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Competitor Profile: A G Melrose

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AUBREY George Melrose was born on 12 November 1900, just eight weeks before the foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. Aub’s long, adventurous life was so rich and varied that it is difficult to know what to leave out, He was a boxer, a gymnast and an athlete; at the age of 15 he went to the opening of the Panama Canal to speak on behalf of the YAL; and his motorcycle and car racing careers spanned more than forty years. He turned to motorcycle competition when barely out of his teens, and he made such a name for himself as a talented, daredevil motorcyclist that he finished up in the UK in 1926, riding for the Sunbeam motorcycle firm. He was the first Australian to ride at the Isle of Man in the famous TT, and in the Ulster Grand Prix.

Back in Australia Aub was instrumental in setting up the now-famous Harley Scramble, and was so good that he promptly won three out of the first four! A bad-racing accident in the late 1920s nearly severed his foot, and he faced the onset of the depression unemployed and on crutches, but overcame both of these obstacles and established his successful garage business.

Aub Melrose was also keenly interested in cars, in particular the ubiquitous Austin 7, and in 1922 he was one of the prime movers in the foundation of the W A Car Club, which catered for those motor enthusiasts who wanted a milder, on-road form of motor sport rather than the all-out racing offered by the WASCC. This led him into car trials.

In 1936 he and his wife Gwyn scored a major triumph when they drove their tiny 1921 Austin 7 across the Nullarbor, won the South Australian Centenary Trial against all comers, and then drove home again. This was not the first of his Nullarbor crossings – eventually; he crossed the desert no fewer than 52 times, including the first lone crossing by motorcycle. He was so convinced of the need for a proper road that in 1935 he led a delegation to Canberra to petition the Government on the matter. It wasn’t until 1942 that the first actual road linked the East and the West (before then it had been a route rather than a road) and he was the first civilian to use it. Constructed by the army, it was known as the Military Road until later renamed the Eyre Highway.

His damaged foot (and possibly his age – he was almost 40) kept him out of the Army when War broke out, so he served in a civilian capacity by instructing army dispatch riders in the techniques of rough riding.

Aub actually started car racing in the 1930s, and from about 1937 entered most of the round-the-houses races – including the famous Patriotic Grand Prix – invariably in the valiant little Austin 7. The WASCC pretty well dissolved during the War years, but Aub was one of the enthusiasts instrumental in getting the Club going again and, in particular, staging the massively successful Victory Grand Prix at Caversham in 1946.

The inevitable Austin 7 gave way to a variety of cars in the post-war years. He bought a damaged MG TD and built it up for the 1951 Australian Grand Prix; raced an Austin Healey 100M to second place in the 1956 six hour Race; competed in Round- Australia Trials in Austin A40, an Austin A70 and then an Austin A95; and in 1960 drove a Porsche to fourth outright in the Touring Car Championship and sixth outright in the Six Hour Race, at an age when most men are content merely to talk about such things.

Over the years Aub Melrose occupied just about every position in both the WA Car Club and the WA Sporting Car Club, became Life Member of both, and was held in the greatest of esteem by all who knew him. In the early 1970s he suffered a series of strokes, which left him partly paralysed, and he could only move about, and talk with the greatest of difficulty. In his last years he was in and out of hospital, and he died on 18 November 1978, six days after his 78th birthday, but lives on in the memories of the many friends who will never forget him.

Information kindly provided by Terry Walker

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