, and that was when he punched me in the face, while I was still driving the car. My car strayed to the side of the road and stopped. He and the woman got out and he started smashing the windows and punching me.

“I was terrified – terrified for my life. I just thought, ‘This guy is capable of anything’.”

Although he was able to “rugby-tackle” and hold down his assailant until police arrived, George’s post-traumatic stress was so severe that he found himself too afraid to leave his house and had to give up work.

The great-grandad said he was still living with the effects of the beating, which happened in September 2004.

“I used to play golf at the Dalmahoy and dropped by the course there shortly after it all happened,” he said. “I got out the car that day and just said to myself, ‘no’, and got back in the car and drove back to the house. I just felt secure there.

“I could not leave the house. I could go into the garden at the back for some fresh air, but that was it. I just could not talk to people and I could not face people. I’m still taking pills [for the stress].”

It was not until George’s son encouraged him to take screenwriting night-classes at Edinburgh University that his confidence began to return.

Five years later, George had earned sufficient qualifications to get on to Edinburgh Napier University’s PgCert in screenwriting course and has not looked back since.

Now graduated, George has already written more than 20 short and feature-length screenplays, which he plans to pitch to producers.

He said the experience of attending university was life-altering.

“I got to university and everyone was so helpful – no-one was saying I was too old for this or anything like that,” he said.

George’s teachers said they were delighted at his course success.

Professor Robin MacPherson, director of Screen Academy Scotland, said: “George’s story is an inspiration to anyone who, for whatever reason, has put off following their passion in life.”