Dave McSorley was a local barber in Lithgow. He was also a heavy-weight boxer, and consummate showman. He once wagered that he could clean shave 1,000 men without a break. In the end he ran out of bristling chins, but still managed 420 shaves in 54½ hours, without sleep. The last few customers were taking a risk!
Clyde Marshall was another colourful Lithgow character. As a young man he constructed a home-made diving suit, and wore it to explore Lake Pillans, near the town’s old blast furnace.
In the summer of 1934 The Lithgow Mercury described Marshall’s invention;
It is a full canvas suit. The head-gear consists of a kerosene tin with windows back and front. This is screwed on securely with thumb-screws. You now, I often wonder how Australia managed without kerosene tins.
Clyde reported that there was muddy slime on the bottom of the lake about 18 inches deep, making it hard to walk. There were old posts embedded in the mud, and dangerous, deep holes. It’s a wonder he came out alive. But I digress….
During WWII, Dave McSorley and Clyde Marshall came up with a novel idea to raise funds for the war effort. They decided they would push a pram from Brisbane back to Lithgow, wearing khaki shirts and shorts to identify with those serving overseas. They were to be accompanied by an Alsatian dog, with a tin hat on its head and a Union Jack flag as a blanket.. It was agreed that if the dog got too tired it could ride in the pram with Clyde.
As the pram’s pusher, 15 stone Dave trained by skipping for two hours a day and sparring in the boxing ring every night. His 13 stone ‘baby’ Clyde only had to practice sitting for long periods without spitting his dummy!
I must say they looked rather comical….a bit like Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
The pair intended travelling 900 miles, in about seven weeks, hoping to raise £2,000. On June 1941 they had a great send-off from Lithgow, with a ‘Melody Procession’ involving several local bands. One hundred residents had written letters to friends and relatives in towns along the route, to be delivered by the pram pushers.
However, when they got to Brisbane the Mayor said the whole thing was a silly stunt that he would not be supporting. Undaunted, the pair moved on to Southport, but there too the mayor was unimpressed. In fact, nobody in Queensland seemed at all interested. In the end the two men and their dog had to call the whole thing off and make a humiliating return home.
I should add that Dave McSorley would later complete several shorter ‘pushes’, raising funds for a maternity ward at the Hospital.
The pram pushing generated more competitive events in Lithgow. However, one newspaper in particular had some unflattering things to say about it all
Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal, October 16, 1942;
Out Lithgow way, where the fool pram-pushing contests originated, a new goats’ game has caused a stir.
Goats game?? This is what they were referring to. Jack Constable, the licensee of the Lansdowne Hotel, heard local man Ron Green boasting that he could eat a dozen raw hen eggs within ten minutes. Constable hosted the egg event at the pub. Now ten minutes sounds a generous amount of time to me, but Ron only managed to eat nine and a half. He complained that the eggs were unfairly large. Oh, for heavens sake. After much argument, a compromise was reached and he was allowed to choose six himself. I’m afraid the final outcome was never made public.
There appeared to be some antagonism between Braidwood and Lithgow, as the following 1943 editorial reveals;
In addition to achieving notoriety as the originators of such stupid stunts as pram-pushing and wheelbarrow absurdities, Lithgow folk are apparently intent on introducing another novelty – a real cannibal way of scrapping. Perhaps all the talk about the acute shortage of beef may have helped this proclivity. Charges preferred against a Lithgow man following a brawl at the Vale of Clwydd were heard at Bathurst Quarter Sessions recently. During the scrap one man had a large chunk of ear bitten off, while another lost part of his nose. The lump of ear was produced in a bottle as evidence, but where the piece of snout went was not disclosed.
Now in fairness to the Lithgow chap, after two hours the defendant was found NOT GUILTY!
And finally, in September 1943 The Braidwood Dispatch had a go at two of Lithgow’s enterprising ‘senior’ sportsmen plus the area’s weather;
Lithgow, the place, we believe, where the fool pram-pushing and wheelbarrow absurdities originated, hit upon another stunt – a bike race between two veterans of 62 and 60 years of age! One of the old codgers laments the fact that he has been unable to to undergo strenuous training owing to snow, sleet, rain and gales. According to one paper he says, “The only training I can do is to run four miles a day to bring the mail home and chop enough wood to keep the fire going.” The other old bird says he won a couple of ten mile races. We know what we’d do with these stunt merchants if we had our way.
Well Braidwood Dispatch, remember this. A few years later Lithgow’s competitive spirit produced a young runner by the name of Marjorie Jackson. She won two Olympic Games gold medals, seven Commonwealth Games gold medals and held ten world records. So there!
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