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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Maldon’s motorbike mystery is solved!

Cheers to Barry Murfett, a local legend from Maldon, who caught wind of last week’s piece in the Times about an old postcard from around 1907 featuring an early motorbike. Barry got in touch with the Times, linking them up with Greg Smith, the proud owner of an antique motorbike that’s almost certainly the one captured on that vintage postcard.

Greg, who calls Bendigo home, has had his hands on the motorbike since 2003 and was intrigued to spot the word ‘Tarrangower’ painted on the bike in the old postcard. “My books on early Aussie motorbikes refer to it as the ‘Maldon’,” Greg mentioned. “And that’s the name my bike still carries to this day.”

The Times swung by Greg and his missus Denise’s place to snap some pics of the bike, only to be greeted by the sight of a vintage car snugly sitting in their living room! It’s a stunning, spotless Schacht – an American classic from 1909 that was owned by Gerald Buckley of Buckley & Nunn fame for half a century.

Greg was kind enough to share a bit of backstory on the motorbike, having done some digging himself. Attached to the bike is a brass plaque stating it was crafted by W. Mead of Maldon. Mr. Mead set up shop in the old Warnocks building in 1898, peddling a range of goods – from bicycles, sewing machines, and pianos to seeds, plants, and books.

In 1906, the Times reported on the assembly of a ‘Tarrangower’ motor bicycle, set to be the first complete machine of its kind in the area. A month later, the newspaper excitedly announced its completion and successful trial run, hailing it as a superior ride to any seen before.

By the following month, Mr. Col McArthur was cruising around the area on the ‘Tarrangower’, according to the Times. Fast forward to 1910, and W. Mead was still in business, now advertising cars and motorbikes from a range of £275 to a whopping £1,350.

Greg noted that many motorbikes were being pieced together in country towns around the time the ‘Tarrangower’ was born, mainly from parts imported from England and Europe. The ‘Tarrangower’ itself was built from a B.S.A. frame from England and a Minerva motor from Belgium.

Describing the ‘Tarrangower’ (or perhaps it’s the ‘Maldon’ now?) as essentially a motorized push bike, Greg explained it had no gearbox or clutch, only one speed, with pedals to help kick it into gear.

And what about brakes? “It’s got brakes now, but originally, there weren’t any,” Greg chuckled. “There wasn’t much traffic on the roads back then, so brakes weren’t a priority!”

Greg’s longest journey on the bike was a Sydney to Melbourne trip, recreating the 1905 Dunlop reliability trials, taking him five days. A member of an antique bike club, Greg is gearing up for a more leisurely ride next weekend, heading across to Llanelly and back.

Seeing the postcard featured in the Times brought Greg great joy. “Not only did I discover the bike’s true name was ‘Tarrangower’ and not ‘Maldon’,” he said, “but it also confirmed that the handlebars on my bike are identical to the original ones.”

The postcard does raise another question for Greg. “Who’s the bloke in the hat?” he pondered. “Could it be Col McArthur, the bike’s first owner?”

Greg is pretty confident that there was only ever one ‘Tarrangower’ motorbike made by W. Mead, and that’s the one he owns. But will he change the name painted on his bike from ‘Maldon’ back to ‘Tarrangower’? “I reckon I’ll leave that for the next owner to decide,” he grinned.

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