Tracing an Abingdon King Dick
If my research is correct, I think I am the 6th known owner of the circa 1909/1910 3 1/2hp Gahagan & Beddome (G & B) King Dick motorcycle with possibly a 7th and perhaps first owner, yet to be discovered.
This particular motorcycle, as far as I can ascertain, was first written about by Mr David Dumble when it featured on Pg.15 of his 1974 book, Veteran Motorcycles in Australia. The earliest known photo of the G & B King Dick is from 1914, when it was issued with number 2707, according to information given to me by Mr Ken Young. The first question this answers is that the gent astride the bike is, in all likelihood, a Mr Alfred A. Campbell of Bourke Street, Launceston. But what evidence do I have that the King Dick motorcycle I have now the privilege of owning, is in fact the same machine? The photo has been handed down from previous owners, but it is also in the hands of the present VMCC Abingdon marque specialist in the UK, Mr William (Bill) Whiteley, who was able to connect the photo to a previous owner Mr John Hill. It has been thought that the G & B Abingdon King Dick may have been an Australian built motorcycle, however, Robert Saward in his 1996 book, A-Z of Australian
Made Motorcycles 1893-1942, rightly debunks this. Though there where Abingdon engines fitted to frames made locally up from probably imported lugs, advertisements from 1909 to 1914 indicates the vast majority in King Dicks at this time were fully assembled and imported motor-cycles. Walter Gahagan and Charles Beddome purchased a cycle business from a Mr Sim King, trading as Gahagan & Beddome, 133 Elizabeth Street, Hobart in October 1908, selling Rover bicycles and shortly after manufacturing cycles under the G & B brand. Mr Beddome left the business in October 1909 and Mr Gahagan continued trading as Wally Gahagan, continuing with G & B trade name. In Sept. 1911 Wally Gahagan indicates his business is moving from bicycles into motor-cycles, and on the 9th Sept 1912 places his first advertisement as an Abingdon Agent (sic). Two years later he places his last advertisement for Abingdon, but stating within this ad he has “many second hand FN’s, Triumphs, Rovers, Abingdons, G & B’s (probably bicycles), and Matchless, any reasonable offer to clear” (sic). In January 1917 Wally Gahagan lodges for Bankruptcy.
As far as I can ascertain, N.L. Frost of the Devon Cycle and Motor Works, Ulvestone, was the first agent to sell the Abingdon King Dick motorcycle marque in Tasmania from March 1911. I think it reasonable to assume the Mr Frost was getting the Kings Dick’s through Mr Sim King. He is certainly cited as doing so a year or so later. The very first advertisement I have found of the Abingdon King Dick motorcycle in Australia is from The Age, 25th December 1909 placed by E.W. Brown, 207-213 Swanston Street, Melbourne. The bike I now have was often seen at rallies up to (I think) the late 1970s mid 1980s when it was owned by Guy Leopold. It is thought the bike was in the possession of John Hill of Moonah West, Hobart and later of Melbourne, at the time David Dumble’s account was printed. In all probability, the bike I now have is the same bike cited by Mr Dumble and Mr Saward.
The marque specialist, Bill Whiteley is happy to date the bike to either the first or second quarter 1910, or even 1909 from its physical characteristics, but as import documentation does not exist, I am happy to cite it as circa 1909/10. However if Mr Alfred Campbell was its first registered owner in February 1914, where was the motorcycle and who owned it from 1910? An educated option came courtesy of the gentleman who has been of great assistance to me in getting the bike running again, Mr Neville Babb, who observed that front wheel is from a bicycle, and he is right. Perhaps Wally Gahagan refreshed a second hand machine as he certainly had plenty of Abingdon bicycle parts to use. I must also make a special mentions to Mr Bill Veitch, owner of New Zealand’s oldest Abingdon King Dick (1909), for helping me locate that elusive frame number, Mr Brian Bennett for the many trivial questions I have inundated him with and Mr Ron Weste for the photography. If all goes to plan, I will be taking the G & B to the Antique Motorcycle Rally in Ulvestone, Tasmania in March/April 2019. I welcome any additional information that may add to the story of this G & B King Dick motorcycle.
FOOTNOTE: The author wishes to acknowledge various newspapers and journals as the source for information, including Tasmanian Police Gazette, The North Western Advocate & Emu Bay Times, The Age, The Mercury, Hobart, Daily Post, Hobart, The Quest for King Dick by William Whiteley, A-Z of Australian-Made Motorcycles 1893-1942, Veteran Motorcycles in Australia by David Dumble, 100 clicks; The History of the Tasmanian Motorcycle Club by Ken Young.
This photo came with the bike and is thought to be Alfred Campbell of Launceston. The G&B in January 2018. Photographed by Ron Weste.