A man and his Malvern Star

With the Commonwealth Games and more recently the Winter Olympics in the news, we couldn’t go past this tale of patriotism, passion, and … politics!

A year before the Melbourne Olympics, well-known long distance cyclist Ernie Old wrote to Prime Minister Menzies with a plan to publicise the Games. The 81-year-old would ride around Australia on his trusty Malvern Star and personally deliver invitations to the State premiers (‘we want to make our Games an outstanding triumph instead of a dull failure’, Mr Old writes).

The PM’s office loved the idea (‘This chap has something’) but alas, on this occasion the squeaky wheel did not get the extra grease (‘if he dropped dead while delivering notes from you to the Premiers … you would be put down as a heartless creature’).

Contrast this with the reception Pat Farmer received (he collapsed into the arms of a jubilant Prime Minister) as he crossed the finish line in Canberra after his epic Centenary of Federation run around Australia in 1999. What price publicity?

  • read caption below
    A publicity poster for the Malvern Star bicycle featuring Ernie Old
  • read caption below
    Letter from Ernie Old to Prime Minister Robert Menzies, 19 December 1955, with comments attached on a snippet of paper in the upper left corner
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018