The Sulky Wilson Compton with Cr David Pahlke


Wheelwright firm of J. O[1]. Ernst Smith in Marburg

Early Photo in Marburg when it was made possibly 1890s

(STORY from THE FABULOUS MBNEWS and my photos some of them)

AN old sulky has added another piece to the local history collection of items that Councillor Dave Pahlke is accumulating. “This particular piece had a bit of a story that added to its uniqueness, which had me keen to follow through and find out if it was factual,” he said.
The sulky was originally owned by the Lane family of Lanefield. The sulky was built for Charles Lane and his wife Elizabeth, nee Rodgers, who had 11 children, the youngest named Wilson. It is understood from family lore that the sulky was actually built for Elizabeth as her main mode of transport. Their son Wilson married Elsie, nee Kingston, and they had two children, Selwyn and Irene, known as Joan.

Selwyn died as a young man after an extended stay in hospital and Joan went on to marry Leonard Compton. They became the parents of two children, Wilson and E’lane. Wilson, the great grandson of Charles and Elizabeth, still lives in the area and the sulky was passed on to him through the family. “I can recall my grandmother Elsie collecting me in it from the Railway Station when I visited,” he said. “I can remember her using it until I was around 10 years old and then they purchased a car, an Austin 8 and whether she had got too old to use it or that they used the car more, I am unsure. “But I can remember that the sulky was always there at the farm even when it was no longer in use.”

Wilson said his grandmother used the sulky to go to town for shopping and going to church and believes that was the same type used by his great grandmother. He added that ‘in the day’ his great grandparents would have been seen as ‘relatively well off’ and they would have commissioned the building of the sulky. One of the things that caught Cr Pahlke’s eye, when the sulky was advertised for sale, was that it came with some local lore. n Continued page 14 n Continued from page 13 That information was: “Charles Lane the owner used it as a taxi to carry passengers from The Siding (Rosewood) to as far afield as Glenore Grove. It operated for many years until replaced in the early 1900’s by a T Model Ford. However in wet weather it was pressed back into service as the Ford often became bogged.”

Cr Pahlke said he was excited when he read about the sulky. “I wanted to follow through and see if this was in fact correct.” When the sulky arrived at the Ipswich City Council Rosewood depot there were immediate questions raised about that story. Firstly, Wilson said he had never heard the story within the family and secondly his great grandparents owned an Austin not a Model T Ford. Then there was the size of the sulky. It was built to seat two people, possibly with room for a couple of small children standing or sitting at their feet in the footwell. Following the unloading of the sulky and discussion on the validity of the accompanying lore, the A ireton Border News took on the task of further research.But regardless of whether or not this was the ‘Rosewood Taxi’, the sulky had some obvious links to the area.

There was no doubt it was owned by Wilson’s great grandparents, grandparents. It remained in his keeping until 2000 when he sold it to a collector. There was also a small builder’s plaque on the back of the seat showing it had been made in Marburg circa 1890. The sulky was made by Julius Otto Ernst around 120 years ago. Ernst migrated from Germany around that time and had established himself in Marburg, as a blacksmith. He was also a skilled coachbuilder and his finished work was affixed with a simple wooden tag stating, ‘J.O. Ernst Builder Marburg’.

We spoke with Vince Loveday, who is 93 and still lives in Lanefield where as a child his family were neighbours of the Lane family. “Selwyn Lane, the son of Wilson and Elsie was one of my school mates but sadly he died. “In fact they lived behind us and when Selwyn died I had to ride the horse up to tell Pop Lane that his boy had died as they didn’t have a phone. We had a phone and so we got the call when it happened,” Vince recalled. When asked if the Lane family had ever operated a taxi service using the sulky, Vince was as clear on that as Wilson had been. “No, never, that was just what old Mrs Lane used to get about in,” he stated and if anyone would have known it may have been Vince as at one stage he was an unofficial local taxi driver.

“I worked part time for Pip George, who owned the garage and his car was on hire at night. “I would drive people to the dances at Glenore Grove and Marburg. “But from here we would ride horses into Rosewood to go to the pictures as the roads were not real good and to be honest not many families had cars at that time.” The other reason it is thought the sulky was only used as family transport is that it only holds two people, the driver and a passenger. Had the vehicle been a wagon there may have been an argument that it could have been used to transport people and their goods. Vince mused that if the family had run a casual taxi service their family would have known, after all messages for the family came via their phone most of the time. But even knowing that the taxi story may have been added to create an interesting background for the vehicle, it does not take away from the genuine links to the region.

The sulky is in amazingly good condition considering its age and could in fact be used as it stands today. It does need some tender loving care but the mix of Silky Oak, Hickory, Spotted Gum and Ironwood timbers has stood the test of time. Hickory was used for the wheels and shafts and they do need some restoration. The sulky also has a crank axle, which is not seen a lot on this type of vehicle. It is thought that as it was made for a lady this would have lowered it, making access into the sulky easier. It also has some ornate woodwork on the seat back, a testament to the skill of the maker and also indicating it was made to suit a lady rather than a more basic man’s working vehicle.

Cr Pahlke said he was excited to have found the sulky and was very surprised to realise it had actually been made in Marburg. “Now that we have a better idea of the history we will look at some restoration to ensure this beautiful sulky is around for a long time to come,” he said. “I would also be interested if anyone has photos of the old blacksmith shop at Marburg.”

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