THAT DAFT FELLOW ...

What has research into newspapers in Whangarei got to do with cycling? That is what Steve Dyster wondered when Seven Day Cyclist received an email from Joan Leversedge, in New Zealand. Well, quite a bit, it turned out.

Joan wanted use a photo of a famous gravestone. No problem. Thanks to Joan for the transcript of an article in the Northern Advocate, Sept 21st, 1934.

From the Northern Advocate, September 21st, 1934

Mr William Hay, of Kaimamaku, who today celebrates his 84th birthday, believes that he was one of the first people to see a bicycle in use. “One day, as a lad of six, I saw coming down the road in Dumfriesshire, Scotland,” he says, “a man riding on what appeared to be a large cartwheel. The wheels were made of light timber shod with iron at the blacksmith’s."

Quite mystified, he returned to his home to tell his parents of the strange adventure. “It’s that daft fellow from the Keir mill,” they told him. Keir was a small village about four miles distant, and the smithy there was owned by the McMillan (sic) family. It was one of the younger sons to whom posterity owes the present working-man’s and tourist’s friend – the push bike. “Everyone regarded young McMillan as slightly afflicted,” Mr Hay says, “but then most geniuses are daft in their own generation."

Ten years after his roadside experience, Mr Hay remembers, "All the local wheelwrights were making the old type machine, and to see the big clumsy bicycles being ridden at local fairs was a sight which today would evoke the heartiest laughter.”

 

A note from Joan Leversedge: William’s ‘parents’ were actually his grandparents, who brought him up. His mother had married someone other than William’s father and was living in Ayr in 1856. William was born in 1850 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1879, dying there in 1941.

The original article can be seen at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NA19340921.2.3

Thanks are due to the Northern Advocate, Whangarei Library and the Papers Past project for permission to use this snippet.

Thanks to Joan Leversedge for bringing it to out attention.

PUBLISHED JUNE 2017

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