Lance Tiller: Credit Union Christmas Pageant
Across 5 decades, and for 40 consecutive years, my uncle, Lance Tiller, rode his penny farthing bicycle in the historic John Martins Christmas Pageant, now known as the Credit Union Christmas Pageant.
The Penny Farthing was invented in 1870 in England (also known as the High-wheel). The name Penny Farthing comes from two English coins, used to describe the bikes wheels, due to their size.
My uncles Penny Farthing once belonged to a gentleman at Middle Beach, named Samuel Temby. (as an interesting side-note, my Uncle owned the Middle Beach caravan park for several years during the late 1980’s early 1990’s, and I believe my grandfather’s pool table is still there!)
Mr Temby’s son began to ride the bike around Middle Beach. Later he moved to Mallala, and the old bike was put in the shed, and mostly forgotten.
In the late 1950’s my uncle purchased the penny farthing from the Tenby’s and learned how to ride the bike. Its seat sat 1.5 metres in the air, and one had to run alongside the bike, and use a small step to jump up into the seat!
It was in Gawler that Lance applied for a position in the John Martin’s Christmas Pageant. In a story shared with me by my uncle, he claims that the members of the pageant drive out to Gawler, and asked him to ride the penny farthing in traffic up and down the main street of Gawler, to prove he had control of the bicycle.
|At my parents in Gawler, circa 1965|
It must’ve worked, as he rode in the pageant for many years afterwards, sometimes dressed as a clown, other times riding alongside the English bus.
Lance only retied after a pageant in the early 2000’s in which a member of the large crowd, dressed in wolf costume, leaped from the audience and slammed into his bike, causing Lance to fall heavily from the height of the seat – an injury as a sixty something year old man at the time, he has never fully recovered from.
The Credit Union Christmas Pageant has been one of the highlights of my Uncles life, and his face and eyes light up whenever he speaks of it, so I thought, I would share some of his story with you, before father time catches up with him, and his story is forgotten.
Perhaps, one day, I might take up a position with the Adelaide Credit Union Christmas Pageant, and continue my uncles tradition!
The Mallala Museum bought Uncle Lance’s Penny Farthing bicycle and it is still on display as an exhibit.
Mallala Museum, 2013, Penny Farthing Bicycle, Now and Then Mallala, viewed 5 Nov 2017, http://mallala.nowandthen.net.au/Penny_Farthing_Bicycle
Written by Allen Tiller © 2017