Cue’s Decorated Bicycle Competition

But, as if to make up for the loss of the gum, nature has carpeted the Murchison with wild flowers. The sand in spring time bursts into flower – pink, yellow, and white – in one wave of colour through the land. There are some delicate orchids, but the everlasting is the flower of the Murchison.

The Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette (Cue, WA : 1894 – 1925); 28 September 1897; Page 4; The Murchison
Everlastings in the Murchison

According to the Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette, the wildflowers blooming in August 1897 were some of the best they’d seen. The outback resembled a “vast botanic garden.

It was a time when picking wildflowers was not against the law. Thus, people headed out on their buggies, caught special excursion trains, and rode their bicycles, intent on viewing and gathering one of nature’s spectacles.

Inspired by the beauty around them, the Cue Bicycle Club advertised that they would be holding a ‘Decorated Bicycle Competition.’ Open to everyone, competitors were required to decorate their bicycles with wildflowers grown in the district. The nomination fee was two shillings, and entries would be judged on the Cue Sports Ground on Sunday, 22 August 1897. The winner would receive a prize of £3 and three shillings.

Not a lot of time was provided between advertising the competition and the due date for entries. Nevertheless, a total of five people entered.

Thomas Dawson, of Dawson Brothers, completely covered his bicycle in flowers, so much so, that it was said to resemble a bicycle made of flowers rather than one of metal. The tires and frame were wrapped with colourful ribbons, while the wheels were created using a mass of flowers. White, pink and yellow everlastings were displayed in an alternating circular pattern. The masterpiece of his artistic work was a white swan attached to the middle of the frame. It, too, was made up of white everlastings, with delicate pale pink flowers providing highlights. The overall effect was described as a “perfect picture.

Thomas’s Swan Decorated Bicycle

James Chesson opted to use white everlastings to decorate his bicycle. The wheels, the spokes, and the frame were liberally covered in the blooms so that no trace of metal could be seen. A large red, decorative ribbon adorned the front of the handlebars. On it were the words Cue B.C. (Bicycle Club) and the year 1897, spelt out with flowers.

Mr J. Dunn used a variety of wildflowers, but there was no detail as to how they were arranged. Mr A. Marshall covered his bicycle frame in multi-coloured flowers and attached a pair of bull’s horns to the handlebars. Hanging from the tips of the horns were the words ‘Cue B.C.’ Mr A. Keir’s bicycle decorating was described as being “decidedly pretty” but was not quite as thorough as the other competitors.

The judges were Mrs Alice Thomson, Mrs Isabel Lynch, and Dr Robert Ramsay. The two standout entries were the displays created by Thomas Dawson and James Chesson. They were so impressive that there was some difficulty deciding who should be the winner.

Eventually, a decision was made. From the pavilion on the sports ground, William Hepburn Gale announced that the winner was Thomas Dawson. Second place was James Chesson and third was Mr J. Dunn. A surprise announcement followed. Because the judges were so impressed with James’s display, he was awarded one guinea, which came out of Dr Ramsay’s pocket.

The day ended with several bicycle races and news that, a week later, there would be another ‘Decorated Bicycle Competition.’ That competition, to be held on 29 August 1897, was to consist of three categories: the best dressed bicycle by a lady, the best dressed bicycle by a gentleman, and the champion dress bicycle. The winners in each category would receive a prize.

There were five entrants for the second competition. With the benefit of inspiration from the first event, the displays were even more impressive and elaborate. Mrs Corney was the winner of the women’s category, and she included a model, made of flowers, of the train ‘Tom Cue.’ Mr Henry Lynch was the winner of the men’s category, and his bicycle was decorated with a floral poppet-head (the frame on top of a mineshaft) and included the rope and bucket.

Taking the champion prize, and clearly showing his artistic talent, was Thomas Dawson. His bicycle was covered in everlastings and, attached to the frame, was a lifelike camel made of flowers. Fixed to the handles was an umbrella of flowers, with a hanging mobile camel train, attached to the edge. The umbrella was designed to revolve, and as it did so, it gave the impression that the camel train was moving. With such an exhibit, Thomas’s work was said to be “well deserving of the honoured position.

Thomas’s Camel Decorated Bicycle

With the winners announced, photographs were taken of all the competitors and their decorated bicycles. It concluded the final competition, and what was considered to be an “exceedingly pleasant afternoon’s entertainment.

This story originally featured on ABC Mid West and Wheatbelt’s Saturday Breakfast with Nat on 5 September 2020. You can listen to that episode via the following link: https://ab.co/2C67gqO

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