The following recollections relating to the Barb Cycles at Finlay Brothers are excerpts from Keith Gales’ unpublished memoirs – Keith worked at Finlay Brothers from 1948 until 1960.
Keith has been very generous in allowing the use of parts of these memoirs, which allow us to see the working life of Finlay Brothers during the post-war years:
The Cycle Department
“On the first floor was the cycle department, the repairs were done by Charley Bond. He had an off-sider working with him…
There was a rack we put our bikes [on] when we rode to work. Charley was a wonderful fella, possibly past retiring age, it was not uncommon when I picked up my bike in the evening to go home [to find] that it had been reconditioned, I don’t know if I was the only one that got that treatment but I doubt it. Charley was fantastic and we became good friends…
The cycle department at that time was about half of the first floor but they did a lot of work. There was a forge used for building the bike frames. They turned out a lot of new Barbs. Finlay’s also sponsored bike riders, locally and overseas. Ken Stewart was one of them.”1
Spray Paint Department:
“Part of the top floor was [the] Spray Paint Section. Vic Bognor was in charge and an expert in pin-striping of fuel tanks and cycles in the paint section. Over the years I got on very well with Vic. He had an offsider ...; they painted all of the Barb Cycles including the pin-striping. The cycle frames were baked in ovens… [Vic’s offsider] was also a good pin-striper...
With all of the forges and welding in this very old wooden building it was amazing [that] we never had any fires.
There was a gas forge moved into this area in later years after the spray painting was contracted out to Vic Bognor where he worked in his own business.”2
Keith also remembers the Barb bicycle he used when employed by Finlay Brothers as a message boy at the age of 14:
“Finlay’s built ‘Barb’ Cycles; they were top of the range in Australia. When I started work, Mr Hill the secretary that gave me the job told me I would be doing messages for a while on a bike, I was thrilled, I thought I would be riding a rear sprung Barb but not so, I got an old bike with a basket on the front and an advertising sign in the triangle. The Barb rear sprung cycle was widely advertised and were top of the range and unique.”3
“Another job I had to do was ride all over Melbourne picking up parts and taking things to be repaired. Armatures to be re-wired at George Masons in Little Bourke Street, Wheel Rims to be re-rolled at Austral Wheel Works, Flywheels to have crankpins made to Central Engineering in Little Latrobe Street and many others. I had to carry some very large parts and also very heavy parts on the front basket. Sometimes there was so much weight on the front that the rear was nearly off the ground. I did drop the bike with the load a couple of times, I never heard of any flywheels being twisted or wheel rims buckled, luckily. I had to go to SLI (Starting Lighting and Ignition) in South Melbourne, Motor Spares, Repco, WL Ryan’s, Mc Phersons, and many other businesses for parts. Sometimes when riding past the side lanes there would be a strong side wind that hit the advertising sign on the bike and that nearly blew me off the bike.”4
1. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p5 of Chapter 2.
2. Keith Gales, Unpublished memoirs (2010), p6 of Chapter 2.
3. See note 1 above.
4. See note 2 above.