Print

This article was written for one of the very early (1993) IFMR Newsletters by Gerry Cornell –

 Born 4th of April 1926 passed away 18th of May 2016 - one of our original members.

Motorcycling information prior to World War II is scarce, but what I have discovered is interesting.

As roads were very rough little touring was done.

Motorbikes were used mainly for work or competition.

The local picture show circuit relied on motorcycles to transport films from theatre to theatre.

The feature film was shown out at Red Cliffs and Merbein prior to interval and then raced back approximately 10 miles to the Mildura theatre for the second half.

Likewise the news and documentaries were returned by bike to the other theatres for their second half.

Motorcycles and sidecars were also used to bring newspapers from railheads at Ouyen and Swan Hill for distribution locally.

For sport, hill climbs (using nuts and bolts through the tyre for traction) were popular on high river banks and the dirt track racing on the horse track was spectacular, if not dangerous.

George Pierce, a Victorian speedway champion, married and moved to Mildura in the early 30s, while George Winton, New Zealand Road racing champion in 1936 - 37, came to Mildura and opened a car and motorcycle agency in 1939.

These fellows encouraged motorcycling in this district.

After the war most local motorcycles were either pre-War or ex-Army.

My own bike was an ex-Army 350 cc: side valve Royal Enfield (flat out at 41 mph downhill).

All these bikes were reconditioned and used for both touring and racing.

As conditions were very dusty and air filters unheard of, engine reconditioning was a common occurrence.

Our first tour in 1947 (after 2 months preparation) saw five riders headed for Sydney, but because of heavy rains, muddy roads and mechanical problems we took seven days to reach our destination.

Next morning, with our bikes loaded with ex-army pannier bags, tents, cooking utensils and ready to head south, a press photographer asked if this was some sort of University “stunt”.

He could not believe we were touring motorcyclists.

Incidentally the cost of the trip for me was 20 pounds  ($40).

In 1948 three of us rode the Great Dividing Range, leaving Mildura we headed to Bairnsdale in South-East Victoria, then riding North to Omeo where we had to inform Police of our destination in case we got lost.

Then over the mountains to Hotham (34 miles in five hours), down to Harrietville (old goldmining town) then Bright, Wangaratta and home.

Rough roads, mechanical problems, rain and cold where our main problems.

In 1947 we formed the now famous Mildura Motorcycle Club where we competed in Gymkhanas, Scrambles and Hill Climbs and later, Speedway.

Our club visits were mainly to the upper Murray (Renmark and Berri).

As money was in short supply most of the time, we borrowed a farmers truck (run on kerosene), loaded our bikes on board with motor car tyres as packing, then climbed on and threw a tarpaulin over both the bikes and ourselves and headed for South Australia.

We must have been over enthusiastic, brainless or perhaps both to think this was enjoyment.

By this time most of us had bought new bikes (on the never - never plan), Triumphs, BSA’s, AJ's and a few ex-Army Harleys and Indians.

In the early 50s we started trading our bikes for wives, children and homes but our love of motorcycling has remained in our memories even today.

Historian’s Notes:

Gerry features heavily in the article “1994 Rotary International World Convention, Taipei, Taiwan, China” in the History section!

The Mildura Motorcycle Club has a proud record: -

Leigh Adams, ten times Australian Solo Champion and the 1992 World Under-21 Champion. Including juniors, Adams won a total of 16 Australian championships and 4 World Championships.

Jason Crump, Australia's only triple Speedway World Champion (2004, 2006 and 2009).

Phil Crump, father of Jason Crump, four times Australian Solo Champion and thirteen times Victorian Champion.

Jason Lyons, 1999 Speedway World Team Cup and 2002 Speedway World Cup winner and a three time Victorian Champion.