Alfred Moyle: the clubman

Seventeen Lewis motorcycles, 1913
Seventeen Lewis motorcycles at the M.C.C. Opening Run to Belair, 27 September 1913. Alfred Moyle is piloting the outfit, wearing a white coat.

The Lewis Motor Cycle Reliability and Stability.
What Mr. A. E. Moyle says after six years' experience.

Malvern, July 5th, 1914.      

Dear Sirs, - I have been riding Lewis Water-cooled Motor Cycles for the past six years. My last machine 3 1/2 h.p. has carried me 15,000 miles (recorded by speedometer), and I have always been able to complete any ride undertaken for business, pleasure, or competition; about half the above distance I have had a Side-car attached, and have carried passengers to a total weight of 31 stone without mishap. A splendid testimony to the old-age reliability of a Lewis was that last Christmas with this machine after having covered 12,000 miles, included in which was two trips across the Coorong, I was able to gain full points for reliability between Adelaide and Melbourne; on this trip one section was for 73 miles absolutely non stop.

--- ALFRED MOYLE            

So wrote Alfred Moyle in the 1914 Lewis Motor Cycles catalogue. Before we go back to the beginning of Moyle's story, it's worth exploring the "two trips across the Coorong" reference in his letter, for crossing the Coorong was no mean feat the early days. Back then, the route from Adelaide to Melbourne, such as it was, followed down the South East coast to the regional town of Mt Gambier, before heading due east across Victoria to Geelong and Melbourne. While not exactly desert, the Coorong section of the trip was a challenge, with shifting sands interspersed with "hard pipe clay". The two Coorong crossings referred to by Moyle were at Christmas 1911 (see photograph below) and Easter 1912, and so the additional trip to Melbourne Christmas 1913 made three for that particular Lewis machine. What he doesn't mention is that he had already performed the feat once on his earlier 3 h.p. Lewis, to make at total four crossings to 1914. In 1916, on a 6 h.p. Lewis twin with his wife in the sidecar, he made the trip to Melbourne again, and from the photo below we see that conditions on this inter-capital route were still far from ideal.

Moyle's 6 h.p. Lewis on the Coorong, 1916

Moyle began riding in 1908, and like many of his contemporaries in Adelaide his first machine was a water-cooled 3 h.p. Lewis. Although we don't have a photo of this machine, we do have an account of its performance, this time from the 1909 Lewis Motors catalogue:

                            General Store,                 
                                    12th May, 1909. 


Dear Sirs, -- I must express to you my satisfaction of my water cooled Lewis 3 h.p. Motor Cycle. It is my constant companion in securing orders for my business, and last February I rode it on a pleasure trip overland to Melbourne via the Coorong, and a short tour of Victoria, covering 881 miles, during which trip I had neither mechanical trouble with engine nor puncture with Dunlop tyres. Your latest model gives excellent saddle position; and when fitted with spring forks minimum vibration and side-slip. In appearance it is equal to if not ahead of imported machines.

Wishing you every success,
        I am, yours truly,
            (Signed) Alfred Moyle

Moyle's 1909 trip was said to be a reconnoitring exercise with a view to a speed crossing, but it seems this never came to fruition. It was after getting home from this trip that Moyle and his fellow members of the motor cycle section of the Norwood Cycling Club began to discuss the need for "a club of our own". From these discussion the Motor Cycle Club of South Australia was born in January 1911. Moyle took to club life with passion: he was the foundation Club Captain, and went on to hold nearly every position on the executive, later becoming Life Member and Patron.

As Captain of the newly-formed Motor Cycle Club, Moyle must have decided that a new machine was required. On the Vivian Lewis Limited stand at the Royal Agricultural Society Show in September 1911 one of the featured machines was a "... model built to the order of A. Moyle, Esq., ... one of the famous hillclimbing watercooled machines, fitted with 3 1/2 - h.p. engines, equal to 5 1/4 brake h.p., finished in motor grey, with handsomely nickelled appointments." Moyle was so pleased with this machine - the subject of his glowing testimonial at the top of the page - that in 1913 he wrote to the English journal The Motor Cycle extolling its virtues. His letter, and this photograph, was published in their Overseas Supplement of 6 February 1913.

Alfred Moyle and his Lewis motorcycle

By 1937, Alfred Moyle was an institution in motorcycling club life and was in one article acclaimed as "the father of motorcycling in Australia". Admittedly the journal was a local one (the South Australian Auto Cycle), but it is clear that Moyle's influence did extend throughout the country. He was the Inaugural President and the first Life Member of the Auto-Cycle Council of Australia and had, in 1928, travelled to Victoria with Wal Murphy to help found the Auto Cycle Union of Victoria. He was also the official recorder of all motor cycle records and special performances recognised by the A.C.C.A. and the M.C.C. of S.A.

After the First War, Alfred's sons A.J. (Jack) Moyle and C.L. (Charlie) Moyle began competition careers, and Jack in particular met with some success. He made his debut at a 100 mile event at Minlaton in 1919, and in the best Moyle tradition his mount was - what else? - a Lewis two-stroke. He went on to ride A.B.C. and Ace machines, not coincidentally machines for which Vivian Lewis Limited were agents, before becoming Australia's first Isle of Man TT entrant on an AJS in 1924.

MCC of SA members at Treasury Gardens, Melbourne
L to R: E.R. "Ernie" Dunbar (Matchless J.A.P.), Alfred Moyle (Lewis), J.H. "Ollie" Gilbert and W. "Bill" Sampson (7 h.p. Peugeot forecar), C.R. "Brusher" Churchward (Lewis) and Albert Young (Lewis) pose in the Treasury Gardens Melbourne after the Christmas 1911 crossing from Adelaide to Melbourne.  All were foundation members of the M.C.C. of S.A.

As a postscript to Alfred Moyle's motorcycling story, we note another of his consuming interests. In 1902, Moyle was the foundation President of the club that was to become the Adelaide Camera Club. As part of his photographic legacy there is a collection of 145 photographs in the State Library of South Australia collection (item numbers B 20710 to B 20854 inclusive) many if not all of which I surmise came from Moyle's camera. A few of the photographs have motorcycling themes, such as outings in the hills with his wife and the Churchwards on their Lewis sidecar outfits B 20817 and B 20819, and many were taken on Camera Club excursions. Some show his business, the Northfield General Store B 20731. Among my favourites, though, are photographs of the spires on St. Peter's Cathedral B 20719 and of the Elder Conservatorium B 20716, both recent projects by Adelaide Master Builder Walter Torode. Like Moyle, Torode was a keen Lewis rider and member of the M.C.C., so it's interesting to muse over the events that lead Moyle to take photographs of his friend's most recent buildings.

Alfred Moyle, Judge at Gawler races, 1924
Alfred Moyle, with "Judge" arm band and binoculars, photographed with competitors at a race meeting at Gawler Racecourse in 1924. Sammy Dunstone is second from right, and Jack wise third from right. Photograph from Dick Castle's album.

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