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For her annual holiday Miss Winifred Wells decided to motorcycle from Perth, Western Australia, to Sydney and back on her privately owned “350 Bullet”. She set out on Boxing Day, 1950, equipped with food and spare clothing in two pannier bags, a suitcase strapped to her carrier and a knap-sack. There was no need for waterproof clothing, as it was midsummer in Australia , so her outer clothing consisted of riding boots , breeches , sweater , leather jacket and an old tweed cap; the latter to protect her from the scorching glare of the sun. Miss Wells, 5ft 5in, 22 year -old daughter of a furniture manufacturer in Shenton Park, Western Austra – lia, achieved what has been acclaimed as one of the most prodigious feats in Australian motorcycling history.
In 21 days she accomplished her solo ride from Perth to Sydney and back, a distance of 5,504 miles. Thus she averaged 366 miles per day, alone, braving the barren, sandy, waterless wastes of the Nullarbor Plains, a sparsely inhabited desert more than 1,000 miles wide. To tackle the desert itself would daunt many a husky male rider. Only those who have had first-hand experience can truly appreciate the courage and determination of this slim slip of a girl in crossing the desert twice within three weeks.The following itinerary, together with the map, will enable the reader to from a rough picture of this, one of the most arduous and dangerous long-distance rides in the whole history of motorcycling.
1950 Dec. 26 : Left Perth, spent night at Southern Cross. Dec. 27 : Reached Norseman. Dec. 28 : Rode 298 miles and camped in the bush. Dec. 29 : Reached Eucla. Dec. 30 : Reached Ceduna. Dec. 31 : Reached Port Augusta
1951 Jan. 1 : Reached Adelaide 1:30pm. Jan. 2 : Reached Melbourne. Jan. 3 : Rested. Jan. 4 : Left for Sydney. Jan. 5 : Reached Sydney. Jan. 6 : Rested. Jan. 7 : Left Sydney. Jan. 8 : Arrived Melbourne 8 a.m. Jan. 9 : Rested. Jan. 10 :Left Melbourne, 7 a.m. arrived Adelaide 7 p.m.Jan. 11 : Left Adelaide 1:30pm for Port Augusta. Jan. 12 : Reached Ceduna. Jan. 13 : Reached Eucla. Jan. 14 : Reached Norseman. Jan. 15 : Reached Southern Cross. Jan. 16 : Reached Perth 1 p.m.
The letter we received from Mr. Bolton subsequently describes the next leg of the journey to Sydney, and after only one day’s rest, back again to Adelaide.
“After having covered 1,731 mile to Adelaide across arduous desert country in the blazing heat of summer, Miss Wells left the city at 5 p.m. the same day for Melbourne, and so to Sydney where she arrived at 6:15 p.m. on 5th January. She spent a day seeing the sights and set off on the return journey on the 8th, arriving in Adelaide at 7:20 p.m. on 10th January. She had completed the run of 462 miles from Melbourne the same day, having left there at 6:30 a.m. Our hopes are high that this gallant little soul will win out. When she left Adelaide at 3:00 p.m. on the 11th inst., with the machine running as new, the temperature was 104.9°C. As she travelled north to Pt. Augusta, so the temperature increase, but she succeeded in reaching Port Augusta, a distance of 204 miles, by 8 p.m. On 12th inst., we received a telegram stating that she had left Pt. Augusta at 6 a.m. and she arrived safely at Ceduna, a distance of 323 miles due west, at 4 p.m. Thus we await further progress. The roads through which she is now travelling are merely bush tracks through sandy, waterless wastes, and her very life depends on the reliability of her machine. I have the precaution of phoning the police at Pt. Augusta with whom I am personally acquainted, asking them to advise other police along this lonely track to be on the lookout for her, in case of emergencies. Mr L. B. Clarkson, our Australian representative, advised us shortly afterwards that the phenomenal journey had been completed within 21 days, as scheduled by Miss Wells. He sent us a copy of the telegram he received from Carlyle & Co. Ltd, the dealers at Perth, from whom the machine was purchased by Miss Wells two weeks before her trip.
It read:–
In recognition of her magnificent feat, this Company sent out to Australia a handsome trophy which was presented to Miss Wells at the Claremont Speedway, Perth, where she rode a lap of honour on her “350 Bullet”.
Winifred was 22 years old when she made the trip, and she lived in Shenton Park with her parents. Winifred was last traced to Victoria in 2006 where she was thrilled to hear that her journey was still remembered.
(Ed. Winifred’s feat in riding those distances in the time she did is impressive, even by today’s standards when the road is sealed all the way.)


Ken ready to leave Perth – April 1951
These days a trip on the bitumen highway across the Nullarbor in central Australia is considered “a piece of cake”. However, when I did it in 1951, it was a great adventure for me. I can still hear my father saying – ‘are you sure you know what you are doing’.
I was 22 years old and had never been away from home before when my friend Gerry Smith riding a 1950 x 350cc Douglas and myself on a 1948 x 350cc AJS (rigid frame) decided to take the challenge. Back in those days, the bitumen finished at Southern Cross (WA) and then became a graded dirt track for many hundreds of kilometres before starting again at Port Augusta (SA). (Actual distances were miles then). We left Perth on 1 April 1951 and spent the first night in an un-used woodcutters tent, which gave some shelter, but the second night near Balladonia we froze as the temperature dropped to zero. We carried one blanket each and 2 ex-army ground sheets, and really had no idea it how cold it could be at night in this location. We had to carry petrol and water on a carry frame behind the rider, as well as clothes and provisions too. The weather was generally fine during the days. The road was graded in places and varied between corrugations and limestone rocks, with lots of potholes and was very dusty (i.e. bulldust). I should tell you that the best method of communication in 1951 was to advise the Police in Norseman in which direction you were headed, and they would then telephone the next nearest roadhouse. On reaching the destination roadhouse, the staff would do the same for you when leaving, by informing the next roadhouse and so on. (Could be 150-200 kms) This explains why the Madura Pass roadhouse proprietor said to me on my arrival, ‘where the bloody hell have you been, I have been waiting for you blokes to arrive for several hours’. Back to the story, just before Madura we had electrical problems with the Douglas having no lights (due to Lucas – ‘Prince of Darkness’). The Douglas engine was losing power and the exhaust pipes (2) were a glowing red colour in the evening light; so I had to leave Gerry and his Douglas on the side of the road whilst I rode on to get assistance. During WW2 the Australian Army laid down some bitumen at both Madura Pass and Eucla Pass (only about half a kilometre in length each) to enable trucks to climb the steep slopes of the Hampton Tablelands. The lights on my AJS then failed, but I knew it was only a few more kilometres to the roadhouse. It was then that I realized from the light of the moon that I think I am on a descending bitumen surface. Taking my feet off the foot pegs so that my shoes scraped along the road surface it felt like it too. Help was obtained at the roadhouse, sending a utility vehicle back about 20kms to pick up Gerry and the motorcycle.
Eucla Pass 1951
Next morning, we both went back to look at the sloping pass. Yes, I was right about it being a bitumen surface, but what I was not aware of in the dark of the previous evening, was that on one side edge it fell away by many metres into a gully, which ran the full length of the Pass to carry away water from the high ground. That frightened the hell out of me, because had I gone off the side of the road in the dark the night before, others might not have found me for days. We earned our keep for 3 days at the roadhouse, in particular loading and stacking the old ‘long neck’ 26ozs beer bottles (now empty) in crates, which original full bottles had been delivered by trucks to Madura. I have a recollection of 5-dozen bottles to a crate, and the crates were then stacked in a bloody great heap about 1-km away. At that time it was too expensive to return the ‘empties’ to Perth. When leaving Madura I thought I would send a telegram to my parents on arrival at Eucla to let them know I was at least half way to Adelaide. Imagine my surprise when Mrs. Gurney who ran the Post Office / store in Eucla said, “Sorry the Post Office closed 30 minutes ago”.
That was my first awareness of Australian central time, which is still used today, though most Australians never think about it. So I sent telegram next day. The road from Madura to Eucla had been good, but more problems were to occur with the Douglas motorcycle. Mr. Roy Gurney managed the Old Telegraph Station as a road house / petrol station, then made a good repair to the tension spring of the magneto points system, using an old flat spring from an alarm clock. Gerry and I slept in this historic building for a couple of nights. Unfortunately drift sand from the coastal dunes today covers the Old Telegraph Station and only one chimney is still visible. Both bikes experienced punctures, and working on the side of the road I removed the cylinder head from the AJS because I reasoned the engine needed de-coking. No air filter was fitted to AJS motorcycles then.
WA – SA Border (Eucla, WA)
Trying to make it to Penong in South Australia, it was again after dark and no lights working on either bike. We both had falls trying to follow the lights of a car travelling in front of us. This meant that to keep out of the dust from the car, one of us rode on the right side and the other on the left side of the road. Lifting the bikes upright was heavy work. Quite often a ‘cattle grid’ would loom up in front of us, which narrowed the road. Braking hard, often meant we had to lay the bikes down ‘speedway style’ to stop in time before the grid fence. Port Augusta (SA) and the bitumen road at last!!! Riding around the town we came across a very large heavy engineering workshop. Stopping to enquire what kind of work was carried on there, we were told this was the Australian National Railways maintenance depot. The man on the gate then asked me if I knew another West Australian by the name of Robin Fletcher. Yes, I did know Robin. Well he said he is the only man I know of that left Perth on a similar ride across the Nullarbor with ‘only a packet of biscuits and a water bag for sustenance’. Robin is now a Member of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club too. Another well-known VMCCWA Member is Past President Ernie Serls who also made a similar journey in 1952 on a 500cc twin cylinder Triumph.
I tell most people that while I rode an AJS (all jerks and stops), I knew what BSA stood for. (Bloody sore arse) This motorcycle adventure, Perth to Adelaide, took Gerry and myself ten days. And I still have the little camera today, which took these photos. As the often used quote says ‘it is not the destination that is important – its the journey’, and I certainly learned a lot in the month of April 1951
Editor…Ken Sadly passed away in July 2017

Kevin Cass retraces Arthur Grady’s circumnavigation of Australia

Kevin Cass retraces Arthur Grady’s circumnavigation of Australia

Seventy years on, the first circumnavigation of Australia by a powered vehicle has been retraced by an
motorcycle identical to the original.

The rattling crack of an open-piped exhaust split the lazy air of a sunny autumn morning. The motorcycle
swung into view, bearing down the main street of the Australian country town, its progress made more regal
by the rider’s stance. Large footrests and wide, luxurious handlebars contrasted with a small purposeful
motor and well proportioned running gear to cut a dash among the more mundane road users. The ancient
bike wheeled to a halt outside the largest building in the town. a towering, stone mill built last century. Its
rider climbed off the flat-tank bike. He seemed to be a man on a mission. He was.

Wollongong historic enthusiast Kevin Cass spent the Australian winter following in the wheeltracks of
Arthur Grady, the self reliant adventurer who rode a 350 cc Douglas twin from Perth across the top of
Australia to Brisbane and back through the state capitals in 1924-25 becoming the first person to
circumnavigate the country by motorised transport.

Cass left Wollongong on May 19 and a week later arrived at Adelaide’s Birdwood Mill motor museum via
Melbourne. He then headed across the Nullarbor and was back home ten weeks after leaving it.
His 1924 CW Douglas is almost identical to Grady’s right down to the unusual two- stroke exhaust pipes
fitted, which give a distinctive staccato bark.

Grady’s exploits, a publicity stunt organised by the West Australian Douglas agent Armstrong, achieved
worldwide recognition for the reliability of the new chain drive bike.

After completing the lap of Australia, Grady was immortalised by a small, pen and-ink-illustrated book
produced by the factory. It included an introduction by the editor of The Motor Cycle. Part of it read: “Very
few can appreciate fully the magnitude of the achievement, the dangers encountered, and the difficulties
overcome, for in this modern world of ours it is hard to realise that parts of an island continent like Austalia
remain unexplored and so out of touch with civilisation that failure of the explorer’s mount would mean
certain death.” But if anyone was up to the task it was Grady. A 25 year-old motorcycle racer toughened by
years of combat as a teenager in Word War 1. Grady was described in the book as “A tall good looking chap,
with auburn hair, and to quote an Australian newspaper— ‘Enough to make the average girl envious -he is a
typical British character’.

Grady travelled alone, without any support. His swag consisted of an army oilskin ground sheet and
mosquito net, bound tightly to the front forks. A toothbrush was carried in his pocket.
Enough fuel was held on the rear carrier to supplement the one-and-a-half gallon petrol tank. An extra
gallon of oil was carried to supply the prodigious thirst of the total-loss, plunger-pump oil system. An
ammunition box mounted on top of the carrier contained essential spares and a tyre-mending kit.
Grady also carried a medical outfit and basic army hard rations. Perhaps the most vital item was a two
gallon waterbag, the bare minimum for crossing such arid countryside.

Just four days after a rousing send-off from Perth in October, 1924, Grady literally ran out of roads and had
to use his wits and a compass to follow little-used bullock tracks. Not an experienced bushman, he soon
realised the enormity of his undertaking, especially with the north-west of the continent in drought.
He had fitted oversize Bates tyres to his wheels and they soon became invisible, so covered were they with
three-pronged seeds from the area’s spiky grass. However, in 8000 miles the tyres never suffered a

As he headed north-east into the edge of the Simpson desert, the station homesteads were 80 miles apart.
In one district he travelled 14 hours a day without changng out of low gear.

It was tough country. One station bunkhouse he dossed down in had the beds suspended by chains from
the roof.”Snakes are very numerous and when I wake at night I can hear them crawling about on the floor,”
the owner told him.

Station owners often gave Grady vague instructions, such as “Ride across the paddock until you reach the
fence, then turn right”. Often the fence would be a morning’s travelling. In a flat landscape where the outline
of a sheep on the horizon took on the proportions of a buffalo or a clump of bushes resembled a vital hillock,
it was inevitable that Grady would get lost.

Perhaps the worst incident was when he spent a day retracing his steps and found his waterbag had
sprung a leak, emptying its precious contents.

“Everything was hushed and awfully still” he wrote. “I would reflect a little faintheartedly on my journey,
solitary and melancholy, in that vast, rugged interior. Mile after mile of dreadful riding — it seemed to be
maddening.” Grady was also racing against time, for although he had run out of water, the weather was
shaping up for a major rain He wrote later: “When the big wet sets in, all human affairs come to a
standstill.The country is one great bog where neither man nor horse may travel.”

Eventually he abandoned the bike, tying his mosquito net on the end of a stick as a marker, and set off on
foot to follow a dry creekbed. Darkness and rain stopped even this effort and he sought refuge under
scrubby bushes from a two-hour deluge. He had been lost for two days.

In the dawn light he returned to his bike. started it up and stumbled over the faint marks of a buggy track.
Miraculously, he was safe. But he had suffered the privations that still exist for outback travellers, and there
are many motorcycle tourists on big (often rented) Japanese single-cylinder dirt- bikes who have lost their
bearings in the outback.

Now a new problem faced Grady. How to cross the swollen creeks.

“Collecting a few handfuls of grass I stuffed them tightly into the exhaust pipes and, with a piece of fat, kept
for lubricating the chains, greased the carburettor and magneto and plugged up the end of the carburettor
with a piece of greasy cloth. Then smearing grease over the petrol tank cap. I cautiously started across. In
mid-stream the handlebars were just visible.” Once over the plugs were withdrawn and the grand little
machine started up with a healthy roar.On another occasion he found it easier to cross a major riverbed by
dismantling the bike, carrying the engine across, then the rolling chassis, and reassembling it. He also
experienced fuel problems. At one point in the journey across the continent petrol was available at the
astronomical price of 10 shillings a gallon! On one occasion he rode 73 miles using kerosene (paraffin) in
place of petrol.

His oil supply dried up once, and he made do with a home-brew of six bottles of medicinal castor oil, half a
gallon of beef dripping (always semi-liquid in the summer heat) and two pints of windmill oil.
“I made it myself and any motorcyclist is free to use my recipe.” he wrote later.

One station Grady crossed was 14.000 square miles. Loneliness was not a problem as he befriended some
Aboriginals, who taught him how to harvest the desolate landscape for edible plants and berries.
But perhaps the most bizarre incident was when he met a bullock wagon team whose driver seemed to
have a knowledge of motorcycles. It transpired the man had a belt-drive Douglas strapped under the wagon
between the axles. When an incredulous Grady asked why, the bullock master said: “When I get 15 miles
from a pub I get on the Douglas and ride ahead. This gives me an extra two days drinking time before my
Aboriginal offsider arrives with the wagon.”

By the time Grady struck Brisbane the worst of his trip was over, despite the fact he was only halfway
home. He received civic receptions in the state capitals of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The journey home across the Nullabor from Adelaide was still a daunting experience, but Grady made light
of it saying it is a known road and has been travelled many times by motorists and motorcyclists. The
Douglas purred along contentedly day by day until on the 14th of March 1925 “I had the great pleasure of
riding down the streets of my native town of Fremantle and the Douglas registered the last beat after billions
of beats, in front of the town hall which I had left five months and 14 days before.

The great journey is finished and I am quietly satisfied with the honour of being the first to do it.
To the Douglas and Bates tyres I cannot give too much honour. Not one spare part was used on the
machine, which never once failed me and the Bates tyres never once punctured.”

The Douglas was eventually returned to England and put on display but what happened to it after that is

Grady was later offered a large sum of money to repeat the trip on an lndian but declined. He later raced
speedway motorcycles and continued riding motorcycles until the late 1970s. He died a few years later.


KEVIN Cass, of Wollongong, started from the opposite side of the country to Grady, not that it matters
much. He completed the journey in ten weeks, a couple less than he had given himself for the trip. He had
the help of a support truck for about half the trip — he parted company with his on-road assistance at
Broome, in north-west WA, completing the second-half of the journey by himself.
But Cass, a former Grand Prix racer on the Continental and English circuits in the 1960s, wasn’t out to set
any records.

“I’m doing it for the whole movement of historic motorcycling,” he said when he was in Adelaide. “I want to
break down the barriers between the clubs in various states and celebrate a piece of motorcycling history.”
Cass built up an almost exact replica of the original CW model Grady used. The only differences were
practical changes to allow the bike to remain safe in today’s frenetic traffic. The fuel tank was widened for
greater capacity, some bearings were replaced with modern designs, the 26-inch wheels were swapped for
19s, an air cleaner protected the engine, which used Australian-made conrods and pistons. Changes were
made to the oiling system for improved reliability, and, having sponsorship from Penrite Oils, Cass had no
fear of running out of the liquid gold.

Cass made it around the country without any major dramas, but he was nearly stopped with mechanical
failure at Mt Isa. 200 km before Mt Isa, at Camoowheal, he felt the engine’s vibration suddenly increase and
noticed a drop in power. It turned out to be a failing main bearing, which he repaired in Mt Isa with the
assistance of the local vintage car club. He says, in fact, that he spent many of the nights he was away
staying with people from the various vintage motorcycle and car clubs around Australia. and sends his
thanks out to all who assisted him.

Kevin Cass
In 1924, Arthur Grady of Fremantle, Western Australia, made the first motorcycle circuit of Australia on a Douglas in five and a half months. Neil Bromilow of the VMCCWA also replicated this on a 1922 678cc Martinsyde, from 2 June to 5 July 1984 covering over 15,985 km.

Arthur Grady arrives back in Perth


I thought you would like to hear first-hand how
Len Stewart and I got on at the T.T. Races. Len had very bad
luck in the Senior, in which he rode a Works CS1 Norton, and
as you know, having had the misfortune to buckle his back
wheel at Governor’s Bridge on the first lap, which caused his
early retirement. When I look back on it all now it’s simply a
wonderful experience. Even with our knowledge of the T.T.
course which we had beforehand, we were not able to
appreciate it until the day of the race. There is no doubt
about it; it’s quite unlike anything in the way of riding which
may be experienced in any part of the world. It is not a
reliability trial, nor a road race, nor a track race, singly, but a
combination of the three, It is a severe test of nerve and skill
on the part of the rider, and physical endurance, and also it
is the severest test; a motor cycle which performs splendidly
under all sorts of strenuous conditions in preparation for the
T.T., fails hopelessly on the actual day of the race from
troubles absolutely unheard of before. In the 350cc Junior
Race, 20 out of 46 finished, and in the Senior 18 out of 57. To
finish alone, you will see, is an achievement to be proud of
from the manufacturers’ point of view, because it requires
the best of material and workmanship to produce a motor
cycle which will stand up to 264 miles over seven laps of such
a course.

There is no road in Western Australia that I can liken to the
T.T. course, excepting perhaps the bit through Claremont
and Karrakatta via West Subiaco to King’s Park road on the
Fremantle to Perth route. Taking those twelve miles as an
example, it would be rather tame to compare it to any
twelve miles of the T.T. course, as the bends are neither as
many nor as bad on any part, and certainly the road surface
is not much better. I always thought the T.T. course was a
billiard table and that the roads were perfect for the job,
but never let it be said. I have watched fellows in front of me
riding at 85 and 90 miles per hour, and carefully noted the
antics of the machine they rode. They simply bounced along
all the time, never on the ground any more than a few yards
at a time. In some places the wheels, especially
the back one, sometimes over a foot in the air. The course is
thirty seven and three quarters miles, two hundred yards
round, and as I have said, every twelve miles is worse for
bends and surfaces than the Perth to Fremantle road. Not
only that, there is a mountain to climb out of Ramsey, 1400
feet in seven miles, and second gear most of the way.
We were timed over this stretch one morning by “Motor
Cycling” and all our speeds worked out, in the Sunbeam
camp, from 58 to 61 miles per hour, an average which means
over half the way in second gear through heavy mist from
Ramsey to the Bungalow. Of course we only struck the mist
on practice mornings as we leave the start at 5.OOAM. It is
quite light and we are able to see quite all right excepting on
the mountain, and I am not exaggerating or telling an
untruth when I state that it is only possible to see sometimes
not more than five yards ahead in some places, and never
more than ten yards for distances of three to four miles…
Len and I learnt the course so well that we were able to
average 60 miles an hour in the foggiest of mornings, passing
competitor after competitor up and down the mountain. It
is said that the mountain is very fast, and down to Craig-ny-Baa
a 350cc Sunbeam all out will be doing 85 to 88 miles per
hour, and from Craig-ny- Baa to Brandish Corner, around the
region of 90 miles per hour. A 500cc Sunbeam will do from
90 to 95 down the mountain, and from Craig-ny-Baa to
Brandish Corner round the region of 100 miles per hour.
Between the corners of Craig-ny-Baa and Brandish there is a
bend to take, sharp enough for one to be unable to see
around it when coming down the straight, yet we take it all
out, and I can hardly hesitate to say we need the whole of
the road to do it. They say that Hillberry is the fastest corner.
It is a corner, a real one, and how on earth we scrape round
at the speeds we do is quite beyond me. Perhaps it has
something to do with the camber of the road, but if you
make one mistake, it is crash and no bones about it, as many
have done this year. The practise laps have been more
thrilling than the racing in my opinion. We have had twelve
days of it, and every day we do two to three laps and easily
average over 60 miles per hour. Len and I did over 50 laps
before and at practice. Len had five wallops before the actual
practise commenced, nothing serious, but severely bent the
o.h.v Norton spare he was riding. He hit a cow at Ramsey,
which was the last episode, and had to go to Court over it,
but was lucky enough to melt the Judge into tears with
sympathy, and got away with it. In practise he hit a fowl at
Glen Helen, and there was fowl (also egg) all over his bike
when he finished his practise lap. In practise itself, Len had
no spills at all on his T.T. bike, but one very nearly, one
morning when Willmott Evans on a Triumph cut him off at a
corner unknowingly, at over 85 miles per hour. Len made
straight for a brick wall, and his broadside skid measured 70
yards, on the macadam. Talking to me about it afterwards,
he said that was one of the nearest squeaks he has ever had
in his life. Len’s practise laps were splendid, as they were
around about 34 and 35 minutes, and one morning he did
33.12. Imagine how he felt when he walked up to me at the
pits where I was filling up for Dick Burch on a Sunbeam
during the Senior race, and told me what happened to him
and his back wheel in the first lap. Of course you know I felt
very sorry for him, as it is a long way to come and then have
such bad luck.

He was Number 2 and Mainwaring on a Scott was Number 1.
After the start of the race Len passed Mainwaring round the
course, they duelled with one another, passing and repassing
all the way from Ramsey up and over the mountain.

At Governor’s Bridge, the worst place of all, Len tried to beat
him on the corner, which he did quite successfully and would
have got away with it, only Mainwaring unknowingly took
the whole road in the gully after Governor’s, upsetting Len
for his corner, causing him to right about face and
scrape the curb with his back wheel, tearing some spokes
out. I was in the pits when Len passed, after it happened, and
there he came full bore for the straight at over 90 miles per
hour, riding one hand and looking behind his back wheel,
which wobbled every turn as it passed the grandstand. He
told me afterwards that bits of rubber flew in all directions
about Crosby and it was impossible for him to carry on as the
wheel had simply jammed in the forks. The other Australian,
Arthur Simcock, a great friend of ours, had very bad luck also.
In the first lap of the Junior, he crashed at Sulby, and was
unable to proceed. In the Senior, he rode well, but packed
up with engine trouble early in the race Cohen the South
African, who rode a consistently splendid race, slow but sure,
in the Junior, was awarded a replica, and in the Senior fell
out in the sixth lap with engine trouble. As for myself. I had
rather bad luck, but have this fact to be consoled with, that I
am the first and only West Australian to have actually
finished in the T.T.

In the practise I had two very unpleasant experiences, the
first being connected with the late Archie Birkin, son of Lord
and Lady Birkin, who was killed practising whilst riding a
McEvoy 500cc Senior machine. I was the last to speak to him
at practise at the start one morning, and a little over fifteen
minutes later I was horrified to find him lying dead on the
road, as I was only one minute behind him on my
Sunbeam. A car had crept on to the course unknown to
anyone, on its way to Peel, and poor Archie was the
first man round the course. He swerved to save himself from
hitting it, and as the roads are very narrow indeed, he
bounced from one edge to the other at a speed of over 85
miles per hour. His crash helmet was torn from his head, and
I have never seen such fearful injuries before. I thought it
was my pal Graham Walker, at first, and it was only when I
saw the nickel tank of the machine that I knew it was
someone else. George Patchett and I did not know what to
do, we were so shocked. I dashed away to tell the Marshals
and Doctor at Ballaugh, and George stayed to do what he
could for him, his friend.

Archie Birkin

The next unpleasantness took place on the following
morning, when I came full bore round a blind bend at about
80 to 85 miles per hour, and fifty yards away was a stray
horse broad side in my path, with a high wall on either side.
I thought it easier to hit the horse than the wall, so I made
for his hind quarters as it was useless to trying to pull up. Just
as I reached it, the horse swerved and galloped down the
course towards the on riders behind me. I missed it by a
fraction of an inch, and Burney on a Royal Enfield following
behind, also had a very narrow escape.
The day of the Junior race arrived, and I was not a bit excited
as I thought I would be in the tent where all the machines
had been sealed and kept in control over the week-end. All
the chaps were very decent, and wished me the best of luck,
which I returned to them, of course. There were a few
preliminaries to go through in adjusting the machine, and to
the strains of music from a very fine band we all marched out
numerically to the start in front of the stand in Glencrutchery
Road. In front of the stand each man had a pit and attendant.
All you are allowed in the pits are the tools from the tool-kit,
a puncture outfit and a pump, and the marshals watch you
like hawks. There is a sealed petrol container with a hose
attached, and oil cans for quick filling in the pits. We were
sent out at half minute intervals, each to the National
Anthem of his country. Graham Walker and George Dance
bribed the bandmaster to play for me “Tell me the old, old
story” which they played as I pushed away.. My bike started
beautifully, and I went quietly, with three-quarter throttle
down Bray Hill to give the engine a chance to warm up a bit,
and mindful that Walter Handley, number 32 was half a
minute behind me. Wal told me he would catch me at
Crosby, and to look out. I gave him a run for his money and
he did not catch me until on the straight before Ballacraine.
His speed was simply marvellous and I made no attempt to
try and catch up as I knew it was useless, so I remembered
instructions, and rode with seven-eighths throttle safely and
rode my own race. It seemed funny, but I seemed to be
passing chaps, so I eased down a bit more. After the first lap,
as I came past the pits, they gave me my blue flag, which
meant that as per instructions I was lapping at 36 minutes.
They had been keen about the instructions and they never
liked to be disobeyed. 36 minutes I was told to lap at and 36
minutes it had to be. I know I can lap at 34-35, but that speed
is simply an engine breaker. Some of them stand up to it, but
most of them don’t – and as it was my first race I thought I
would like to finish at least. All went well until the Sixth lap.
I pulled into my Pit at the end of the Fifth Lap, and was told I
was only lapping at 38 minutes, which turned out to be
wrong, as I hardly ever varied from 36 minutes or 62 miles
per hour. I was lying 10th and if I had kept on as I was going
would have finished 4th or 5th, but luck would not have it
so. I tried to go faster; I skidded at Braddon Bridge on my
front wheel, corrected it, but was out of my line to take a
corner into the bridge. I ran along a two feet gutter for about
ten yards, took a complete somersault, and landed on my
back in the middle of the road. Spectators dragged me and
my bike out of the way of oncoming riders, and then I
proceeded to make adjustments and straighten things a bit.
Having done my best in this direction I was well on my way
to finish the last two laps. In order to make up for the time I
had already lost in the crash, for the first time gave the bike
full bore and rode wide open everywhere. At Kirkmichael
whilst running through the village at about 85 miles per hour,
the brake pedal, which was resting on the clutch spring,
caused the clutch adjusting nut to un-spin itself, and clutch
parts became spewed over a quarter mile of the road before
I could pull up. In Kirkmichael the streets are only about
fifteen feet wide, so you can imagine the fun I had trying to
find the bits, with chaps coming down this alleyway at
speeds anything from 75 to 90 miles per hour. I gave the job
up at first, as I realised it was impossible to carry on, but a
small boy came running down with my clutch spring, which
gave me a little hope. I robbed one of the nuts from the
countershaft spindle to take the place of the one I had lost,
but was stuck for the spring retaining plate, so decided to
have a look for it. About two or three hundred yards up the
road, with the help of some kindly villagers, I managed to
find it. As a matter of fact a young lady found it for me. So I
rushed back to the machine with my hopes high in the air in
spite of the fact that I had lost valuable time. Try as I might I
could not get the clutch spring compressed far enough to fit
it on the shaft. Some of the crowd even took off their laces
from their boots and we tried to tie the spring down with
them without success.
A small boy suggested that I should go up to his father’s
blacksmith shop half a mile or more away up the road, so I
set off in the broiling hot sun at a run to see what I could do.
Found the shop eventually and tried to compress the spring
with a rickety old vice. At the first attempt the spring
flew out, hit the roof, and lost itself amongst paint tins, carts
and pieces of old iron. The air was full of dust and blue
language, but the errant clutch spring was found, and after a
few more wild attempts, and remembering that more haste
makes less speed, I managed to get the spring
compressed and tied with copper wire. Thought I would
never be able to run that half mile back again as I was almost
boiled inside my leathers. However I got the clutch spring
fitted, but the copper wire jammed itself against the boss of
the outside clutch plates, so all I had was a fixed engine to
finish my lap and a half with till the finish. I lost no time in
getting under way. When approaching Sulby Bridge, which is
a direct right hand turn over a bridge with a wall on either
side, I started to tread on my brakes without the use of
second gear to pull me up, which is usually used. All out
along the Sulby straight, the machines certainly fly along,
and to pull up for this bend the first thing we do is to change
straight through to second from all out, then use the brakes
also to pull the bike up. I didn’t like to risk my gears so used
the brakes only and learnt a sound lesson i.e. that you cannot
pull up as fast without the engine as a brake as with it,
because the back wheel leaps into the air. Sulby Bridge can
be taken at 30 to 40 miles per hour, and as my speed was
over fifty I knew I was in for it good and splendid, so put right
boot on the ground, laid the machine as flat as I could and
skated face about, and hit the bridge wall, instead of with my
left shoulder, with my right one, going backwards,
frontwards, up in the air I went and crash once more on my
back in a cloud of dust. I was a good way from the spectators
and in a dangerous spot, so no one came near me, but I
managed, although very dizzy and shaken, to turn the bike
around and get it out of the way of the chaps coming behind.
I stopped up the road and examined the damage. Found I
had bent footrests, brakes, twisted handlebars and frame,
bashed exhaust pipes, mudguards and controls. In for a
penny, in for a pound, was what I thought, so once more I
proceeded on my way and rode like a madman until the
finish, using just top gear and foot slogging around slow
corners in order to keep the motor going. How it was I didn’t
crash again is beyond me, as the speed wobbles and skids I
got were most alarming, but I finished a very sorry spectacle,
with my leathers half torn off me, and the bike almost
ruined. Still it was a great experience and one I shall never
forget, and I am very thankful for having at least finished in
one piece.

If I stay in England, or if I go home before Christmas, I shall
certainly come again next year, and will ride in all three
races. But to ride again in the T.T. I will, as it’s made me
keener than ever to ride and do some good if I can. Len
Stewart feels the same way about things and I am sure, but
for his rotten luck also, would have finished well up. His first
lap of 34 minutes 53 seconds, with a fall included, was simply
splendid, and I am proud to think that an Aussie can hold his
own with the best of them. Sunbeams won the team prize in
the Senior after an excellent performance. I should have
ridden, but was in very bad shape and I could not do so. I was
supposed to ride in place of Jock Porter, who crashed early
in the practise, and could not ride. Dick Burch took my place.
I will be riding, officially representing Australia, in the
Scottish Six Days Trial and International Six
Days Trial, on a Sunbeam. I will also compete in the Ulster
Grand Prix with a bit of luck. Roy Charman was over to see
the Senior race in company with George Wallis, the designer
of the famous Wallis machine. Roy is coming home shortly,
so he will be able to give you first-hand news. He expects to
be home sometime about September.

Kind regards to all the chaps. Aub

AUBREY George Melrose was born on 12 November 1900, just eight weeks before the foundation of the  Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. Aub’s long, adventurous life was so rich and varied that it is difficult to know what to leave out, He was a boxer, a gymnast and an athlete; at the age of 15 he went to the opening of the Panama Canal to speak on behalf of the YAL; and his motorcycle and car racing careers spanned more than forty years. He turned to motorcycle competition when barely out of his teens, and he made such a name for himself as a talented, daredevil motorcyclist that he finished up in the UK in 1926, riding for the Sunbeam motorcycle firm. He was the first Australian to ride at the Isle of Man in the famous TT, and in the Ulster Grand Prix. Back in Australia Aub was instrumental in setting up the now-famous Harley Scramble, and was so good that he promptly won three out of the first four! A bad-racing accident in the late 1920s nearly severed his foot, and he faced the onset of the depression unemployed and on crutches, but overcame both of these obstacles and established his successful garage business.

Aub Melrose was also keenly interested in cars, in particular the ubiquitous Austin 7, and in 1922 he was one of the prime movers in the foundation of the W A Car Club, which catered for those motor enthusiasts who wanted a milder, on-road form of motor sport rather than the all-out racing offered by the WASCC. This led him into car trials. In 1936 he and his wife Gwyn scored a major triumph when they drove their tiny 1921 Austin 7 across the Nullarbor, won the South Australian Centenary Trial against all comers, and then drove home again. This was not the first of his Nullarbor crossings – eventually; he crossed the desert no fewer than 52 times, including the first lone crossing by motorcycle.

He was so convinced of the need for a proper road that in 1935 he led a delegation to Canberra to petition the Government on the matter. It wasn’t until 1942 that the first actual road linked the East and the West (before then it had been a route rather than a road) and he was the first civilian to use it. Constructed by the army, it was known as the Military Road until later renamed the Eyre Highway. His damaged foot (and possibly his age – he was almost 40) kept him out of the Army when War broke out, so he served in a civilian capacity by instructing army dispatch riders in the techniques of rough riding.

Aub actually started car racing in the 1930s, and from about 1937 entered most of the round-the-houses races – including the famous Patriotic Grand Prix – invariably in the valiant little Austin 7. The WASCC pretty well dissolved during the War years, but Aub was one of the enthusiasts instrumental in getting the Club going again and, in particular, staging the massively successful Victory Grand Prix at Caversham in 1946. The inevitable Austin 7 gave way to a variety of cars in the post-war years. He bought a damaged MG TD and built it up for the 1951 Australian Grand Prix; raced an Austin Healey 100M to second place in the 1956 six hour Race; competed in Round- Australia Trials in Austin A40, an Austin A70 and then an Austin A95; and in 1960 drove a Porsche to fourth outright in the Touring Car Championship and sixth outright in the Six Hour Race, at an age when most men are content merely to talk about such things.

Over the years Aub Melrose occupied just about every position in both the WA Car Club and the WA Sporting Car Club, became Life Member of both, and was held in the greatest of esteem by all who knew him. In the early 1970s he suffered a series of strokes, which left him partly paralysed, and he could only move about, and talk with the greatest of difficulty. In his last years he was in and out of hospital, and he died on 18 November 1978, six days after his 78th birthday, but lives on in the memories of the many friends who will never forget him.

Charles Archibald Cecil “Archie” BIRKIN (30 March 1905 – 7 June 1927) was a British motorcycle racer, brother of Tim Birkin, one of the “Bentley Boys” of the 1920s. He was born into a wealthy Nottingham family in 1896. He was the son of Sir Thomas Stanley Birkin, 2nd Bt. and Hon. Margaret Diana Hopetoun Chetwynd. During an early morning practice session for the 1927 Isle of Man TT, Archie Birkin swerved to avoid a fish-van travelling to Peel and collided with a wall at Rhencullen and was killed instantly. The corner in Kirk Michael on the A3 primary road where the accident occurred was renamed ‘Birkin’s Bend.’ From 1928 practice sessions for the Isle of Man TT Races and Manx Grand Prix were held on closed-roads. A regrettably short-lived marque, McEvoy built motorcycles from 1924 to 1929, its most famous creations being the fearsome Anzani and JAP-powered V-twin racers. In the hands of ace-rider George Patchett, McEvoys, in both solo and sidecar trim, stormed to notable successes on the steeply banked Brooklands Circuit at Weybridge.  Old Etonian Michael A McEvoy ran his motorcycle operation from the tiny village of Duffield on the busy A6 road just North of Derby. His full time employment was at the nearby Rolls-Royce Derby factory where he honed his engineering skills.

The first eponymously named motorcycle appeared in 1924 and McEvoy made its Motorcycle Show debut at the Olympia Exhibition the following year. On show there, and reviewed to much acclaim, were 350cc Blackburne and 500cc JAP-powered singles and a show-stealing 1,000cc Anzani V-twin. 1926 was a landmark year for young Michael McEvoy, his business now being well established and he himself having quit his employment at Rolls-Royce to devote his energies to his fledgling business. He relocated that year to larger premises in Leaper Street, Derby, and George Patchett moved from Brough Superior to join McEvoy as Competition Manager.

That same year substantial financial backing came from Cecil Allerhead (‘Archie’) Birkin, brother of Sir Henry (‘Tim’) Birkin, one of the famous ‘Bentley Boys’ and backer also of Bentley Motors Ltd. With McEvoy’s Rolls-Royce background, Patchett’s experience at Broughs and Birkin’s financial clout, here was a potentially winning formula.  That same year McEvoy’s range expanded to include a JAP-engined 8/45hp, overhead valve, V-twin, a state-of-the-art super-sports model guaranteed capable of 100mph. Contemporary McEvoy advertising boasted ‘The Fastest All-British Big Twin’ and that their machine ‘holds all high speed British records worth holding in its class’. The fearless Patchett broke nine World Records and won the Championship of Southport on the sands there in 1926 at 116 1/2mph.

It had been McEvoy’s intention to build bespoke motorcycles for the wealthy and discerning, much in the manner of George Brough at nearby Nottingham, however financial necessity saw McEvoy adding models to cover almost every capacity class, even down to a 172cc Villiers-powered lightweight. Despite business pressures Michael McEvoy still found time for exciting development projects on the drawing board and an all-new four-cylinder prototype, along with a range of overhead-cam singles, was exhibited at Olympia in 1928.

Sadly none of these models reached series production. The death of ‘Archie’ Birkin while practicing for the TT in 1928 lost McEvoy his major financial backer and this was a blow which was to prove not just crippling but fatal.

Clarke and Webster – Sydney to Perth Record Run 1924

FROM SYDNEY TO PERTH WITH MOTOR CYCLE & SIDECAR, Perth Western Australia 8 March 1924
E. C. Clarke, with his head bandaged and Bert Webster, passenger, arrived to-day in a motor cycle and sidecar from Sydney, doing the journey in 9 days 17 hours and 49 minutes. By travelling from Melbourne to Perth in 3 days 17 hours and 54 minutes they beat Armstrong and Schiller’s recent time of 5 hours and 18 minutes. Unfortunately. Messrs. Clark and Webster encountered trouble between Melbourne and Adelaide. The motor cyclist who was piloting them at night crashed into a spoon drain at Cressy and before their machine could be stopped Clarke and Webster struck him. the accident rendering the driver. Mr. Clarke, unconcious and necessitating a delay of approximately 24 hours. But for this unfortunate occurrence it is probable that the existing record would have been lowered by a far greater length of time.

James Mellor – Bathurst

Monday, June 28, 1914 saw the 2nd running of the Australian Grand Prix at Sunny Corner, near Bathurst. It was held over 100 miles and the start was delayed to allow snow to clear from the racing line. James Meller on a Matchless was the winner.


James E. Meller with his Matchless on which he won the, June 28, 1915 Australian Grand Prix, held in the Bathurst District



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Lake Perkolilli 1914-2014 Centenary of Speed

Racing in the pioneer days was on dirt roads largely and maybe none are more dusty than those in the Outback of Australia. In the Goldfields of Western Australia in 1914 a group of motoring enthusiasts started racing on a claypan at Lake Perkolilli some 20 miles from Kalgoorlie (which is 365 miles inland from Perth). The racetrack skirted the dry lake bed and is 2 miles long. In it’s day it was known as Western Australia’s premier racetrack and was popular in the 20s and the 30s and saw some very fast speeds obtained on the track. To celebrate 100 years since the first race a group of motorcyclists and cars returned to the track this weekend to re-enact the event. I scored a ride on an old Nimbus 750. It was fabulous to tear around the circuit however the dust and conditions inevitably took their toll on the machines. Conditions were primitive. Two days of trials were completed but the planned 2 days of public spectacle were wiped out by massive unseasonal thunderstorms, wind and rain which turned the place into a muddy quagmire and vehicles were covered in mud and lucky to get out. It was great to be part of a historic road racing event regardless.Capture



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The Britten 1000

John Kenton Britten (1 August 1950 – 5 September 1995) was a New Zealand mechanical engineer who designed a world-record-setting motorcycle with innovative features and materials. 

Britten worked on motorcycle design for some years, developing innovative methods using composite materials and performance engine designs. He created the Britten Motorcycle Company in 1992 to produce revolutionary machines to his own design made of light materials and using engines he built himself, which became famous around the world.

His Britten motorcycles won races and set numerous speed records on the international circuits, and astounded the motorcycle world in 1991 when they came a remarkable second and third against the factory machines in the Battle of the Twins at Daytona.

Diagnosed with an inoperable skin cancer related illness, John sadly died on 5 September 1995 just over a month after his forty-fifth birthday.