Dare­devil Durkin

Old Bike Australasia - - OUT’ N’ ABOUT -

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.

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