BOWDEN, Cyril BEM

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Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2012.

1915 to 1988

Cyril Bowden was born in Wilcannia in 1915. Wilcannia is a small town in the far west outback region of NSW about 1000 kilometres from Sydney. It was founded in 1866 as a port on the Upper Darling River. Cyril’s father, Albert Bowden, had been an engineer on the paddle-steamers before becoming a pioneer of motorised transport in the area. Young Cyril was witness to the end of horse, camel and bullock drawn vehicles and often sat beside his father in the paddle steamers and later in old trucks.

The family moved to Bourke in 1922 and in 1926 Albert and his sons started the Bourke to Wanarring mail run returning with loads of wool to Sydney. Aged 17, Cyril drove by special permit many vehicles including Leylands, Dodges and Reos. He and his brothers worked with three trucks. Records show that in 1933 they carted 5200 bales of wool into Bourke. This was no mean feat. The bales weighed 165kg and the over-laden trucks would overheat and boil every four or five miles in the extreme heat. They also had to contend with sandhills, floods, corrugations and dust storms.

During World War Two fuel was rationed on the mail delivery and the trucks were only permitted enough fuel for a one way trip to Wanarring. To run the truck on the return coal was burned. A gas producer, burner, blower and an adapted carburetor were fitted to the truck and it was lit by kerosene. The truck was started on petrol to draw the gas through the cleaners and then the petrol was turned off. This ‘Mulga Supergrade’, as it was called, worked well but at only half the power of petrol. It took seven bags of charcoal to make the trip and the driver would be black as ink on his arrival home. The smoothest trips were those when the mail was taken by army ducks across the flooded Darling and onto Caribou or Hercules aircraft.

Cyril Bowden bought his first Mack, an EH, in 1964 followed by a B-model in 1966. Together with sons Ronnie, Bruce, Kevin, Raymond and Rodney, they ventured into livestock transport trading as CA Bowden and Sons.

In 1979 Cyril was awarded the British Empire Medal for providing unique services to the transport industry. He was a pioneer in new methods of stock transport and his company’s record in maintaining service in the outback was outstanding.

Cyril passed away on 17 December 1988 and is remembered as a kind and friendly man who loved the west and gave it his all.


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