Billycarts

October 14, 2013

Home made billy cart. Powerhouse Museum collection, Gift of the National Trust of Australia, NSW, 1999, 99/4/83
Home made billycart. Powerhouse Museum collection, Gift of the National Trust of Australia, NSW, 1999, 99/4/83

 

Did you see that amazingly candid and moving interview with Clive James the other week? He spoke with great affection about his “Unreliable Memoirs” growing up in Sydney’s Kogarah. Funniest of all was his account of his billycart “super-train” taking out Mrs Branthwait’s prize poppy garden in Irene Street.

Do people still make Billycarting has even been represented in Bunnykins figurines. This one was made in 2010. Powerhouse Museum collection, Gift of Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton Australia, 2012. 2013/15/2.

Billycarting has even been represented in Bunnykins figurines. This one was made in 2010. Powerhouse Museum collection, Gift of Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton Australia, 2012. 2013/15/2.

According to the fabulously titled “Stunned Mullets and Two-pot Screamers: A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms” (G.A. Wilkes, 2008) there were two types of billycarts. One was a load carrying type comprising a platform on wheels with a box like structure at the back. It was homemade, used by children to collect bottles and newspapers and was pulled along. The other type was known as a racing billycart for riding on. It was of the same design but with the front axle pivoted for steering by the rider’s feet and a hand rope attached near the front wheels.

Books on how Australian children lived in the past tell hair raising tales of them knocking together their own billycarts, scarring arms and legs, and suffering from splinters in their bottoms from wood palings pinched from someone’s fence. Brakes on billycarts were almost unknown and little care taken when the best “billycarting” hill ended intersecting with a main road. Billycart races were very popular with teams of pushers and riders. It was said to be great fun lining up together and racing down a local hill as if your life depended on it. For the grandparents of today’s children this was pretty much what many of them got up to on a regular basis. With roads full of cars and the fear of injury how many parents allow their children that freedom today?

Post by Margaret Simpson, Curator

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