Showing posts with label Ernest Skyvington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ernest Skyvington. Show all posts

Thursday, May 23, 2013

End of an Australian automobile era

As a boy in Grafton, I grew up in the shade of the celebrated Ford motor company, founded in Detroit (Michigan) in 1903 by the legendary industrialist Henry Ford [1863-1947].


In Australia, the Englishman Charles Bennett, a bike-rider of the penny-farthing era [see], had become a New South Wales champion cyclist in 1883, and he went on to create the highly successful Speedwell brand of bikes [see]. But times were changing due to the arrival of the automobile. Charles Bennett moved into this field, starting up an Australia-wide automobile affair whose branch in Grafton was known as the City Motor Garage and Engineering Company. Around 1920, in Sydney, my London-born grandfather Ernest Skyvington [1891-1985] met up with Bennett, who persuaded his young compatriot to take over Bennett's Grafton business.

That soon became the dominant preoccupation of my grandfather. And, throughout the years that followed, the latest model of the Ford automobile became a standard feature in family photos.


On the left, that's my wonderful grandmother Kath Pickering [1889-1964]. The little boy is my father Bill Skyvington [1917-1978], and the little girl is his young sister, my aunt Yvonne Tarrant, who celebrated her 94th birthday in Taree a few weeks ago.

As soon as he acquired land, enabling him to become a beef grazier, my father (a mechanic in his father's business) was so faithful to the Ford story that he chose V8 as his cattle brand. Click here to see my blog post on this subject.

I learned yesterday that Ford has decided to abandon Geelong.


Why not? After all, these days, nobody rides a Speedwell bike. In any case, another fragment of my childhood Australia is crumbling away.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The day my grandfather woke up in Australia

My grandfather Ernest Skyvington [1891-1985] once described to me his joy upon arriving in Sydney Harbour on the SS Marathon on Christmas Day 1908, where he was greeted by his London-born seafaring uncle William Mepham and his Australian-born wife Gertrude Driscoll, who lived at Rushcutters Bay.

The next day was important in 20th-century boxing history and, indeed, in world racial history, for Australian boxing enthusiasts would witness a match that had been unthinkable, in the Northern Hemisphere, up until that summer afternoon in Sydney. A black Texan, Jack Johnson [1878-1946], whose parents were former African slaves, would finally seize the world heavyweight championship from a white Canadian, Tommy Burns [1881-1955].

My grandfather, aged 17, spent the 26 December 1908 wandering around Rushcutters Bay, where he was impressed by the crowds who were gathering for the big match. He would tell me much later (with a hint of pride in his modest origins) that he obviously didn't have the necessary cash in his pocket to pay for a seat in the stadium.

Click the above image to see a panoramic photo—which I've only just just discovered—of the entire view of the Rushcutters Bay stadium on that famous afternoon.

Exactly 46 years later, my grandparents would take me to that same Sydney eastern-suburbs neighborhood to watch another great match: the Davis Cup tennis finals, described in my article of 27 December 2007 entitled Over half a century ago [display].

POST SCRIPTUM: A fascinating video summarizes the celebrated Johnson-Burns title fight of 1908 (which I recently heard described on French radio).



There's a terribly significant detail, which may or may not correspond to what we tend to imagine when we hear this story today. Finally, it was not the referee, but rather the Sydney police, in the 14th round, who intervened to halt this one-sided combat, which looked as if it might culminate in a fatal issue. But, before stepping in between the boxers, the police ordered the news filming to be stopped. Today, historians consider that the Sydney police had orders to do everything that they could to avoid the idea that the sporting archives might contain the terrible images of a black man hammering a white boxer to death. As you can see for yourselves in the video, the Sydney police did in fact succeed in this censuring mission.