Good turnout and a lucky break in the wet weather saw the Arthur Grady Day being a great success.
Originally run to celebrate the feats of Arthur Grady a Fremantle bicycle maker who became the first person
to ride a motorcycle around Australia. The event has grown into a fantastic celebration of all things vintage.
Pics: Murray Barnard
Around Australia by Motorcycle 1925
Around a Continent by Motor Cycle.
By the manufacturer of the machine.
Messers. The Douglas Motors LTD.
Just a word of introduction before the reader’s mind is absorbed in Mr.
Grady’s wonderful narrative.
With regard to the actual feat accomplished words are not necessary. It is
a wonderful example of a Britisher’s pluck and stamina, coupled with the
power of endurance in a machine of our manufacture, and has once more given
further cause for our perfect faith that the Douglas Motor Cycle is the very
last word in efficiency.
The following story is exactly as Mr. Grady wrote it, word for word,
without alteration of any sort. He wrote this of his own accord from the
jottings in his diary and without influence from anyone interested in the
machine or its complementary parts.
By the Editor of the “MOTOR CYCLE”
Reprinted from their issue of June 11th, 1925.
THE EPIC RIDE.
Would that there have been more from the young explorer’s pen, for the
modest account of his five months’ journey leaves a great deal to the
He is, first and foremost, a motor cyclist; he has made no claims to being a
writer. Perhaps for this reason the account rings more sincere than would
have been the case had the intrepid pathfinder set out merely to secure
publicity. He had preferred to allow his ride to speak for itself.
Unfortunately very few can appreciate fully the magnitude of the
achievement, the dangers encountered, and the difficulties overcome, for in
the modern world of ours it is hard to realise that parts of an island
continent like Australia remain unexplored and are so out of touch with
civilisation that failure of the explorer’s mount would mean certain death.
It is one thing to set off on a journey knowing that, in the event of
failure, other modes of transport can be utilised-to continue or to
return-but it is quite another proportion when the traveller knows that a
breakdown may leave no chance of a second attempt.
The achievement speaks volumes for the pluck of the young motor cyclist, who
will go down to posterity as the first man to encircle Australia on a
mechanically propelled vehicle, and for the qualities of the British motor
cycle he used.
“A WORD FROM GRADY.”
Grady was born in Fremantle, Australia, on the 20th May, 1901.
He gained his first experience in Automobile driving with a Ford Car,
running round for the Cabin Tea Rooms when only 15 1/2 years of age.
At the age of 16 he enlisted and joined up with the 51st Battalion as a
Signalman and saw two years of active service. Previous to the historic
attempt recorded in this booklet, he competed in many Motor Cycle Races,
both with and without success, and is a member of the Coast Motor Cycle
Club, being one of the foundation members.
He is 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
Mr. A. Grady’s account of “The around Australia Ride on a 23/4 Douglas.”
On the first of October I started from Fremantle on what is generally
recognised as the longest and most difficult journey ever attempted on a
motor cycle- the ride around Australia.
Space and weight are strictly limited, so the comforts which are generally
deemed necessities, such as blankets, towels, razors, etc, were left behind.
My whole swag comprised an army oil ground sheet and mosquito net, which,
tightly wrapped, were attached to the front of the forkside. Tooth-brush
was carried in a pocket.
Two gallon cans braced to the sides of the carrier gave me an extra petrol
capacity of 3 gallons.
The ordinary tank in the machine held 11/2 gallons of petrol and 1 quart of
oil. An extra gallon of oil was also carried. On top of the carrier was a
Nobels cartridge box, which contained spare parts, tyre mending outfit, etc.
Outside the port petrol tank the 2 gallon water bag was swung.
All on, including myself, we tipped the scales at 450 lb, a big weight for
a little Douglas to carry. I also took a small first-aid outfit with a good
supply of fever mixture to combat troubles with mosquitoes and dysentery
from constantly changing waters, and for general ailments.
A 2lb. jam tin bolted to the back number plate served as a tea billy. It
was often mistaken for a rain gauge. Some hard corned beef, usually wrapped
round the handlebar, tea and sugar constituted the cuisine.
Bates oversize tyres were fitted to the machine and, from previous
experience of this make, I was convinced they would do good work. I had yet
to learn how much better they where than I believed at starting. After
uplifting sendoffs from Femantle and Perth, I pushed along for four days,
and then leaving the fenced fields of wheat, entered the red soil of the
Murchison district with its surface strewn with millions of “Doublegees.”
These hard seeds with their three sharp spikes affected the feet of sheep
so seriously as often prevent travel.
Often my tyre treads were invisible, being covered with a mass of these
three pronged seeds, but none succeeded in penetrating to the inner tube.
Next came the Gasgoyne district with its numerous rivers and creeks, making
travel very severe. These two station districts have some wonderful, well
constructed homesteads, electrically lighted and surrounded by gardens of
flowers and vegetables, and an eloquent testimony of the profit there is in
sheep growing in Western Australia.
In the next district, the Minilya, I have travelled 14 hours a day without
changing once out of low gear. Deep heavy sand. loose and red, and churned
into powder by wagon teams and heavy lorries, constitutes “he road.” There
are a few miles of good road between Onslow and Port Hedland, but, with this
exception, the 800 miles ahead to Halls Creek was said to be all sand.
From Derby one notices how the stations start to thin out, being from 60 to
80 miles apart. There are less sheep ; the countless mobs of kangaroos
disappear ; the curious emu strides ostentatiously in from to try his pace
against the Douglas ; no more flocks of wild turkeys flap their way into
the sky as one surprises them, and in their place appears the stubborn
bullock with his head arched and horns advanced to welcome you ; the glimpse
of a sneaking dingo lurking in the bush or the swish of parted air as a
flock of flying foxes flit phantom-like overhead.
Here the country was in the throes of drought, dead sheep and dead
kangaroos everywhere. A carter, whom i met heading South with cart and two
horses, told me he had a job at Mulga Downs as windmill expert at 6 pound a
week. As it cost him 3 pound per week to feed his horses, he had to leave.
Throughout the Kimberley and Fitzroy districts it is all low gear work
through heavy sand.
One night I camped with a teamster, who told me of a sand pull that had cost
him 50 pound. His loaded wagon was axle deep in shifting sand and the team
of 50 mules was unable to move it. He then shifted on 70 mules and they
simply tore the harness to pieces and the wagon had to lightened by removing
3 tons of the load.
At Halls Creek I met Sergeant Flinders and Constable Turner, who captured
that blood-thirsty black fellow “Banjo” after many months of searching
through the wild tribes. “Bango” lived near Halls Creek station and one day
the blood lust overcome him, he secured a rifle and put the bullet through
one of the men in charge. The other man, hearing the shot, walked out to
investigate and saw stretched before him the lifeless body of his mate.
Standing near was the demoniacal “Banjo” a smoking rifle in his hands.
Taking in the situation at a glance the white man tried to pacify the old
n_____, and the buck raised his rifle steadily to his shoulder. “You won’t
shoot me, will you, Banjo?” were his last words. Banjo replied “Too plurry
late, Boss” and shot him down. Then, turning to the black girl who was in
the kitchen, he demanded food and tea of the best and quick service if she
did not wish to share the white men’s fate. While he was enjoying the meal,
another black entered and said the wounded white man wanted a drink of
water. “What!” said Banjo, “His not dead yet? Tell him to hurry up and die
before I finish this cup of tea.” On finishing his meal, he took a rope and
tied the feet of the two men and with one end and the other to the saddle,
he mounted a horse and towed the men, the one dead and the other wounded
into the bush. Making a shallow grave, he tumbled into it both the dead and
the live man and buried them. On receipt of the news, these two intrepid
policemen started hot on Bamjo’s trail. Then began some wonderful tracking
by the black-trackers for Banjo used wonderful cleverness in making and
hiding his tracks. He walked backwards for four miles and travelled night
and day. Eventually they tracked him to a wire fence where his tracks
disappeared. No signs of any where visible except those of a dog, which ran
along by the fence. Banjo walked 5 miles on the wire fence, but forgot
about the tracks the following dog was making. At last they hounded him
down, but Banjo was full of fight and at last fell riddled with bullets.
From Halls Creek to Esau’s is a distance of 10 miles where lives an old
hermit Esau, aged 92 ; then 8 miles to Palm Springs, a garden amid these
stony ranges where I decided to stay the night, and remarked to the owner “I
think I shall camp outside as it will be cooler.” “If you do, you will be
the first man who has done so for years,” he said, ” for snakes are very
numerous and when I wake at night I can hear them crawling about on the
floor.” The bunks inside are suspended by chains from the roof so as to be
clear of snakes. I slept inside.
To Flore Valley, 18 miles, the track was mountainous and stony. Along here
I took a heavy fall and damaged my leg. This range of mountains continues
for 36 miles, known locally as the razorbacks. The upgrades were almost
impossible for my mount to scale even with me pushing all out. On top of
one of these ridge caps are the remains of a horse balanced with front and
hind legs swinging in the air on either side, his body resting on the summit.
From Flora Valley to Soakage Creek is a distance of 60 miles, and here I had
a bath. Blackgins carried water for an overhead bucket rigged as a shower.
After dining on tomatoes and securing a gallon of petrol, I started for
Burrindoodoo, 65 miles, and the only trail was the track of 2 horses that
had gone along 3 weeks before. I was continually walking to distinguish
between the horse tracks and those of bullocks. However , I got along
fairly well in spite of the ground being very rough virgin ground with many
cattle pads. The surface was covered with Spinifex (prickly tuft grass),
Mitchell grass and stumps. However I arrived at Sweetwater Yards (so named
from the water having a sweet unpalatable taste) where the cattle pads spit
into dozens. Here I scouted on foot for two hour following pads, which spun
out until I eventually trailed the fresh horse tracks. It was at these
Yards, the two overlanders, Terry and Yockney in a Ford car, lost the pad
and nearly perished in the vast trackless plain. They had a few directions
from Inverary Station, but the ground offered no tracks, however faint, and
they wandered almost fatally. I had not even their few directions, and had
to depend entirely on the compass and the horse tracks. However I followed
these tracks for another 28 miles and the going was so diabolical that at
times I doubted if I could be right. At last to my comfort, I reached the
second well, and there spent another hour following pads until I at last saw
the few rough buildings of Burrindoodoo on the left of the Sturt River.
This river is covered with long cane grass and has a loose scilly bottom
with no crossing whatever. After struggling in it for about 15 minutes, I
decided to get help from the blacks’ camp, but on reaching the camp I
discovered only a few blacks were in it. I mustered these, and started them
pushing the machine across. All went well until we were about 100 yards from
the bank, and judging by their heavy breathing, the blacks were tired. I
decided to start up the engine and help them. They were all standing behind
having a “blow” when the old bus fired. That finished the relief party, and
when I looked round the blacks had covered 150 yards in about 10 seconds and
were heading home, and all entreaties and demonstrations with regard to its
quietness were of no avail. It was a devil-devil to them and they stood off
at a safe distance to watch me complete the rest of the pull under my own
power. After much coaxing, I induced one old black to sit on the machine.
Immediately he hit the seat he bounced off with one spring and raced away
yelling at the top of his voice. I discovered he had placed his bare toe on
the red hot exhaust pipe. Late that evening Mr. Robinson came home, and
during the night we had a tremendous thunderstorm, so I had to trespass on
his hospitality for two days until the country was dry enough to travel, and
started with the following directions. “Follow the cattle pads heading due
East to Wallamunga Lagoon and cross river between second water hole and some
bogged cattle further down, then follow the creek for one mile and pick up
pads and follow for 10 miles East. Cross the Creek and make for the right
of a big hill where a faint cattle pad could be discerned, which leads to
Inverary, and make for a green tree on the plain.” All went well until I
got to the Creek, “Bunda” by name. I looked for the hill and discovered one
a little to the left, and making for this I travelled over atrocious country
covered with grass and stumps and crab holes for 8 miles, and when nearing
the hill I discovered it to be a belt of heavy timber and away on my right
appeared another hill, undoubtedly the one I had missed. I decided to
return, the very though of recrossing that dreadful plain nearly bringing
tears to my eyes. Going back was more difficult than I contemplated, my
tracks owing to the rough country had zigzagged terribly, and I was
completely at sea as to how to return. To add to my troubles the waterbag
dragging through the long sword grass had sprung a leak, and the water had
leaked away. For hours I pushed back to where I though I had left the
creek, and camping at night I had reluctantly to confess that I was
completely bushed. Supper with half a jam tin of water saved from the bag,
and a piece of sunbaked bread so hard that I had to soak it in my precious
water before I could bite in ; a mouthful of sickly warm water, then
darkness and silence. Everything was hushed and awfully still. 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 and, I though on the road behind, its sand, its cracks, its
creeks, its intense heat, its deep and treacherous gorges, a lonesomeness
would fall on me like the falling dusk on the land. I would gaze absently
at the blank range of cliffs, at the silent and boundless plain, down the
winding rows of scrub and rock while nature hushed the world to sleep, when
suddenly the awesome howl of a dingo split the stillness and roused me out
of my reverie.
Tired and weary I rolled my swag around me and sank into oblivion. I woke
at dawn and without a break-fast returned 8 miles, but still the country was
unfamiliar and thoughts came into my head that had to be driven out. All
that day I plugged along despite the intense heat and maddening mirages,
sparing neither myself or machine. Heat was rising from the much abused
engine in colourless streams, baking my legs and boots. The hot winds blew
clouds of fine stinging dust into my face with the long cane grass
continually swishing into my eyes. I was filled with a prescience of being
trapped by storms, for water, while it meant salvation, could also mean a
long imprisonment in that wild land.
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. This
though forced me to ride hard all day. About four o’clock I could see a
long fringe of timber and knew it to be a creek and water lay about 10 miles
further down, but I had doubts as to whether I could make it.
Travelling on foot was faster and more comfortable than riding the machine,
and besides, I was suffering with aches from the previous day’s jolting. So
I broke down a long stick, and mounted my mosquito net on the end as a flag.
I erected it by the machine as a guide in case I should come back to find
it. Taking the empty waterbag I started off on foot, hungry and thirsty and
filthy dirty to follow the creek down to water. The falling of night
stopped further movement. During the night storm clouds rolled up and
thunder started to reverberate over the vast plains and the vivid lightning
enabled me to see for miles around. Grasshoppers, beetles and other insects
in countless hordes were attracted by the glow of the fire foreboding only
too truly the approaching storm. A blinding flash of lightning followed by
a blasting crash of thunder and the storm burst in wild fury over the
thirsty plain. For two hours it pounded incessantly compelling me to seek
shelter among the thin scrub, until the rain ceased as suddenly as it had
I welcomed the dawn, soaked through but happy in my salvation and relief
from the intolerable thirst, and, on inspecting the road, decided to return
to the machine and wait till the following day before attempting to travel.
Then, being well rested, I started up my ever willing Douglas and pushed on
East until I stumbled over a heavy cattle pad on which were the faint tracks
of a buggy wheel. I had actually struck the track. On following it, I
could plainly see how I had become lost. After crossing the Creek, the
track instead of crossing these downs had swung away to the left and
followed round the edge of the desert. After taking a good drink and
filling my waterbag, I travelled on towards Inerary. Pulling up at the bank
of a creek, I could see though the rocks and trees a solid stream of flowing
water. Climbing down the rugged sides I waded in and found it was above my
wast. Anxious to push on, I decided to cross at all risk, so started to
prepare the Douglas for a submarine passage. 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, I 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 and I had to strain to win
out and up the opposite bank. Another trip across and my small but
important sock of perishable goods were over ; the plugs were withdrawn, and
the grand little machine started up with a healthy roar. On arriving at
Inverary, I rested the remainder of the day and on the next morning started
onward again with the following directions :- “Six miles out due East pass a
water hole on right. One mile ahead the track cuts over the toe of a little
flat topped spinifex hill and turns sharp to left. Proceed North-East for
10 miles and strike a creek running for 3 miles, then cross it at the bottom
of a large stony hill and follow base of hill around to a small rocky gorge.
Cross right growing at the foot of a range of low hills. Cross another
heavy stony bottomed creek and run along the edge of a desert until black
soil plains are reached. Cut right through the plains due East to an old
yard called “29-mile yard.”
To those North bushmen that description was concise and ample, but to me it
was confusing owing to the several meanings of words that differ from what I
am used to.
For instance- “desert”- The desert country was the red soiled timbered land
and the great expanses of sand and dry grass were called plains. Then came
the, “downs,” and they where grassy dry black soil country, a mass of knotty
grass stumps and spinifex honeycombed with crab holes. So, nothing daunted,
but not overconfident, as my directions were not to plain, I started off.
Stopping every half mile, I examined the ground comparing the notes with the
lay of the country. I would discern an ant hill crushed at the base by a
wheel and would then feel as though I was on a macadamised road.
Through the downs I followed where the long grass was slightly knocked down
by horses, and on to the timbered lands where the sight of a piece of bark
knocked off a tree by a wheel hub would make one feel confident I was on the
At last no signs whatsoever appeared, and I was beginning to get a bit faint
Nothing tallied with the instructions. Mounting the top of a little bald
hill, I eagerly searched the horizon for land marks, but only the wide
boundless plain met my gaze-no hills or low strips of timber marking the
course of a creek, not a bird or a beast to be seen. A few scattered scrub
trees dotted the landscape looking as big as ancient oaks, their size
gradually diminishing on approach. Often have I been deceived by small
trees no more than 4 feet high, which, at 6 miles, appear tall and large,
and I even have mistaken them for the welcome windmill 30 or 40 feet high.
A sheep on the horizon looks the size of a buffalo.
Far away to the left could be seen the creek I had recently crossed, winding
its way through the plains until diffused into a hovering mirage. Setting
my compass I picked out a spot due East, and kicked the old bus up, plunged
into the long grass and wretched crab holes. I often reflected on the
staunchness and willingness of my little mount. Never once did the Douglas
refuse duty- always ready to push on- indefatigable and yet I had often
cursed and sworn at it as I struggled up the sides of those ubiquitous sandy
creeks, the engine crackling like a machine gun through the short open
exhaust pipes. She deserved no such return from me, whom she carried
through that vast wilderness.
Five miles I travelled, long thick grass preventing the wind from cooling
the sweltering engine and the heat and smell of burning oil ascending to my
head. At last I emerged from the undergrowth of a cane and wood and
gradually ascended until I could see the rough outline of a barren gorge.
Somewhere ahead now I should find water, but the creek and the old yard
there was no sign whatever. It was about 2p.m., and the track to the hilly
rugged gorge was covered with the large stones, so, preferring to walk
rather than be jolted to death, I unhitched the waterbag and started afoot
for the big hills about 1 1/2 miles distant in order to command a good view
of the country. Scrambling to the top, I sat on the stones and let my
thoughts wander aimlessly.
Vague apprehensions crept into my mind as I gazed at the remains of some
unfortunate calf that had wandered. I tapped my bone-dry waterbag and its
hollow sound chilled me. Then I began to think of lagoons and rivers I knew
of, thoughts that almost turned my over-taxed and unbalanced mind into
delirious ecstasies. Presently a foul stench from dead cattle reached me,
and shaking of my lethargy I prospected amongst the gorges and found a pool
of beautiful clear water. After a good night’s sleep I decided to return to
Inverary, for to go on meant certain defeat.
After an arduous struggle, I got back to the station. It was at this point
that the generosity of Farquahson Bros. was made clear to me. At every
station I had passed through, the Farquahsons were noted for kindness and
munificence, and with me they never hesitated, but immediately volunteered
to lend me a guide with a spare saddle horse and two pack horses, for I had
not enough petrol to make Ware Hill, and the spare saddle horse was for when
I ran out of petrol. So, with the guide and provisions, we hit the trail
for Ware Hill and camped first night at Swan Waterhole, 30 miles out.
The ground was covered with dry pandamus leaves, which cracked like breaking
glass as I rode over. Next day, we proceeded to Grave Creek where the going
was indescribable, the mode of travelling being the guide going ahead and
when he was about a quarter of a mile away I would ride up and stop until he
got on again, and so on, but as this black had never seen a motor cycle
before, his idea of roads was what the horses could get along on. As it was
cross country travelling and short cuts, I could hardly keep pace with the
walking horses. Several times I had to stop and take off the foot rests to
enable me to cross the stony bottomed creeks, and when I would look ahead
there would be no sign of rider or horses, and I had to scout around and
pick up the tracks and bye and bye catch him up again. When the ground was
too stony for tracks, I just sat down and waited for him to return wondering
what would happen if he took it into his head to desert me and “go bush.”
At one point I was dodging along among some boulders when the footrest hit a
stone, and bent back struck the gearbox sprocket, buckling it dangerously,
at the same time locking the wheel and sending me sprawling among the
stones. I had to make a liberal use of the iodine.
After dismantling the chains and sprocket, I lit a fire and, selecting a
large flat stone, pounded the sprocket back into shape once more. The time
taken was about an hour and no sign of the guide. Presently I heard the
thud of hoofs and he appeared around the bend.
That night we camped at Grave Creek and at tea time I noticed that, as on
the previous evening, George, the guide, was not hungry, so I asked him what
was wrong. “Oh nothing,” he said, ” all day mine been eatem bush plum.” As
we always went without lunch, I had a sharp appetite in the evening. I said
“Where you gettum bush plum.” So after tea we wandered round and he showed
me the plums. They were like small apples and tasted like a cross between a
guava and passion fruit and were certainly very palatable. Once he bent
down and picked up a small round nut. “See that,” he said, “When you see
that, it show where good food come from tree called sugarbag.” I at once
wanted to be shown, having doubts about his statement. He went trom tree to
tree placing his ear against the trunks until he found the one he was
looking for. “Plenty sugarbag,” he said. I asked him why he placed his ear
against the trunk, and he pointed above where, from a hole, a number of bees
were flying in and out. Placing my own ear against the trunk I could
plainly hear the hum of bees. Taking the tomahawk, he commenced slicing the
bark for about 2 feet, and when he cut into the inner hollow he laid it bare
and scraped the contents on to a flour bag. The stuff was like wax with the
flavour of honey and was very nice to eat. After this he showed me some
Congo berries and dug up some wild potatoes, growing on the river bank. The
blacks are never short of food in the bush and will find it where a white
man will starve.
Next day we travelled over similar country and crossed numerous rocky
bottomed creeks until we reached our next camp on Blackgin Creek. Every now
an then, George would suddenly leave the trail and gallop off with his eyes
glued to the ground and would sometimes be absent a quarter of an hour. On
returning, he would tell me he had been following wild black tracks. At
this camp the petrol petered out, so, leaving the bus, I climbed on the
spare horse and we rode 40 miles to Ware Hill for petrol. I made notes of
the track as I had no guide when I returned.
At last we crossed the Gorge about half a mile across the steep banks,
testing the powers of the horses. George said that this was the regular
crossing place so, knowing no motor cycle could get across, I scouted up and
down for an easier place without success. It was evident the old bus would
have to be carried over in pieces. Satisfied on this point, we proceeded,
and camped at Bow Hill. On receiving a gallon of petrol there, we returned
with the horses to where the bus was left, having ridden 40 miles that day
with the sun at 114 degrees, and camped at the creek. At dawn next day I
said good-bye to my guide and travelled in the opposite direction, feeling a
little despondent at his departure, for he was an excellent guide and very
interesting, but after listing to the last hoof beats of his horse I struck
off for Ware Hill and on reaching the Gorge decided at once on the plan of
action. First taking off the loaded carrier, I carried it over to the
opposite bank and then realised for the first time the load the little
machine was pulling. Next I unbolted the engine and carried that over.
Finally the frame and wheels were brought along and the whole machine
reassembled on the over side, but not without breaking two radiating fins
off the front cylinder.
In striking for the big hill, I noted on the previous day that we followed
the base for some 10 miles until I could see the timber marking the course
of the river and struck for the middle of two peaks where I knew was the
sandy crossing at the “29-mile yard.” The previous day a light fire had
been burning, but we had taken little heed of this. Now, as I rounded the
bend of the hill where the vast plain stretched before me and through which
my way lay, I saw thick volumes of smoke rising above the trees. The fire,
which had grown into a raging mass of flames, was sweeping over the great
expanse leaving the ground glowing with hot ashes and the air was filled
with black smoke almost to obscurity as the leaping flames licked up the dry
grass and sunbaked trees.
Charred and smoking logs had fallen across my track and the pad was quite
obliterated. Then it was I congratulated on having closely noted the
features of the landscape, which made me independent of horse tracks. Not
more than 50 yards on my right the fire was raging, so I had to keep on the
edge of the plain and go round where the flames were on my direct path.
Dodging around the fire, I made my landmarks every time I left the pad and,
when chance offered, cut the pad again. In this manner I forced my way
along, the smell of burning wood mingled with the fumes of heated petrol ;
the burnt ground radiating intolerable heat and with tears blurring my
vision, I eventually made the creek and soon after arrived at Ware Hill.
While at the station a 40 lb Barramundi was caught in one of the big water
holes. The flesh of this fish is very much prized. In this country I was
forced to use a special brand of lubricating oil. I made it myself and any
motor cyclist is free to use my recipe. It was a mixture of 6 bottles of
Castor Oil, half a gallon of Beef Dripping- which in this country is always
liquid- and 2 pints of Windmill Oil. The Douglas, if it noticed the
difference never complained. I also travelled 73 miles on kerosene
(paraffin) in place of Petrol.
Often in this treeless, waterless, pathless place one has to stop when a
water hole is reached and then spend a considerable time tracing the tracks
one has been following for the tracks lay in the cattle pads which are the
tracks used by the cattle coming in to water, and they radiate from a
waterhole in a star fashion.
Anywhere near the water the cattle obliterate all other marks, so the
quickest method of rebinding a track is to make a circuit about a mile out
from the hole, and when a trail is seen, watch the direction in which it
bears and if correct, follow it.
The following morning I left Ware Hill at dawn and arrived at Pigeon Hole in
time for Breakfast. Leaving there, I followed rough roads to Victoria River
Downs where they received me like the Prodigal Son.
This station is undoubtedly the largest in the world, it embraces an area of
14,000 square miles, larger than the whole of Scotland. From Victoria Downs
I was descending a very rugged and stony gorge and though I saw a movement
behind a tree, but the track would not permit me to Look round. On reaching
the bottom I cast a glance sideways and again caught sight of movement.
Pulling up short, I shouted out and a black appeared with several spears and
a tomahawk. What puzzled me most was that instead of being black he was a
dirty brown and, as he came up, I see he was covered in brown mud. This was
because he had been stalking kangaroo and used the mud as a camouflage, the
mud being the same colour as the ground enabling him to crawl closer to his
Thirty miles further on I came to a steep creek, and halting on the
bank-experience had taught me never to take the bus in unless I could see a
path out-I walked down and across the river bed looking for an easier place
to cross. After a little searching I decided to go back and cross a little
lower down, so turning round to return, I was surprised to see four bucks
and three gins and some picaninnies standing right behind me, all smothered
with the same brown mud. They were well armed and, as one could speak a
little English, I learned they were out of the bush and travelling West for
food and game. They had quite a collection of spears, tomahawks and
I was surprised in a similar manner about 80 miles out of Maranboy when
travelling along a road fairly heavy after rain and coming on a large pool
of water in the track I circled round it and just as I regained the road my
front wheel did a wonderful skid and shot me clean over the handlebars. On
regaining my feet, I lifted the machine up and was about to start when I
heard laughing and giggling, and looking around, there were two bucks about
10 yards from me, evidently tickled to death and thinking I was stunting for
their entertainment. The way these blacks can appear without sound is
almost magical. One moment they are not there, and the next they are.
There is no doubt one is under closer observation than one is conscious of.
The unusual noise of the fast running open exhaust engine undoubtedly
attracted them to have a peep at this strange visitor to their wilderness,
and I had convincing evidence of their wonderful powers between Marranboy
and Mataraks. I had laid in a good stock of provisions- jam, biscuits,
salmon, bread and beef, strapped on behind. I stopped at a waterhole to
fill my waterbag, only a few yards away, and on turning again to the
machine, my bag of provisions was gone. It must have been taken almost
immediately by some watching bucks who feasted while I starved.
On reaching the Victoria River, which was flowing strongly, I decided to
ride across, for they told me the bottom was flat and smooth, and tackled it
fairly fast in low gear, plunging straight into the swirling waters. Almost
immediately the bus left me and plunged me headlong into the swift water.
Springing up, I struggled to the machine and tried to lift her, but
helplessly, until by letting the water wash it against a big rock I managed
to stand the machine up. The fall was caused by the green slime with which
the bottom of the river is covered, and on this slime the tyres had no grip
at all. After two more falls, we got across to the far bank. On
approaching the Wickham River, I discovered the far bank was very steep, as
the river flows all year round. Profiting by previous experience, I got
across without a fall and proceeded to scale the bank. This necessitated
running the engine flat out also. Near the top the bank went nearly
straight up for about 10 feet, and by exerting all my power I counted on
doing it with a little luck. Crossing the steam of course, left my boots
full of water, and as I was putting in some last desperate pushes, both feet
slipped out of the boots and I was hurled clean down the bank on to the
rocks below, recovering from the fall, I looked for the bus and there she
was just where I left her. The footrests dug into the heavy soil had
anchored it on the spot.
From this point I am going to move ahead fast-on paper-for a detailed
description would only be a repetition of the rough riding story, which
would weary my readers.
The next station touched was Delamore, and in 100 miles the most northerly
point, “The Katherine,” was reached. Once again I was in touch with the
world by telegraph, the dreaded stretch from Halls Creek was passed, and I
was still alive and kicking. The little Douglas seemed as fit as when she
left Fremantle, and the wonderful Bates Tyres were practically unmarked and
actually unpunctured. Many times had I reason to bless the grand
workmanship and material of these two great firms, for my life depended on
From the Katherine across the King River-infested with alligators-is 100
miles. Then Marranbor 40- Hateranka 46-Daly Waters 125-Newcastle Waters
110. From Katherine I followed the Adelaide-Darwin telegraph line, which
runs south-west to south, and it was a great comfort to have the line for a
From Newcastle Waters I struck east to Anthonye Lagoon-180 miles then 60 to
Brunette Downs, and followed the rough stock route on through Alexandria and
Rankine to Camooweal. At this last town I said “Good-bye” to the terrible
Northern Territory and stepped on to Queensland soil, my troubles at an end.
From now onwards I was on known roads and civilisation. I simply followed
the inland route to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide-was of a most
flattering nature, and while I thoroughly appreciated the kindly wishes
behind the receptions, I was glad to have done with them and set my face
The track from Adelaide to Perth runs through the wilds, but it was known
road and has been travelled many times by motorists and motor cyclists. To
me it was comparatively easy run, and the Douglas purred along contentedly
day by day until on the 14th of March 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 5 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.
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 Bates Tyres
never once punctured.
Successes of the 3.48 h.p.
The first and only machine in the world of any power to make a circuit of
Australia, over 9,000 miles, without a spare part being needed.
C. Bower won the Durban-Johannesburg on a 3.48 h.p. Douglas, covering the
390 miles at an average speed of 37 m.p.h. over the most gruelling Colonial
IN THE RELIABILITY TRIALS-
6 DAYS 1,000 MILES STOCK MACHINES TRIAL :
4 GOLD MEDALS.
One of these Gold Medal Machines was sealed and taken to Brooklands, where
it made 350 ascents of the test hill in 346 minutes, and was in perfect
order at the finish.
LONDON TO EDINBURGH.
5 Starts. 5 Finishes.
5 GOLD MEDALS.
LONDON – EXTER.
4 GOLD MEDALS.
PARIS – NICE.
2 GOLD MEDALS.
1 SILVER MEDAL.
The VMCCWA has an active Post 70s section running. Machines from 1 January 1970 up to the club’s rolling 25 year cut-off, are welcome to join.
The Post 70s section has monthly meetings, occasional night runs and frequent Sunday runs and BBQs.
Post 70 Section meetings are held on the 3rd Monday of the month (January to November) at 7:30pm.
Venue: Mayfair Lane – 72 Outram Street, West Perth
Contact – Chair Pre 70 Sect: Ian Curtis – 0404009787 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
A number of club machines took part in the VMCCWA’s 2016 Economy Run recently…
Nic Montagu riding, Murray Barnard support
Group of VMCCWA members are touring the UK on their bikes: