Thursday, November 28, 2013

George R Broadbent - Father of Cycling

Who was George R Broadbent? 
Considered to be the father of Australian Cycling, Broadbent had a cycling career spanning from 1895 to 1903 but he didn't take up the sport competitively until he was 32 and retired at 40. George was born of English parents at Ashby near Geelong in 1863 and later moved to North Melbourne with his father George Adam Broadbent and mother Elizabeth. He went to school at nearby Errol Street.

George followed his father into cycling when the sport was in its infancy. In those early years George raced penny farthings and a little later the safety cycle with much success. He held Victorian and Australian long distance records in the late 1890s. Two records that are documented in Wikipedia include 203 miles on a penny farthing and 100 miles in 6 hours and 20 minutes on the new safety cycle.
These records would confirm that Broadbent was a rider of some endurance yet he also won the Australasian 5 mile championship in the 1893/1895 season and followed that up in the 1895/1896 season by winning the State 5 mile title.  These were track titles and one might assume that they were possibly have been conducted at the Royal Exhibition Buildings flat oval track.
He did however establish records on that track in May 1894 for all distances between 130 to 220 miles and times for between 8 and 12 hours.
This venue drew huge crowds as can be seen from the post card below.

1890 100 mile record

Americans Arthur Zimmerman (1895) and the Black Flash, Marshall "Major" Taylor (1902) both raced in Melbourne during the time of George Broadbent's career and if he didn't race against them, he would at least have seen them race at the Exhibition.

After establishing those records it would be assumed that George Broadbent would be in fine form for the very first Warrnambool Road Race that was conducted in 1895. Unfortunately not! It was won by A. Calder in 11h/44m/30s. Only seven riders completed the distance from twenty four starters. George Broadbent was third.

Hard to believe but this week I picked up a bundle of old Australian Cyclist magazines from Jae Omara of Omara Cycles/Corsair Cafe. Amongst these magazines was a tribute to George Broadbent by Stan Mullany - a contributor to the magazine for as long as I can remember.

He introduced his tribute with the following words;
After 60 years continuous association George Broadbent and his life long friend, his bicycle must part on medical advice. This grand old man of Australian cycling leaves in his wake a priceless legacy of service that richly entitles him to have his name kept evergreen in Australian cycling annals with the fitting title "Father of Australian Cycling".
Mullany continued;
My phone rings and then - hello is that you Stan? - what do you think they won't let me ride my bicycle any more.
Hope you can read the rest of this. click on the image for a larger view
Click on image for larger view

Broadbent was also a foundation Councillor of the League of Victorian Wheelmen which was established in October 1887. I remember walking into the LVW when the office was in North Melbourne, Victoria St, just around the corner from Errol St from where the Father of Australian Cycling grew up.

Initially with his love of cycling he became a member of the Eureka Bicycle Club which was formed in Hotham (later Nth Melbourne) in 1882 and became its Chairman in 1884. If this was not enough of his efforts to Cycling he was also a major motivator behind the Victorian Touring cycling boom which no doubt inspired his map publishing interests. Another role he filled was as handicapper for Melbourne Amateur Wheelers when they ran the early Australs and later as a handicapper for the LVW.
No wonder they called him the Father of Australian Cycling - he left a great legacy behind that many of our current cyclists would unfortunately have no knowledge.

George's competitive cycling career came to an end in 1903 to concentrate on his map publishing business when his interests were drawn more towards motoring. In 1898 he had purchased a steam driven vehicle and travelled much of Victoria writing articles for the Argus newspaper for both cycling and touring. Around the time of his retirement he attended a meeting that established the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. His contributions as a Founding Member rewarded him his RACV Life Membership.

George and Elizabeth Broadbent had three sons and seven daughters. Their second son Robert Arthur followed his father's passion for the bike and represented Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games but that's another story for the future.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Connections through Communication

What does that mean?
Connections through Communication!

Its amazing when you are researching a subject or persons and paths cross. One such subject was Paddy Hehir. Who was Paddy Hehir you may well ask?
Paddy's name came up when I was researching the origins of my motor pace bike or stayer as they were known in Europe. Stayer bikes with cyclists on huge gears pedalling furiously behind the big motors travelling at 60 mph on large oval tracks - here in Australia it was at the motordrome in the 30s.

Anyway my stayer frame had a large "i" bronzed to the head. I thought it was an Ideal but later I was told it may have been an Ixion so I researched Ixion bikes. From there I found that Ixion bikes were connected to a racing cyclist in those early years by the name of Paddy Hehir. Paddy wasn't too shabby as a racing cyclist in fact he rode against, and with the best of his era.
The only known photo of Paddy Hehir I could find in my research.
Patrick O'Sullivan Hehir was an Australian cycling champion. He participated in the 1912 UCI Track Cycling World Championships at the Newark Velodrome. He won the American Derby event in 1912.[1] In 1910 Frank L. Kramer beat Hehir in the one-mile open professional event.[2] (Wikipedia)

Paddy made his career by riding the sixes in Australia and the USA and from 19 of the gruelling events he participated in from 1909 to 1915 he actually had 7 wins and 5 seconds - not a bad effort. So why don't we know much about Paddy O'Sullivan Hehir?

Two wins were with Alf Goulet in 1911 but that was after the pair teamed up at Madison Square Garden in 1910 for a fourth place.Three of those victories were in the USA with Peter Drobach at Buffalo, Newark and Indianapolis. After returning to Australia in 1911, Paddy and Alf teamed up for two Six wins. One in Melbourne, the other in Sydney.

Newark Velodrome

Poor old Paddy suffered from Cadel Evan's misfortunes of breaking collar bones and in one season he had a trifector.
The Referee journal of 1913 and 1914 published his letters about his six day races in the USA. In the April 1913 edition he stated that his win at the Buffalo Six Day was a fairly easy victory. He was invited to team with Goulet in Paris but found the financial rewards more enticing on the American circuit and had an easier time earning it.

Goulet and Hehir win the Six in Sydney - 1912

His January 1914 contribution to the "Referee" under the title of "Paddy Hehir Returns - Fortunes and Misfortunes of an American Racing Season" he tells of his three broken collar bones in one season.
He talks of Reggie McNamara, Spears, and Alf Grenda - all Australians making their name on the American Circuit.
Another article in the New York Times echoed the headline "Kramer's Sprint Wins" with the sub-title "Champion defeats Hehir on the Newark Velodrome". Kramer, a world sprint champion may have had Paddy's measure in the sprint match but our Irish/Australian beat Kramer in the 1/2 mile handicap on the same night, but had to take second again to Kramer in the one mile handicap.
The Ixion Track Bike

Paddy returned home and founded Ixion Bicycles with his partner a chap by the name of Blair at St Kilda in Melbourne. It was back then that a young Rupe Bates (Bates Cycles) learnt his trade working at Ixion. This is where the Connections through Communications comes about. Only last weekend I was talking to Leo Bates who bought a bike shop from another bike shop owner, Pop Storran in Thornbury. Pop's brand was Ideal, the name on my stayer frame. I asked Leo Bates about the bike, Pop and conversation got around to my earlier thoughts that the bike was an Ixion and the fact that it may have been connected to Paddy O'Sullivan Hehir.

It was then that Leo exclaimed, "I remember Paddy, he worked with us down at Clifton Hill at Rupe's bike building factory". Could Rupe have repaid the favour to Paddy in later years for giving him his introduction the the bike business. This is all conjecture on my part and the truth is most probably lost in time now that so many years have passed.

Maybe someone out there may know more about Paddy - certainly Leo Bates knew very little of his amazing racing career in the world of Madison and Six Day racing in that magical era in the early part of the 1900s.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

W.K. (Bill) Moritz

Sorry that this post comes almost a month after the Billy Guyatt post - W.K. Moritz was a fascinating cycling personality to research and one wonders where to stop before publishing on "The Cycling Scrapbook".
I hope you enjoy the read but maybe grab a cup of coffee or a glass of red before you start.
(Research credits at the bottom of the post)

The 1930s had many great stars in the sport of cycling such as Hubert Opperman, Fatty Lamb and Ossie Nicholson.
The track had Cecil Walker at his best in the USA but during the mid and late 1930s, a new breed of cyclist was entering the domain of the establishment. Bill Moritz, Keith Thurgood and Deane Toseland were all from South Australia and were part of that new breed. As the huge oval tracks were being replaced by steeply banked board tracks in Melbourne and Sydney, these three were among the young riders to dominate track racing as well as the road.

Born at Torrensville, suburb of Adelaide, March 19, 1916.  Attended Christian Brothers College, Adelaide.  Joined Payneham Cycling Club as junior aged 14.y.o.   At age of 17 won 25 mile road championship of South Australia.  
From H.’Curly’ Grivell’s ‘Australian Cycling in the Golden Days’ (published circa 1950). Supplied by Ken Mansell

Having great success in his home town of Adelaide, Moritz ventured to the mecca of cycling in Melbourne. At the time of his arrival from South Australia, the big meetings were being held at the Olympic Park Motordrome and the Exhibition oval track. As a 19 year old he showed promise in a 50 km scratch race at the Motordrome despite taking a tumble in the closing stages.

Moritz won the 25 kilo scratch race at Olympic Park on Saturday night under almost the same conditions as when he was victorious in the 50 kilo cycling Derby on the same track early in the season.  Crashing on Saturday night in the last two laps, he rose, partly stunned, ran for one lap with his damaged cycle, and then with the permission of the referee of the LVW, completed the last lap on a borrowed machine – the victor. 

The Sporting Globe, Wednesday, February 19, 1936. Supplied by Ken Mansell

It was 1935 at the age of 19 he made his mark on the national scene. By 1936 he was the scratch marker with a field of 150 riders in the Austral Wheel Race at the Motordrome. The previous Austral was held in 1929 and after a hiatus of six years, there were two stagings of the race in the same year. The gaps were too great for Moritz to make up distance on the outmarkers but his compatriot from South Australia, Keith Thurgood riding from 100 yards took the win. This would not be the first time that a fellow South Australian would take success from Moritz in the classics. The 1936 Austral marked the demise of the Olympic Park Motordrome. It proved to expensive to maintain and was falling into disrepair. Promoter Jack Campbell had built a new board track at the site of the old Exhibition oval track and this would become the mecca of track cycling in Melbourne.

Moritz seemed to have a preference for the steeply banked board track and proved this for the second Austral Wheel Race within the same year. Again the scratch marker, Bill Moritz was outsmarted by the limit rider, 19 year old Harry Webb who held out for the win with Moritz taking second place. Second place was beginning to become a habit for Bill. The Austral would never see his name on the Austral Wheelrace honour board.

He was however successful in the longer European style scratch races (Point Score). It was not uncommon for Moritz to clear out from the field to take a lap on the field and on one night at the Exhibition, not content with one lap on the field, he took a second against a field that included Cecil Walker, import Franz Deulberg and locals, Clinton Beasley, and fellow South Australian Deane Toseland.
Not content for that win, he did the same the following racing night at the Exhibition boards against a cracker field.
The Healing boys with Moritz second from the left.
As a road rider he was also a scratch man. He took fastest time in the League of Victorian Wheelman sanctioned Melbourne to Bendigo but unfortunately he had to settle for another second place with an outmarker able to hold out for the win. The scratch bunch did lose Hubert Opperman due to gear malfunction. With Oppy's ability to suffer, maybe the scratchmen may have got up.

The Melbourne to Bendigo was a precursor to the 1939 Warrnambool and once again it was a strong scratch bunch of Oppy, Moritz, Angus, Thurgood and Toseland. The Argus Newspaper picked Bill Moritz as the favorite due to his good form in the Melbourne to Bendigo.
There was a field of 247 starters and one of those was to have a mishap 50 yards from the start. Oppy had the misfortune to fall early and after 15 miles of chasing the strong pace set up by the scratch men, he retired with no hope of catching.

As it was with the scorching pace, the scratchmen did get up with the three South Australians, Moritz, Thurgood and Toseland left to fight out the finish for the winning garland. It was Moritz that was once again the bridesmaid with Deane Toseland adding his name to the record books for 1939.
The time of the race was 8 hours and 18 minutes, 16 seconds with only 25% of the 247 starters finishing the race. The day's conditions proved to be one of the toughest for many years.

The road season came to an end with the Warrnambool and a new track season at the Exhibition Board Track began. The record books show that Bill Moritz had another successful season. Again he took out the 5 mile scratch race in November by lapping the field, then in January he won the International 5 mile and the following weekend the ANA Gold Stakes being the crowd pleasing final race for the night.
These fields boasted of some of our best locals as well as International riders from England, USA, Germany and France. Syd Cozens from England was one, and Nino Borsari from Italy.

Bill Moritz (SA) to the left - Ted Easton (QLD) to the right.
The two combined to win the 100 Empire Teams Race at the Exhibition Board Track.
It was the 50 km Pro Teams Championship of Australia during the 1939 season at the Exhibition Board Track that Moritz, teamed with Stan McPhee took the title against the classy field. He also won the Empire 100 km Team Race with Queenslander Ted Easton. Bill Moritz seemed to be a natural with the endurance events yet he was able to break the track furlong (220 yds) record, lowering it by 1/10th to 11.9 secs in a training session in preparation for the Australian Sprint Title.

This was possibly one of the last meetings held at the Exhibition Board Track before Jack Campbell relocated to Nth Essendon. Note at the bottom of the program that the following Saturday night's racing featured the 50 kms British Empire Teams Race that Moritz and Easton won.
The last event for the night's program was the featured 5 Mile Pro International Scratch Race. This program from my collection shows in pencil the placings with Moritz the winner. Tassie Johnson was second. Many riders from our old Pro days probably earned a fine or two from Tassie in his days of being Chief Referee at most meetings in the 60/70s.
The following track season saw Promoter Jack Campbell move the boards out to North Essendon. Bureaucracy and the state government demanded the change, whether it was due to locals complaining about the noise of the rattling boards or crowds of 10,000 spectators was unknown but Jack Campbell had a limited amount of time to demolish the board track after the end of the 1939 season. The boards were dismantled and the track was reconstructed just near the North Essendon station and there it remained for the next 16 years until the 1956 Olympic Games. Within that time the events of Melbourne track cycling was run under the management of Jack Campbell until 1952 when Ted Waterford took over as owner and promoter of track cycling at the North Essendon Board Track.

1940 and the Exhibition Boards finds a new home just outside the Railway Station at North Essendon.

Moritz did compete at the relocated board track during the 1940 season and there was also talk of him going to America and England to further his cycling career. Just prior to the end of the 1939 track season he became engaged to Miss Mary Slattery and it might be presumed that they were to marry before taking off overseas. Whether this happened or not is not clear however war was looming in Europe and Bill Moritz was one of those that signed up for duty. He never returned. As was a tail gunner, his plane was shot down over the English Channel.

W.K. (‘Bill’) Moritz, the greatest racing cyclist in the Southern Hemisphere.  A real wizard of the wheel, Moritz, by his amazing speed and generalship, capped brilliant achievements in each of the seven years since his entry into the sport by winning all of the major events in Australia and New Zealand during the last two path (sic?) racing seasons.  He is equally versatile on the road, having won fastest time in the historic Goulburn to Sydney 129 miles road  race, and the Australian 100 miles road championship two years in succession in the annual Healing Midlands Tour.  Moritz, who always rides a Healing bicycle, is a cyclist who has indisputably won the leading place among the foremost Australian wheelmen.   
Supplied by Ken Mansell from a Healing advertisement. 

Research Credits
Ken Mansell - History & Heritage Committee (Cycling Victoria)
TROVE Newspapers - National Library of Australia (the www)
Personal collection of programs of L.D Sims
And of course the memories of my 92 year young father, Jack Sims who rode at both the Exhibition and Nth Essendon Boards.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bill Moritz

It's been much too long since my last post on Billy Guyatt. There's a reason, I've been holding back due to further research. Since my last post I had a call from a rather well known photographer in the world of cycling during the 60s and 70s. His name is Ray Bowles and many of us have photos of ourselves in our scrapbooks that Ray took. I know I have a few.

Ray invited me for a chat to introduce me to the History and Heritage Committee of Cycling Victoria. Having only recently started the "CYCLING SCRAPBOOK" Blog, it was perfect timing on Ray's part. The Committee have done a fantastic job of collecting an enormous amount of memorabilia which is being collated and filed for future reference.

So, getting back to why I haven't posted for awhile! I started researching South Australian cyclist Bill Moritz and was fascinated by his exploits and as I read more, I discovered more about him, as a rider, as a person and his involvement in World War II - he never came back home. I hope to post the much too short history of W. K. Moritz soon.

Bill Moritz (Left) at the Nth Essendon Board Track
If you have any info of Bill Moritz - send it to me via