This Villiers-powered Coventry Eagle was recently displayed at the Fagan Park Velocette day by owner Lyell Bennett. Although its original blue livery has been replaced with the standard Coventry Eagle black and red, the motorcycle retains the holes in the square section frame that once carried the “Daredevil Durkin” billboard.
The Daredevil Durkins comprised former speedway rider Herb Durkin, his brother Frank and his sister Ruby, both taught by Herb in the special technique of riding the Wall of Death and later the Globe of Death, which were sideshow attractions that toured Australia and New Zealand. Herb, from Adelaide, formed the troupe in the ‘thirties, originally performing inside a cylindrical timber structure, the Wall of Death. However Durkin claimed it was impossible to cram enough paying spectators around the upper lip of the cylinder and hit upon the idea of constructing a large ball which he christened the Revolving Gyro Ball – so named because the globe was mounted on wheels and riven by a four-cylinder car engine and revolved during the act. It was built by Herb and his brothers Frank and Stan in a garage in St. Peters, South Australia and later became the Globe of Death. Even throughout the years of WW2, the troupe continued to perform, often for the amusement of Australian and US troops. The Durkins and their Globe toured for more than 30 years, with two motorcycles and often a midget car (powered by a 350cc Jawa engine) circulating simultaneously inside. By the time the act concluded in the early ‘seventies and Herb and his wife Kath retired, early model Yamahas had replaced the British motorcycles.