RACV 1 & 2 Cylinder Rally

Hamilton 12 to 15 March 2020

(as experienced by an aged, forgetful and naughty New South Welshman) – Doug Fulford

It was Tuesday night, the night Vivian and I were due to leave for Hamilton.  The Clement-Bayard had been duly loaded onto its trailer.  Time to check out where we booked our accommodation.  The ensuing conversation went something like this.  “I thought that you booked it” followed by “No it was definitely you and not me”.  Well one of us had booked it because we rang the caravan park and yes they had a cabin booked for us.  But there was no record of us having booked into the rally.  Oops!  A pleading email was sent to Ben Alcock.  The next morning we headed south and rang poor Doug Palmer, the rally director, en route.  Luckily he saw the funny side of the situation (big sigh of relief) and assured us that he would accommodate us as best he could.  Left the Hume Freeway at Violet Town heading for Murchison.  The GPS had conniptions for a while but then settled down.  But just short of Murchison it told me to turn left and, being a highly experienced husband, I naturally obeyed its female voice.  Guess what? We ended back on the damn Hume Freeway.  Didn’t want to be heading towards Melbourne the next morning so we drove on to Bacchus Marsh and had a lovely evening.  Could even have purchased toilet paper at the local servo!

As a result on Thursday morning we had a lovely and peaceful scenic drive to Hamilton past the picturesque Pyrenees and, as we got closer to Hamilton, the Grampians.  Arrived at the rally headquarters which was the club rooms of the Hamilton Veteran, Vintage and Classic Drivers Club.  Lovely big club rooms (with a name as long as that you need big rooms if you are going to put your name on it in big letters) situated in the very interesting Pastoral Museum complex.  The story of my failure to book had leaked out – actually it had more than leaked, it had spread like wildfire.  Vivian and I scraped together the necessary cash (just) and attempted to pay to relieve our guilt somewhat but the treasurer was claimed to be missing.  Was that just a ploy to keep us feeling guilty?  Andrew McDougall asked if I took poetry commissions.  I nodded in agreement.  I should have guessed what was coming.  Could I write a poem about people who forget to book into a rally?

Thursday afternoon there was a shakedown run through Croxton, an area of German settlement.  Peter and Judy Fitzgerald got shaken a lot more than most when their Maxwell suffered a severely shattered windscreen.  Despite having the scars to prove it they were unperturbed.  After a tip from the locals Peter had the Maxwell at a local shop at 7:30 am the next morning where a new polycarbonate screen was cut.  As a result Peter, Judy, Marli and Ratty made the 9:30 start the next morning.  That evening we enjoyed a barbeque dinner at the club rooms with beef patties, little sausages and a delectable selection of salads and other accompaniments.

Friday’s run was to the Victoria Valley, an overall distance of 116 km.  This is a horseshoe shaped area nestled between two mountain ranges which form part of the Grampians.  We travelled along beautiful, quiet but rather narrow country back roads with only minor undulations.  The little modern traffic that was present was very polite in getting over for our cars.  There were marshals at every turn which makes navigation that much easier as well as that much more reliable and probably forestalls the odd domestic.  The first stop was at  Sierra Park , a super fine wool producer using Saxon sheep.  Bill Crawford gave us an interesting talk about the history of Sierra Park and its current operation. We then motored to the Grampians Golf Club where we enjoyed some healthy salad rolls and tasty slices.

After lunch we travelled to Skene, a large rural holding which has been held by members of the one family lineage since the mid 1800’s.  The homestead is a magnificent bluestone  building dating back to 1858 although there have been a number of additions since then.  Don Robertson welcomed us having been almost upstaged by Peter Fitzgerald.  He gave us a brief history of the homestead and its outbuildings, its Scottish heritage and the various additions and alterations that have been made.  He also explained the need to change the mix of farming to match changing demand and hence prices and changing weather patterns.  Then we were privileged to be able to tour his fine residence.  There was an Alcock brand full size billiard table in an upstairs room supported by some massive beams.  When some repairs were needed Don contacted the makers who asked for the serial number.  When Don told them they went to their records and told him that the table had been delivered by boat to Portland in 1868 and they were delighted to know what had become of it not having known its fate for all those years!  Peter Fitzgerald kindly gave Don a quick lesson on how to drive a Maxwell and let Don take his car for a spin.

That evening we enjoyed a fabulous two course dinner at the Grange Burn Comfort Inn.  The author got to read a poem or two and Doug Palmer gave a very interesting talk with pictures on motor garages in Hamilton since 1914, this being one of his great passions.  Apparently there was some confusion amongst a group of entrants who decided to share a cab to and from the dinner.  The author discovered this on Saturday morning when he received another poetry commission, this time from Claudia Holding.  It was a fairly complex story  and a lot to put into verse but the rumour mill was in full swing so by that evening pretty much everyone knew all about it.

Saturday’s run was to Culleraine, a round trip of some 120 km km, and it was the author’s Wife’s turn to drive – after all it is Her car!  Clem didn’t appear to want to start despite the fact that all testing seemed to imply that it should run.  In desperation the author installed two new spark plugs and Clem burst into life first pull.  Old cars!  The run to Culleraine was relatively flat apart from one steep uphill and one long steep downhill – the one bit of road, naturally, that council had decided to dig up so it was loose dirt.  At least it wasn’t raining (yet at least).  Vivian was worried about pulling up at the T-junction at the bottom of the descent but pull up she did.  She had slowed after the big hill to see if everyone was OK which paid off as it enabled her to miss a mob of kangaroos crossing the road which really pleased the author as otherwise he would have worn one.

If you weren’t at this rally then you missed out on the opportunity to see a really hot Humberette!  No that isn’t an oxymoron – well at least not in this instance.  The little red car in question did struggle a bit on the hills  until Sandra Splatt got out to push it up the big hill.  Husband, Graham says she’s a very good pusher.  Maybe she’s actually too good as  the engine then burst into flames!  Graham may have had 50 plus years experience with the Weering-Eurack fire brigade but no-one has ever seen him get out of his seat as fast as he did on this occasion.  Meanwhile Sandra had calmly grabbed the fire extinguisher that is carried at the passenger’s feet and started to attempt to put out the fire shooting through the bonnet louvres.  At that stage the little car looked like it was a Saint Kilda supporter.  (Translation for readers from the northern states – St George supporter).  When that didn’t have the desired effect she grabbed the Afghan rug that she made for Graham’s 1914 Wolseley in the early 1970’s. Once Graham had removed the bonnet and switched off the petrol she used the rug as a fire blanket.  The last of the flames was extinguished with the dregs of an iced water bottle.  Believe it or not the rug survived the ordeal looking no worse for wear although it had a couple of “springy thingies” caught in it.

Culleraine is a very interesting town.  Nearly everyone checked out the antique shop,  Vivian and I made a few purchases.  There was also an op shop, a blacksmith’s shop and a chocolate shop to check out.  I was desperately trying to think of rhymes for my latest commission  Then it was off to the football club for lunch – nice meat and salad rolls and some very tasty slices.

On the return trip there was one big ascent to be conquered and I imagine everyone was down to first gear most of the way.  There we learnt that Sandra wasn’t the only loving wife prepared to give hubby a push.  Denise Smith was seen helping Greg push the 1908 Sovereign motorcycle up the hill.   Actually Denise seemed to be doing most of the pushing, Greg having been a bit worn out from a lot of pedalling.  Later on Clem’s engine started making worrying noises – intermittent at first – but as they got louder and more constant we decided it was time to pull over and assess the situation.  Andrew and Frances McDougall  stopped to help and the decision was made to do the last 15 km home on a trailer.  Russell and Warrick, the two tail end charlies who trailered our car, were very helpful and kept us in a cheery mood and we are very grateful for their help.

Saturday night’s dinner at Alexandra House had a hard act to follow but once again the food was terrific with the added bonus of a local band – a retired minister, a retired pharmacist and an undertaker.  Doug Palmer and Paul Daley made the requisite thank you speeches and the author got to read 4 limericks (including a slightly naughty one) and the day’s commission – verses 2 through 5 having been written during dinner.  Paul Daley made the sad announcement that the Charleville Rally had been cancelled due to the corona virus but hopefully it can be run in 2021 at a similar time of the year.  Peter Fitzgerald was announced as the very worthy winner of the Ron Hobbs Trophy which is awarded each year to a person who shows tenacity and perseverance in the face of adversity.  The actual presentation will be made at a Natter Night although in the present circumstances it isn’t certain exactly when that will be.

Sunday morning those who didn’t have to leave straight away assembled in the gardens at the rear of the Uniting Church to display their cars to the locals.  The event was well attended and there was a lot of interest in our vehicles.  Then there was an egg and bacon roll brunch at the club rooms before everyone headed off home.

The author (and his Wife) want to sincerely thank Doug Palmer and all of his team on a very enjoyable and well organised rally.  We would also like to thank all the participants for making us feel so welcome.