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The Stroud Community Web is an online news and information source for Stroud and surrounding communities. An initiative and ongoing project of Stroud Lions Club.

Looking back on the Brick ‘n Pin

A story by Beryl Bowden

The formation of the Stroud Brickthrowing Competition in 1960 put our little town on the map. Previously most people from outside our area had never heard of Stroud.

Image 1There are four Strouds in the world.  England, Canada, United States and Australia. Two of them manufacture bricks so they decided to have an annual brick throwing competition and invited the other two Strouds to join in. Stroud Australia thought it was a grand idea. A committee was formed, a programme drawn up and a procession organized. As a result of the intense media interest, due to the unusual nature of the contest, the number of people who attended the first ‘Brickthrowing’ overwhelmed us. On that day Stroud grew from a population of 450 to almost 3,000. When the contest was held and the winners established, they were photographed and interviewed at length. The front pages of the Newcastle Morning Herald, Dungog Chronicle and Gloucester Advocate all featured the Stroud Brickthrowing.  When the results of the International competition were announced, more interest was generated. Even though Australia didn’t win, a young ‘giant’ from Gloucester, Warren Burley, who won the local contest, captured the media’s fancy. (My husband Lloyd, succeeded in coming fourth which gave our family reason to be proud and placed him up there with the other celebrities.) The women of the four towns complained they were being left out. It was then agreed to hold an International Rolling Pin Throwing event for the ladies. The female population of Stroud Australia enthusiastically embraced the challenge. At lunchtime every day we gathered at the showground and practiced our various methods of releasing the missile. Some just stood and threw it under-arm, others tossed over-arm and some (including myself) adopted their own form of spinning round, discus-style.

Image 3 In 1962, the first time the pin throwing was held, a young married woman from Dungog named Beryl Abbott outshone us. A discus thrower of ability, she showed us how it should be done. Fortunately for us she moved out of the district so did not throw again. To my surprise; and everyone else’s, I won next year with a throw of 119feet 3 inches. The following year a girl by the name of Pat Farley knocked me off my perch and the year after our daughter Lyndell Davey emerged as the one to beat. She won for quite a few years until eventually she came first in the International competition. In 1976 Lyndell and Kevin Burley, then current Brick and Pin champions, were invited to visit Stroud Oklahoma, as part of America’s Bi-centenary Celebrations. Stroud Oklahoma’s Brickthrowing Committee picked up the tab for their airfares and they were billeted with local Stroud families. It was virtually a free trip! The day after they arrived in America an official welcome was held for them to meet the residents. One lady asked ‘Do kangaroos hop down Sydney streets?’ We were told that when the local committee had appealed for people to billet the Australians, the questions most asked were ’Do they speak English?’ and ‘Are they white?’ This surprised me as a generation of young American soldiers were stationed in Australia during World War 2 and many Australian girls…my sister Betty among them… married one and went as war brides to live in America! You would think that, at the very least, word would have gone round that we were white and spoke English!! After taking part in the local competition over there, Lyndell and Kevin, accompanied by the current brick and pin throwers of Canada and England, were then treated to a two-week tour of Oklahoma as the guests of the Oklahoma committee. Image 5 In March of this year Betty and Arthur Thompson, Lyndell’s host family when she was in America, visited Australia. They stayed a couple of nights with Lyndell and Richard on their property at Booral. Wallabies often appear at Lyndell’s home but to Betty’s acute disappointment they didn’t show out while they were there. Perhaps next time. The Stroud Brick throwing committee took the opportunity to entertain the American visitors at a luncheon in their honor. Kevin Burley travelled down from Gloucester to meet them again. July is in the middle of the Australian winter but to my knowledge, the event has never been cancelled due to rain. (A couple of years were wet but the competition still took place.) My most enduring memories of the Brickthrowing are the frosty nights spent decorating floats till all hours, making thousands of crepe paper flowers, sewing costumes, blowing up hundreds of balloons This all made for a lot of work but guaranteed a colourful parade. The community cooperation is amazing. The music of the Pipe bands has toes tapping and adds to the excitement as the procession moves off on its way to the Showground. This signals the start of the programme…the brick and pin throwing, foot races, tug-a-war, parachute jumping exhibition, helicopter rides, catch the rooster and stilt races. Through the years the programme has altered, however there is still enough variety to appeal to everyone. Similar novelty community events such as the Brick throwing, often fade away due to a lack of community and/or committee interest. However Stroud is fortunate to have had people like Judy Periera whose enthusiastic guidance since the early sixties has helped sustain the community’s passion for our quirky festival. She’s a brick! Stroud itself can be congratulated for maintaining its enthusiasm for over 50 years.  Let’s hope it will continue for another 50!

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