Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Christopher Watkin May and the dandy horse - Trove Tuesday

In the 1890s, the Hawkesbury claimed that Christopher May was the "father of cycling" despite the claims by Sydney newspapers and Mr W. R. George of the Sydney Bicycle Club. The Windsor & Richmond Gazette 21 March 1896 p. 6 stated:
Perhaps it will interest our cycling readers to know that Mr. Christopher May, over 82 years of age, a farmer, residing on the Hawkesbury, near Windsor, is the oldest living cyclist in Australia. A great controversy, as you know, has been going on in the Sydney and Melbourne papers lately as to who was entitled to this honor, and I think  to be the father of cycling. As Mr. George's experience only dates from 1866 or later, I think Mr. Christopher May can well lay claim to the title of grandfather, for he was the owner of a "dandy horse," and rode along Brickfield Hill in the year 1836. The old man told me the other day, with a good laugh, that he shortly after, on a Sunday, rode down the main street of Windsor and surprised the residents, who had never seen one before. Windsor was a more prosperous place then than now, and the population was larger, and the people, seeing the new-fangled machine and its rider careering down the hill in George-street, Windsor, went mad with excitement. the whole district turning out to witness a man astride of two wheels. Next day the police magistrate, old Lieutenant [Archibald] Bell, fearing a disturbance (be it remembered there was a rough element about in those stirring days), asked the young cyclist (for Christy was a young man once) not to appear in public again to disturb the minds of the people with his dandy horse - he feared a riot. At that time old Bell, the military magistrate, lived in Government House, which is still standing at the bottom of George-street. He came out to Australia with the 102nd Regiment, afterwards the Royal Veterans Company, and took part in Governor Bligh's arrest. Mr May is still in the land of the living, and although not a disciple of the bicycle, is still an active rider, and bestrides his old grey horse with all the activity of yore. 

Sadly Mr May passed away a few years after this article appeared. His obituary appeared in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette  28 July 1900 p. 9. He is buried in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery with various other family members.

Christopher Watkin May's headstone in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery


  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers!! I have been a member for about nine months.

    Regards, Grant


  2. To think that the mere act of riding a bicycle could have incited a riot!

    Just found your blog, thanks to a mention in GeneaBloggers. Best wishes to you, Michelle, as you continue your research and blogging project!

  3. I found your blog via Geneabloggers "new blogs" alert. I am following you via e-mail and the Feedly Reader.

    I bet they would have gone totally mad with the vehicles out there today. :) I find these types of things funny, but also interesting because they show how vastly different the times were, but the people themselves aren't really so different.

    Have a great day!