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EARLY SULKY DEVELOPMENTS
Recently the writer paid a visit to Bryant & Co's workshop in Dalgaty Street, Christchurch, in search of information on early sulkies. The above firm is now carried on by Mr W B(Bill) Cooper, and his son Russell.
Mr Cooper was unable to clear up the question as to who used the first real sulky in a race, but old records of the firm, dating back to 1890, show who were the first men to use the first sulkies manufactured by Bryant & Co. In 1890 the firm built the first high-wheeled sulky used in Christchurch. This vehicle had four-foot diameter wheels with solid iron tyres. A similar cart, of the same design, but with heavier wheels, was used for racing by Mr H('Soda Water') Mace in 1890. A Mr H Reece also used the same type of cart. In 1892 Mr J G Grigg, of Longbeach, purchased a high-wheel sulky. He bred many trotters from the imported mare Jeanie Tracey. A Mr Lascelles and a Mr McLean, of Hawkes Bay, were also the owners of this build of sulky about the same time as the Longbeach owner.
The first pneumatic tyred sulky built by Bryant & Co appeared in 1893, and it was owned by a Mr Jack McGregor. This cart was somewhat similar in design to the ones used today, the main difference being that the seat was set much higher. The hubs for this sulky were imported from America, and the wheel was built around the hub. The spokes and rim were made of wood, and the pnuematic tyre - tubeless - was bolted onto the rim. In 1894, Bert Edwards purchased one of these Sulkies from Bryant & Co, and no doubt he used it for racing, as also did M(Manny) Edwards who ordered on the same year.
A horse called General Tracey, who set a three miles record of 8min 15 1/2 secs back in the 1890s, pulled a sulky of this type.
These are only a few of the names of the earlier school of owners, trainers and breeders which appear in the records of the firm. Bryant & Co built carts of all types, and many of the high wheeled carts were only put to private use. However many of them were pulled by high-spirited trotters, and the owners were not averse to challenging one another in trials of speed on the roads.
During the 1920s - earlier and later - the wide, short-shafted American type of sulky made it's appearance, and all of these were not imported from America. Bryant & Co built a number of this design, but as fields increased in size, the wide sulky went out of favour. The last time the writer saw one on a racetrack was when the trotter When went against time at Rangiora just before her departure for America. The vehicles used almost universally in NZ today - for years past for that matter - are traditionally known as speed carts.
The firm of Bryant & Co was established in 1872, in Papanui Road, Christchurch: "fine carriages, dog carts, gigs, pagnal carts and racing sulkies" were among the special merchandise built by the 'old firm'. Records kept by Bryants from the eariest days embrace, over more than 70 years of production, such well known names as Bert Edwards, Manny Edwards, Jack McGregor, Andy Pringle, W J Doyle Snr, Geo Murfitt, A Kerr, H W Kitchingham, Alf Wilson, Free Holmes, Thos Roe, Dave Price, Ben Jarden, W J Morland, James Bryce, Tom Fox, Roy Berry, J J Kennerley, W J Tomkinson and D A Withers. There are legions more.
Credit: 'Irvington' writing in NZ Trotting Calendar 29Apr64