Carneys and Circus Girls - The Daredevils and Stunt Riders of Yesteryear
A woman rider in a "Wall of Death" performance at Hamilton show yesterday was seriously injured when her motorcycle rose above the perpendicular wall. A footrest caught the top of the wall, hurling machine and rider about 16ft to the ground.
The rider, Mrs Barcola, was taken to Hamilton Base Hospital. An onlooker collapsed from shock, and a small girl received a superficial head injury.
The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) Fri 3 Sep 1948
A woman was fatally injured when the motor cycle she was riding around the 'wall of death' at SI. Kilda fell from under her. The woman, Mrs. Una Langmead, 30¹, of Hughesdale, was taken to the Alfred Hospital. She died later. She was a member of a team who rode motor cycles around the wall of a barrel-like structure 30 feet in diameter and 20 feet high. Mrs. Langmead had gathered enough speed lo take her over half-way up the wall. Witnesses said that she apparently lost control of the machine, which slipped from under her and she fell to the pit where her husband was standing.
Maryborough Chronicle (Queensland, Australia) Thu 10 Jan 1952
A Conversation with Andy McWilliams
My great aunt, Teddy Palmer, rode the Wall of Death for over 20 years. She would've ridden longer, if lights hadn't gone out when she and Uncle Speedy and Uncle Bill we're all three riding one night. She survived, but never rode again.
...She broke her back, her husband, Speedy, broke a leg and some ribs. Their son, my Uncle Bill, had the least injuries. He was in his late teens. They'd cross each other and sometimes go different ways. The crash happened before my time, pre 1950s. I remember seeing them on the road and visiting Home wearing black leather jackets and "Marlon Brando" caps. My cousin, Billy, born 1956, remembers seeing them on the motordrome. My momma was always afraid I'd grow up to be like them. They were Carneys and never settled down until they were pretty old.
When I was 15, I'd outgrown my dirt bike. My dad wouldn't let me buy another metric. "Off brands" he called them, even Triumphs. They weren't making Indians then, She he arranged for me to get a used Sportster. It was American made. It wasn't his first choice. My grandmother bought me a little Yamaha 60 without my mom knowing it once. Merde hit the fan! She bought it because she was with me the first time I rode a friend's in the cow pasture the throttle cable broke and it stuck WFO. I managed to ride it out by stalling it. I knew if I crashed it I may never get to ride again. She was real supportive of my aunt and them. She rode on back of my Harley until she was about 70 and arthritis and scoliosis got the best of her. My mom gritted her teeth until the day she died. She never got over my teenage Aunt, Tootsie, running off with that guy in the black leather jacket and Marlon Brando cap, when the carnival came to town. (You know the term, tootsie, don't you?)
My cousin, their grandson, thinks they sold all the bikes when his dad went tomed school. Needed $$$. Regrets. Oh, and my elderly grandmother used to tag along and watch me short track race. She was fired up! I owe her so much! His dad never settled down. He had that Carney in him, nomadic lifestyle. He was killed in a wreck 1,000 miles from home, and nobody knew because he'd remarried, until about 15 years later. I understand that lifestyle.
They rode in The Chicago Worlds Fair.
Why Teddy? She was a Spanish American war bride from The Philippines. Her name was Theodora, or whatever the Spanish / Tagalog name would be. Speedy was a Marine with General Black Jack Pershing. Uncle Bill, their son, was a Marine too.
They were fairly well known. The motordrome was much more popular in Europe. You'll see they had a lot in Russia and Italy too.
Walker was her maiden name. That's my cousin, Billy's, middle name.
While the public pays to see an act full of danger to human life, there will always be found- men and women ready to take the risk. This wiil be exemplified at the Tivoli Theatre on Saturday next when, the Tom Davies Trio will appear in an act called 'Motoring in Mid Air.' They arrived from Eastern triumphs per the s.s. Zealandia this morning. In this act two men and a woman take their lives in their hands by circling round at the rate of 60 miles an hour on a small saucer track suspended in mid-air. The performers are Tom and Sep Davies and their sister Ruby. There is not one of the trio who is not cut and scarred all over - head, face, arms and legs having been injured time and again. All have had limbs broken, and expect to have similar experiences again. They hail from Manchester, and from their conversation this morning it would appear that they take the risks with the true Lancashire phlegm.
'What was the worst smash I ever had?' Tom Davis said. 'Its very hard to say. I've had so many. I think the worst was, perhaps, one I had in Buenos Ayres (sic). This night we were going at full speed, doing about 60 miles an hour in the finale of the act. when there was a bang like a gun shot, and I had started my flying act. The machine came over the top of the track with me. Then it fell on to the stage, cutting my legs badly as we parted. I went right on and pulled up in a pile of scenery and properties against the wall, 40 feet away. I was knocked clean out, of course, and spent many days in pain and bandages.
My brother went over the top one night and flew into the orchestra, machine and all. That was in London. He was terribly hurt, and he scared the orchestra properly. My sister, too, has had some frightful accidents. She has wonderful nerve, however, and is never afraid. I think she is the pluckiest of the three. She does some dare-devil things when we are all riding together. She often brings my heart into mv mouth. But women are like that. Once they get used to a danger, they will take any risks with it.
The Daily News, Thu 30 Apr 1914 (Perth, Western Australia)
A pioneer in every sense, CeDora's attire in that first photograph caused quite a sensation; high cut shorts and a short sleeved shirt were downright shocking in 1909.
"The original CeDora was the wife of a race promoter Charles Hadfield. When she retired Hadfield looked around for a replacement stunt rider and found the daughter of another cycle racing manager. She had never ridden a bicycle before but her daredevil skills and athleticism shone through. CeDora lived on.into the 1930's. Eleanore Wysocki, the supermom and second CeDora, died aged 94 after an amazing life." ~ James Greenway
"I actually photographed her Indian here in San Diego a year or so ago, and didn't know a thing about her until last march when I posted the black and white photo and info... then a friend tried looking her up, and discovered I'd already posted her bike!"
Jesse Bowers Vintage Gals and Motorcycles FB Group, archivemoto.com, Justacarguy.blogspot.com
Miss Cindy Willis, 16, rides the Wall of Death at Kursaal showground at Southend, Essex in 1963 with Tornado Smith.
1. Mrs. Langmead is reported elsewhere as 36 years of age.
2. CeDora's Indian was one of only 6 made, and the only one in existance. It was recently offered for sale as part of the Hensley family collection, according to comments on a FB post.
Herbie Durkin's daredevil riding act in the "speedway cauldron of death," to be seen at the Show, is just as dangerous as it looks.
Those who think it easy should inspect Herbie's X-ray album - 21 fractures from his jawbone to. his left little toe. Durkin, who lives at Bridgewater, is 45, and was a speedway star in the days of Paddy Dean, Tom Benstead, Billy Lamont, and the SA aces Jack Chapman, Frank Duckett, Dick Wise, Ned Kelly, and Arnold Hanson. A freak speedway accident 20 years ago cost him a broken neck, but it has since been the means of earning him a small fortune.
More about Herbie Durkin under Tilbrook