Jack Bishop: A champion bike racer

Sepia Saturday 521 23 May 2020This past weekend’s Sepia Saturday theme brought to mind a story I’ve been intending to write up about a prize winning racer in my Kunkel family.

Family discoveries can come from all sorts of cryptic clues. They may even reveal hidden stories – if we’re lucky. One such came to light over great grandson of George and Mary Kunkel. A cousin recounted how, while still a little girl, she attended the funeral of a young Paterson cousin who had died racing motorcycles overseas. Various searches on this family’s deaths was unproductive – until the three-month gap between Mary Bishop’s son’s dates of death and burial were finally noticed. The internet provided the final loop of the puzzle revealing that Jack Bishop was a renowned pioneer of dirt track racing in both Australia and England in the 1920s and early 30s.[1]

BISHOP Jack grave (2)

Died 20 March 1933, England. Ashes interred Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery 17 June 1933.

 After leaving school, Jack started work in the motor trade. It’s likely that’s where he gained his enthusiasm for dirt bike racing which was a new sport in those post-WWI days. In 1928 Jack Bishop was recruited by AJ Hunting to race in England and along with other Australian racers signed a contract which paid him £5 per week and a return first class voyage. Jack Bishop and the team sailed on the Oronsay from Brisbane, arriving in London on 9 May 1928.[2] Jack was 19 years old and he and all his team-mates listed their occupation as “professional motor cyclist” with their address c/- International Speedway Limited London. Although the Australians made a prominent opening in May 1928 on the dirt tracks at White City and Crystal Palace, the heavy rain made the muddy tracks hazardous and Jack was thrown and received concussion. In July 1928 he was injured in two races which affected his early career in the United Kingdom.

BISHOP Hull Daily Mail 22 August 1928 p3

Who wouldn’t want a box of smoked herring? Hull Daily Mail 22 August 1928, p3

The thrill of dirt track racing appealed to many spectators and the sport became very popular. On 19 August 1929 he was part of an Exeter team who faced the Stamford Bridge team from London in front of a 25,000 strong crowd of spectators. The “red and white” team from Exeter won the race 13-8 with Bishop leading the final lap and team-member, Jackson, covering him.[3] Jack was then the “undisputed champion of the track at Exeter”.[4] There are many reports in the English press about the achievements of the team from Down Under including Jack Bishop. They even received gifts from their fans and I was amused by the one included here.

Jack Bishop became sufficiently famous to have his own cigarette card in Ogden’s “Famous Dirt Track Riders” series. He is described as “a successful Australian rider who came over to England in 1928, Jack Bishop is one of the most daring riders, and his dashing displays are very popular with all the Speedway fans. He has been especially successful when competing in the Handicap events and sometimes when starting from scratch has run through the field and won by a big margin. He has also a number of lap records to his credit both in England and Australia.”[5] 

BISHOP Jack dirt track card

The copy of the Jack Bishop card kindly provided by Gary Milne of Cartophily cards UK.

 There were plenty of thrills and quite a few spills – some that were physically very damaging. In the early days Jack was apparently riding a basic bike which quite likely contributed to the falls. In 1930, on a return visit to Brisbane, he acquired a much more sophisticated bike which was better suited to racing. It was during this visit that he brought his young English bride, Lilian (nee Grist), with him. They’d married in London in late 1929 and although the newspaper report above mentions he already had a son there’s no indication of a child on the passenger manifests for the Jervis Bay[6].

BISHOP The Sphere 2 June 1928 p14

The Sphere, 2 June 1928, p14

Over the next few years Jack pursued a successful racing career in Australia, New Zealand and England. It seems his wife Lilian remained in Australia while Jack travelled and competed. This must have been a lonely life for her with no family to support her, especially when her husband was injured or sick overseas.

Jack later worked under contract to the New Zealand Speedways[7] and was regarded as one of the finest riders in the Dominion. In 1931 he was badly injured there in an off-track accident but by 1932 he had returned to England to race. During this trip Jack became so seriously ill that specialist medical attention could not save his life. He died in England on 20 March 1933, only 24 years old. Jack’s death was reported extensively in both British and Australian newspapers. Only general references are made to his widow and two children.

BISHOP Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping gazette 21 Mar 1933 p12

Supporters and friends made it possible for “his earthly remains to be interred in his home town” by rallying to raise funds. Jack’s ashes were interred in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 17 June 1933 with impressive solidarity and respect from his fellow riders. A sidecar carried the urn with the ashes, contained in an oak casket which was draped with the colours of the Downs Club.[8]

BISHOP Jack funeral Bris Courier 19 June 1933p13

The Brisbane Courier, 19 June 1933 p13

The motorcycle was driven by Jack’s old friend and fellow racer, Cyril Anderson. A car with the relatives followed in the cortege and then behind it, two by two, came motor cyclists, their headlights draped in black. The Club remembers the funeral as probably the first motor-cycle funeral in the world.[9]

Jack’s widow, Mrs Lillian L Bishop, 24, returned to England on the Largs Bay on 25 September 1933. With Lillian was her young son, Daniel J Bishop, aged 3 and possibly named for Jack’s uncle, Daniel Paterson. Lillian and Daniel Bishop’s intended address was 19 Glyn Mansions, Kensington, London.[10] There is only one child on the British immigration records and that reveals another tragedy: just nine days after Jack’s interment, their daughter Patricia’s death was registered. There is no indication that she was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery with her father and I’m left wondering if Lilian took her daughter’s ashes back to England with her.

Nothing further is known of Lillian and Daniel after their migration “home”. Research so far has been unsuccessful. I would love to hear more of them or make contact with descendants.

The extensive obituary from Jack’s home town. MOTOR CYCLING. (1933, March 24). Toowoomba Chronicle and Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1922 – 1933), p. 10. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article254304278

Why not race over to the Sepia Saturday page and see what prize-winning stories have been told?

———————————–

[1] Such moments are the lifeblood of dedicated family historians because they make the long frustrating hours of searching worthwhile.

[2] Originally from Australian Speedway Motorcycles webpage: http://www.ausm.info/aus_history/speedway_pioneers/aust_speedway_pioneers_2.htm Site no longer online.

[3] http://www.exeter-falcons.demon.co.uk/prewar.htm The history of Exeter-Falcons dirt racing makes many references to Jack Bishop. Also no longer online but this may have replaced it: https://cybermotorcycle.com/archives/exeter-speedway/spencer.htm

[4] Toowoomba Chronicle, 24 June 1933, page 5 contains a detailed report of Jack Bishop’s life and funeral.

[5] http://www.gdfcartophily.co.uk/carditem.php/itemid/1528

[6] Passenger lists leaving UK 1890-1960 at http://www.findmypast.com.

[7] There is an excellent photograph of Jack Bishop in his racing leathers on the National Library of New Zealand, Timeframes webpage.

[8] Toowoomba Chronicle, 24 June 1933, page 5.

[9] Email from Downs Motorcycle Sporting Club researcher, Garry Luchich in 2007.

[10] UK Incoming passenger lists 1878-1960, BT26, piece 1029, item 1 on http://www.ancestry.co.uk.

Sepia Saturday: A Pint in the Sun

2004311 : Sepia Saturday 520 Header (16 May 2020)

This week’s theme for Sepia Saturday evoked a particular family memory as soon as I saw it, though I can’t believe it’s twenty years since this enjoyable day out. Our youngest daughter had been on a gap year after finishing uni and had been working at a pub in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire for six months with her partner. When we met up with them in Tuscany, they’d been backpacking for a few months – staying with us in a villa was quite the lap of luxury.

Italy248

It was so exciting when we met them off the bus: kisses, huge hugs and smiles, and maybe even a tear or two. The Italians from the bus were very approving of this grand display of emotion. We were amused when the  multi-lingual localrestaurateurgave us a quote from his own family gatherings “today you laugh, tomorrow you fight“. Luckily we managed to avoid any major “blues” and had a good time together. By the time we drove into Siena for a look-see we’d even learned to deal with the Italian traffic! To celebrate we sat in the sunshine in the Piazza del Campo and enjoyed a cold beer together. Perfetto!

This topic turned my thoughts to family drinking habits and the role of alcohol. My father had only an occasional beer though he also liked a whisky from time to time. One memorable time, he was watching a Rugby Union match with Mr Cassmob and myself. Mum arrived, busying around, and moved his coffee table. Being engrossed in the match, he replaced his beer glass exactly where it had been previously – only problem being that the table was no longer there. Oops! We were not popular! My mother was never, ever a drinker of alcohol, nor was her father (or presumably her mother) since they’d both signed “The Pledge“. Amazingly I managed to avoid all school encouragement to do the same, so I can enjoy my wine.

Similarly, my father’s parents also never drank alcohol in their old age. My paternal grandfather may have been known to have a beer as a younger man but perhaps not after he married my grandmother who was a staunch Presbyterian.

The following newspaper extract describes my maternal grandmother’s parents’ refreshment rooms in Charters Towers. One might infer from this that the Melvin family were non- drinkers as well (though Stephen Melvin’s brother did run pubs). It’s also worth remembering that in Queensland, and especially the tropical north, there’s little appeal to sitting in the sun with a cold beer, or any other cold drink. Being in a shady, cool place is much more attractive.

Melvin Nth Qld Register 1895 non alcoholic

MESSRS. MELVIN & CO. (1895, December 21). The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 – 1905), p. 65. Retrieved May 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79288095

Perhaps some of the family antipathy to alcohol can be explained by the death of Anne Callaghan who I believe to have been my 2xgreat grandmother from Courtown in Ireland. At first, one wonders how no one noticed she hadn’t returned home but it’s entirely possible the men in the family were at sea fishing. By 1886, my great-grandmother, Anne’s daughter, had already emigrated to Queensland.

CALLAGHAN Anne Death cert 1886

As the advertisements say “Drink in Moderation“.

Why not visit the Sepia Saturday page to see how other Sepians have “hit the grog” and whether they were basking in the sunshine at the same time.

And sometimes, an ice cream is every bit as good as a beer when it’s hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z 2020 blog reading and thoughts

A to Z reflection

This year there were 418 bloggers who participated in the April A to Z Challenge – a more manageable number than in some previous years. I liked that they were categorised too, which probably limits which blogs you’re likely to read when time is short, but conversely lets you maximise the benefits. I’ve included my list of blogs I read intensively through the challenge – there’s great content in there.

This was my 5th year participating in the A to Z: you can see the links to previous years at the end of this post in case you’ve got cabin fever and need something more to read.

Practicalities

I like to comment on posts, even if I do a batch at a time (eg on Sundays when no posts are scheduled). These are the things I like, or find frustrating when reading a blog:

  • A “like” button or similar if you don’t have anything profound to add or are short for time.
  • Posts which require completion of a form on each occasion you comment can be frustrating, take more time and can be a deterrent to commenting (hence the added benefit of a like button)
  • Responses to comments are always welcome – otherwise it’s a bit like talking to yourself
  • Many genealogy bloggers were very generous with their time in commenting at different times throughout the challenge or even on each post.
  • A useful tip for those following Australian genealogy/history bloggers is the Facebook group called Australian History Bloggers Fan Group…a one-stop shop for finding interesting blogs.
  • I like that wordpress.com keeps my blogs spam free and I only have to be careful the first time someone comments to confirm they’re genuine. Sometimes it does get it wrong, but luckily one of those bloggers contacted me through Messenger to give me a heads-up.
  • Try to get your images lined up before you start – always assuming you have your challenge program worked out in advance. This can save a lot of time and angst.

Blogs I followed through the Challenge

Genealogy/Family History

Anne’s Family History

Earlier Years

Family History Fun

Finding Eliza

Genealogy Challenges

GeniAus

GeniJen

Molly’s Canopy

The Curry Apple Orchard

Others

Diary of a Dublin Housewife

Best Bookish Blog

The Local Tourists

My previous A to Z challenges

2019 – Snapshot memories of my early married life in Papua New Guinea

2016 – How to pursue an interest in family history or genealogy

2013 – Travels through Australia’s North and Aussie-isms (colloquialisms)

2012 – A genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue

 

Spanish Flu and Ithaca, Brisbane

sepia Sat 1 MayThis post was inspired by this week’s Sepia Saturday theme of “I am asking you to feature your tributes to all of those who are keeping us safe at the moment by featuring your old photographs of carers of all types and all times”. Admittedly it’s now more Sepia Monday but I wanted to include my discovery of workers who supported the Spanish Flu in a suburb near where I grew up, and near where my grandparents lived at the time. I have no doctors or nurses in my own history from this time so I turned to my good friend Trove.

May 1919 seems to have been the hot-spot of infections although at this time, the deaths seems small compared to what was experienced globally.

 

Influenza deaths Courier 1919

INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC. FIVE DEATHS YESTERDAY. (1919, May 24). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 5. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20365428

Soon after this, the suburbs or town Councils started to take action to support the community as people fell ill.

Ithaca May 1919 p2 Daily Mail

WOMENS REALM. (1919, May 28). The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1903 – 1926), p. 2. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article215133293

Ithaca gets busy pt 1 Telegraph 30 May 1919

Ithaca gets busy pt2

ITHACA GETS BUSY. (1919, May 30). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176087610

Meanwhile activity in neighbouring Enoggera gives a sense of what was happening at the grassroots level.

Enoggera Emergency Corps Flu Courier 3 June 1919

THE WOMEN’S PART. (1919, June 3). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 8. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20366895

Ithaca emergency work

Metropolitan Area. (1919, June 20). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 2. Retrieved May 4, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176088512

Ithaca kitchen spanish glu

Ithaca influenza epidemic workers, July 1919. https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/238947774

The summary on this photo explains: A large crowd of people who were working as volunteers during the influenza epidemic. The group includes, doctors, nurses, ladies and schoolchildren, pictured outside the Ithaca Women’s Emergency Corps kitchen.

Ithaca workers during the influenza epidemic Red Hill 1919

Ithaca workers during the influenza epidemic, Red Hill, 1919 https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/167840188

The State Library of Queensland provides this summary and explains the signs held up by the boys on the window sill: Volunteer workers outside the Ithaca Town Council Chambers during the influenza epidemic of 1919. The Brisbane area experienced an outbreak of influenza in May 1919 and it spread through hospitals in the area. Isolation huts were erected at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds to cope with the epidemic. Cards were issued by local authorities which could be put in house windows if people needed help. SOS for doctors and FOOD if needed. (Information taken from: Town of Ithaca Mayor’s Report, 1919, p. 6.)

Map Ithaca and family

Rather foolishly I hadn’t considered what the Spanish Flu Influenza meant to my ancestors who survived and who apparently remained well. They resided in the spread between the Ithaca Council Chambers (marked Ithaca Hall) and the Brisbane Exhibition Ground (blue marker), which was the influenza evacuation point. My grandfather hadn’t returned to his residence in Bally St from World War I until August 1919. His wife-to-be and her elderly mother and siblings were all living at Guildford St (red marker), fairly close to Ithaca Town Council Chambers. I wonder if we’ll ever know how the Influenza Epidemic may have affected them or their livelihoods. It’s made me realise that I need to research the impact of the epidemic on Townsville where my other grandparents lived. I already know from Trove that my great-grandparents’ house in Hughenden became an isolation hospital.

McSherry hospital Hughenden

Hughenden Notes. (1919, June 18). The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 9, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80430142

 

How much more sedate do things look a mere year later at the Ithaca Town Council chambers.

StateLibQld_2_184327_Ithaca_Town_Council_Chambers_in_Red_Hill,_Brisbane,_1919

Ithaca Town Council Chambers 1920, 99 Enoggera Tce, Brisbane from Wikipedia.

This image is from a Sydney suburb in New South Wales but it is visually evocative of the current situation.

Kensignton nursesE00025

Image shows the influenza team at the Kensington School of Arts during the influenza epidemic of 1919. With the team is a blackboard listing the nurse, cooks and others on the team. Randwick City Library https://randwick.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_GB/search/asset/15848/0

My A to Z finale and reflections

A to Z reflection

The end of an A to Z challenge always comes with a sense of achievement as well as some relief at its conclusion. Blogging six times a week on a consistent theme can be demanding of time and mental energy, especially if you start at the last minute as I did this year.

A couple of months ago I’d set out a schedule on the topic of Gratitude which I also wanted to tie into my family history and ancestral lives. Unfortunately, with so many of the words I listed, it was nearly impossible to show them in action in my families. This made me rethink my chosen words and forced some mental gymnastics to remember all the various research discoveries I’d made over the years and how they demonstrated whichever attribute of gratitude I’d chosen.

Did I succeed? I’m not sure but I’m pleased with the stories I presented and how they showed the character and resilience of my ancestors. Not all were “perfect”, certainly not all the time, but they do provide me with inspiration for lives well lived, and forgiveness for times fallen short.

In these times of coronavirus and covid-19, the challenge was a perfect antidote to the uncertainties and social restrictions. Not only did it consume a lot of time (the virtue of starting late this year), it also reminded me that my ancestors had tough times as well and survived and thrived.

I’d like to thank those who followed along and those who commented or shared my posts as well as all those who shared their blog stories through the challenge. My blog reading net wasn’t spread as widely this year (the downside of a late start) but I’ve followed excellent series by fellow family historians and some bloggers from previous years. Thank you for your entertainment and sharing your stories.

UPDATE: A to Z Blog reading and thoughts – a further post.

Looking back a few years I found a post I’d written about the list of things I’m grateful for. It really hasn’t changed that much. Of course it differs from the things my ancestors would have been grateful for, but not entirely.

gratitude-heart