The Reg Warry story
Reg Warry was born on 10th October 1932 in Mt Morgan Qld. After his dad suddenly collapsed and died (when Reg was only 11) the family split up and went to wherever they could find jobs to survive.
Reg moved to Bracewell near Mt Larcom and then to Gladstone where he worked at the butter factory. Athletics appealed to him and he became a pretty good runner cracking a 10 second, 100-yard sprint bare foot when he was just 14 and then went on to win many local races, even competing interstate.
He gave the running away to take on boxing when he was about 17. Locally, he won 4 boxing tournaments and moved to Melbourne to train professionally at Arnold Palmer’s Gym. Thanks to his quick reflexes and the strength of his punch he again excelled, but after hospitalising an opponent he decided to hang up the gloves.
Reg returned to Gladstone and worked at the abattoir in the fertiliser section. He said it was a horrible job and the smell would linger on his body for days. It did however pay about 4 times the average earning at 17 pounds, 14 shillings and 6 pence a week. This allowed him to buy his first motorcycle (a brand new Royal Enfield 350 Bullet) in 1952. There was a patch of vacant land out near the aerodrome where there was a makeshift track. He and other locals thrashed around this track on weekends, honing their motorcycle skills. He had ridden around Gladstone roads for a year when a mate showed him his motorcycle license. “What’s that?” Reg asked, not realising that you needed a license to ride a motorbike, so he promptly headed to the Police Station to get one. He joined the Gladstone Motorcycle Club who ran events on nearby salt flats which Reg enjoyed. Slowly the RE was stripped down for lightness to the point that he had to buy a car to trailer the Enfield to races. He befriended a local (Monty Smith), a self-taught mechanic who helped Reg with his RE. Reg reminisced about a time he rode to Bundaberg for a beach race. The headlight had long gone so they thought Monty could follow him in his Riley to show the way. The shadow thrown by Monty’s headlights made visibility worse so Reg streaked ahead with just the moonlight to guide him. Thankfully he got there safely, raced and then rode home. Reg moved to Brisbane at the beginning of 1956 and Monty followed. Reg’s first job was short lived but then he got a position at Mayfairs, Stones Corner, who sold motorcycles (including Royal Enfields), mowers etc. He was a pick-up and delivery guy using a Royal Enfield 600 side-valve with a side-mounted timber carry tray. The tray was big enough to carry an Indian motorcycle which was about the biggest machine around. After joining the Kedron Motor Cycle Club he entered his RE (which he affectionately called ‘the tractor’) in a scrambles race at Mandalay on the western outskirts of Brisbane. Reg showed up the locals by winning the ‘C Grade Junior & Senior’ races, then winning the same events in ‘B Grade’. A couple of sales guys from Mayfairs (Reg White and Eddie Bailey) discovered Reg’s triumphs and turned up to the next meeting where they saw him win the ‘B Grade Junior & Senior’ and then take out the ‘A Grade’ Junior event. Reg thought the tractor being only 350cc would have no chance against the big capacity ‘A Graders’ in the Senior event so he didn’t enter – maybe he should have. George Baker (who made and sold motorcycle gear in Rosalie, Brisbane) saw Reg’s potential and approached him after the meeting. He asked if he’d like to wear one of his new fibreglass ‘Skid Lids’. Reg didn’t like his current headwear so agreed enthusiastically. George also recommended a set of his boots and breeches – all free of charge. George wanted to promote his products and reckoned Reg was going to go far in racing and so it was a good investment.
Meanwhile the Mayfairs sales guys passed on Reg’s results to the boss, Max Muller, who called Reg into his Adelaide Street office. Max asked Reg if he would like to race the Mayfairs bikes to which he instantly replied, and I quote, “Yes please!” Mayfairs’ head mechanic George Gordon was responsible for the race bikes. He told Reg he would only offer two choices to further his racing career. It was either speedway or road racing (which included long track, short track, scrambles and trials). Reg chose the road racing option. Mayfair’s road race bikes were a 350 and 500 Royal Enfield while a speedway JAP engine grafted into a Royal Enfield road bike frame was used for the Senior dirt races.
In 1956, Reg won the Australian Scrambles
Championship and he was presented with his sash by Norman Lawlor, boss of Castrol, who then offered Reg (and Tony Edwards) Castrol sponsorship at the meeting. Reg also won the Qld Short Circuit Junior & Senior, the Heit Park Short Circuit and Scrambles, amongst others to secure the KLG trophy for the most points accumulated in all motorcycle racing (except speedway) for 1956. That year Reg also remembers competing and winning the Ken Watt Memorial Trophy for Annual Reliability Trial Competition. Mayfairs supplied him with a 700cc twin Royal Enfield Meteor. The race started at 6pm and finished at 6am with most riders carrying a pillion cum navigator which was Reg’s brother-inlaw, Merv Calill, in this case. The Trial was banned by Police in 1957 and Reg still has the trophy.
In 1957 Reg raced in events north to Mt Larcom and west to Toowoomba, remembering tracks like Lowood, Strathpine and Carol Park (Bundaberg). Mayfairs were a Queensland company and didn’t race across the border as it wouldn’t lead to increased bike sales. The following year, Mayfairs were approached by a credited English rider Gerry Hussey and they provided him with race bikes also. Reg said that Gerry was no match and he beat him regularly. At one meeting, Reg was lucky enough to get up close and personal to the 1958 Miss Australia winner Helen Woods who presented him with one of his winner’s sashes. Towards the end of the season, Reg had one of his only major crashes. It was at Heit Park when chasing Joe Costin. Joe had a much faster motorcycle but was slowing Reg in the tight stuff. He had to find a way around and get away before Joe could chase him down on the straights. The embankment he chose to go around the outside of Joe had an invisible washout which he hit and it threw him off and onto a pile of rocks, the bike then landing on top of him. He got carted off to hospital with a broken collarbone and a bunch of facial scratches for his trouble.
Reg wanted to defend his Australian title but in 1958 the Championship was interstate. He recovered well enough and pleaded with Mayfairs who agreed in this case to let him race their motorcycles over the border. In the Junior race he was ‘dive bombed’ and knocked off in the first corner which he believes was planned. Ropable, he got up, straightened a footrest and rode harder than he had ever done to make up the half lap lost. He caught and passed everyone up to 3rd place by race end. This left the Senior race for redemption. His JAP needed constant throttle blipping at idle to prevent plug fouling and the starter held the group for what seemed an eternity and for no apparent reason. Reg lifted his hands to gesture ‘what’s the problem’ but it was long enough for the JAP to shut down before the required blip.
Mayfairs decided to stop racing at the end of 1958 citing Reg’s crash as one of the reasons. Reg was also under pressure from his wife Lyndall who wasn’t happy about his obsession. This led to him making the difficult decision to quit racing. He continued to commute to Mayfairs on ‘the tractor’ for about 12 months but since he left has not ridden a motorcycle since. He still has the Skid Lid though and it still fits. He moved on to drive trucks and eventually run his own trucking business.
Reg never lost his passion for the sport and in 1959 began race commentary. He called races for Kedron Motorcycle Club, Australian Racing Riders Club and at such tracks as Beenleigh, Lakeside, Heit Park, Rocklea, Ipswich and Jerry’s Downfall. In 1960 the ABC started televising race meetings and Clive Oberg approached Reg to see if he could call the racing for the telecast which he did.
A guy who got him into trucks had bought the Mayfairs Royal Enfield 350 race bike but didn’t have a rider. Reg had noticed an up and coming rider (John Titman) who he thought had what it took to be successful. In 1961, Reg decided to help by spannering for John on his ex-350 Mayfairs racer for short track and scrambles. John went on to a very successful international career proving Reg’s hunch was correct.
Reg is now 86 and still pretty fit looking. He has a room full of Golf and Cricket trophies to show for his life after motorcycling, confirming what an all-round athlete he is. During Reg’s short racing career, he regarded Tony Edwards his main rival and between them they won nearly every event they rode in. They were both hard racers but treated each other with respect. While they were constantly banging wheels, they both had an understanding that if they were side by side into a tight corner, the inside runner was to back off to allow both riders safe passage. Documenting all of Reg’s achievements precisely was difficult as his winning sashes were either eaten by silverfish or lost. I tried in vain to find records of the period at the Qld. State Library, a bunch of Kedron Motorcycle programmes donated to Tony Webb (Speedway racing historian) and a written request for information though OBA, however only scant results were uncovered. Reg’s recollections are that he won 12 Queensland and 5 Australian titles in the short time he competed. It wouldn’t be hard to believe that if he continued racing he could have achieved more, but I guess sometimes life’s situations can lead us on a different path. It was a pleasure meeting such a humble man who achieved great things and I thank Reg for taking the time to share his story.
Reg, his Skid Lid & the Ken Watt Memorial Trophy in 2018. Reg at Bundaberg Beach on the tractor.
Reg Warry receives a winning sash from the-then Miss Australia, Helen Woods. ABOVE After his own retirement, Reg prepared his Enfield’s for future speedway star John Titman to ride. INSET Airborne on his Enfield in 1958.