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Interesting old Douglas Family Photo

Started by Rob, 14 Feb 2007 at 14:05

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Hi all,

My searching of old family photos for the centenary year has uncovered some old photos that may be interest. Please find attached an interesting photo of Edward Douglas and his son John. The bike is apparently a factory made "special" for children. I gather for John.

I believe Edward to be one of the four Douglas Brothers albeit only two are mentioned with the original company.

Any details/comments on the bike or such "specials" would be appreciated.


PS ...a hand-written note attached to the original photograph reads "Great Uncle Ted and son John on Douglas motor bike built for the children".

Larger view


What a fabulous picture - and what a wonderful little machine. The detail is spot-on. The only thing I can see that looks out of scale is the toolbox, which looks to be full scale size. Do you know if the machine ran? It certainly looks like it could!


And no, before you ask, it is not in the "Identifying Douglas Models, Part 1" tables!  :wink:

I never knew they built such. The standard 2-3/4hp engine, were there not people in view showing the frame to be diminutive, would convincingly look like a cracking 600cc model. Looks like the poor kid did not get the three-speed w/clutch model!



Quote from: graeme on 15 Feb 2007 at 02:15
What a fabulous picture - and what a wonderful little machine. The detail is spot-on. The only thing I can see that looks out of scale is the toolbox, which looks to be full scale size. Do you know if the machine ran? It certainly looks like it could!


I have no knowledge or family history if it ran. I am sure it would have if they went to trouble to make one.

The photo came from a Great Uncle of mine's estate. He was a "Douglas" and lived in North Fitzroy in Melbourne. His father one of the original Douglas Brothers (not Will or Edward) and ran an engineering/foundry business in Collingwood (Easy St. I think?) called Douglas Brothers. 

It serviced the Melbourne shoe trade with cutting tools much as the Brothers in England before the motorbike adventures. The business named still survived painted on the external wall of the factory well into the 1980's.



Hi there, if you could bare with me a day or so, I will contact Bill Douglas, who is the grandson of one of the founders,he is also president of the L.D.M.C.C and chairman of the Bristol section, he may be able to throw some
light on the machine and its owners.  Roy.


Member Alan_Cun has pointed out that the same photograph has appeared in an old VMCC Club journal of May 1969. In the letters to the editor, a Mr. V. Banner of Durnley(?), Glous. submitted the photo as that of his late father-in-law E.W. (Walt.) White, who he goes on to say spent most of his entire career at the Douglas works, probably tool room foreman at the time of the photo, and finishing as Works Manager. The miniature motorcycle was built for the son of a wealthy Indian client. Mr. Banner did not know who the lad was in the picture, but his wife thought it might be one of the Douglas boys.

Mr. Banner's claims aside, the picture is certainly taken in front of the Douglas family house, the distinctive entrance in the background featuring in many well known Douglas photos. Such a 'special' would likely have been built primarily in the tool room department. Looks like the foreman got invited out to the house for lunch!


[Remove corrupt quote marks. 30Jun13, Doug]



thanks for the information. I think you are probably correct.

It is strange how some of these things become part of your family history. The man in the photo has always been known in the family as Edward Douglas even though some of our earlier photos of him don't quite match some of his features exactly. (Often thought to be age/photo angle.)

The family identification was by his niece however she probably never met him and was quite elderly at the time.




Further info on the photograph. Like Roy I have been in touch with Bill Douglas and on Sunday Feb 18th he gave me the folowing information and his permission to allow it on this forum. So, 'straight from the horse's mouth'  so to speak. Here is what he says:

"The photo was taken outside of 'Woodlands' in Court Road, Kingswood. This was the house of William Douglas founder of the Douglas firm.
   The gentleman astride the motorcycle is I am sure, Edwin (Ted) Douglas who was great uncle to the boy on the machine, John (Jack) who was the son of John Douglas a nephew of Edwin.
   There has never been an Edward in the family. It would have been Edwin. No Scot would have named a child Edward; it would be the same as a Jewish couple naming a son Adolf. It was two English Kings named Edward that destroyed the Scottish clans and the clan system.
   The machine, or machines as there were four made, were made for my father William, his brother Edwin (Teddy) and cousins John (Jack) and James (Jim) who were the sons of John (Edwin's nephew as above) None of these bikes appear to have survived. William and Ted were sons of William who in turn was the son of Edwin's brother William.
   Edwin (Ted) the great uncle in your photo at that time was about to leave the Douglas firm and go into partnership with W.Hoare and make high quality boots and shoes. Ted was quite political and went on to become chairman of Kingswood Urban Council.
   I would say that John Douglas the father of (small) John on the motorcycle sent the photo to Arthurs' family in Australia and wrote the note.
   My great grandfather William, brother to Edwin in the photo had three sons John, Arthur Percy, and my grandfather William Wilson who in turn had two sons namely Edwin and William, my father. I, William Wilson John am known as Bill, my father was Billy, grandfather was Willie and great grandfather was known as William.
   Hope this has been of interest and following the family relationships were not too complicated." Bill Douglas.

If Rob has further information on the Australian side of the 'family' I know that Bill would be pleased to hear of it.



I also spoke to Bill Douglas on Sunday about the picture, a copy of which I had with me. Asked about the engine, he stated that the engine fitted was not reduced in size but was a standard 2.3/4hp unit. This accounts for my first impression that the flywheel looked large compared with the rest of the machine. In discussion on the fact that none of the four had survived he remarked that not so many years ago a good running Douglas could be obtained for only £5.00 so with so little value many machines were scrapped. Asked what he could get now for a Douglas for £5.00, he was told 4 valve cap joint washers or 5 oil pump leather washers. He later related this statistic in his President's address at the AGM of the LDMCC.  Chris.