Tuesday, November 5, 2013



Some time ago I wrote about a young man from the New South Wales town of Hillgrove.  His name was William Davison and around the late 1800’s he was one of Australia’s crack cyclists.

Back then cycling and in particular cycling races were every bit as popular as the horse racing and football matches of today.  Cyclists vied for cash prizes and the glory of winning.  America, Italy and New Zealand sent their top riders to compete in Australian matches and crowds thronged the racetracks to cheer their favourite riders on to victory.

Hillgrove today is a blink on the road linking Dorrigo to Armidale but in its heyday it was a booming mining town with recreation grounds and racing track attracting regular crowds of 3000 and more.  In fact it was the perfect place for young William ‘Texas’ Davison to learn the cycling craft that catapulted him to national glory.

The story I wrote compared Davison’s career with that of modern Aussie champions like Cadel Evans, and the Tour de France with the League of NSW Wheelmen winter race meeting back in 1896.

To fill you in on today’s update you can read that particular blog now by clicking on this link: 

 William Davison was 70 years old in 1946 when a reporter from the Armidale Express published this photo of him reminiscing about his cycling days; in particular the bulkier and heavier racing bicycles of yesteryear compared with the trim lightweight machines of today. 



William Davison’s name was synonymous with the cycling champions of the day. At the Sydney Cricket ground he teamed up with the famous Wheelmen Ossie Prouse, Don Harvison, Fred Prouse and Don Mutton in a five man multicycle race to win with a world record time of 1.27 for the mile.

    The multicycle was a novelty machine seating five riders all manning their own set of pedals… as ‘Texas’ recalled, "We rode the big machine in Sydney streets and got hooked up in traffic."

‘Texas’ wasn’t only a champion wheelsman he was without a doubt a favourite of the viewing public.  A grandson recalls one ‘thrilling’ contest around the track at the Armidale racecourse when Davison was handicapped at 480 yards in a mile and a half event.  The two cyclists rode a fast race with an exciting close finish with ‘Texas’  losing by a nose for the £15 prize; but within a few minutes a whip around amongst the crowd had collected £27 for the loser.

In 1898 William married his sweetheart Mary Jane Edwards, a daughter of the Armidale Edwards family Bus Company.  In the four years of their marriage they had three children before Mary died in 1902. 

Four years later he married Esther Day.

When I wrote those stories about Hillgrove they followed on from the story about my paternal grandfather, Charles Brown who married grandmother Bella Marshall in Hillgrove on his return from the Boer War.  William ‘Texas’ Davison’s story evolved from a chance archive sighting of a young man on a bicycle circa 1890. 

The young cyclist wasn’t part of my family but I reckoned he had an amazing story to telI. With no Davison family to refer to I relied entirely on newspaper clippings and archived letters.  I always hoped a member of the family would contact me, perhaps with additional pictures and further insights into ‘Texas’ Davison’s extraordinary life.

And a grandson did. 

  Bob Davison, who fondly remembered his Grandfather and was proud to tell the story that when he was a young snort locals used to call his grandfather by his racing name ‘Texas’, while small grandson Bob was given the nickname ‘Young Texas’.

These photos are from Bob’s own albums.  He is currently working on his family history and I for one can’t wait to read it.  In the meantime enjoy these rare photographs of an Australian icon from the past and the youngsters from his immediate family.


William’s first wife, Mary Jane Edwards who died so tragically after only 4 years of marriage.

Their three children, Roy, Clyde and Aubrey.

William ‘Texas’ Davison as a young man: don’t you love the fob watch and the carefully knotted tie.

 The first born five sons and daughters of his second family: 

Doris, Lorna, Eric, Percy and Merle.  Four more children would be born to William and Esther… Beryl, Mavis, Bethel and Gwenyth.


William Davison is just one of Australia’s many young sporting hero’s from an era that only our grandparents can remember.  It was a time when the words modesty, decency and family were all important and really meant something.

I guess the very last paragraph of that newspaper interview back in 1946 reveals so succinctly the man, father and husband that William ‘Texas’ Davison was:

I did a lot of riding on the roads, we had no cars or motor bikes and went everywhere by bicycle.  I came in from Hillgrove 19 miles in 15 minutes, and once when my wife was very sick and the coaches were late, I rode to Armidale and out again with a 25 pound block of ice in 80 minutes.”

Sadly for William Davison and the three small children from his first marriage, Mary Jane didn’t survive that illness.


 These photos of the Davison family were made available by 'Texas" William's descendent Robert Davison, a justifiably proud grandson.

Robyn Mortimer. 2013.