Francis Birtles: born 7th November 1881, died 1st July 1941.

        Francis Birtles has always fascinated the Ferals, or at least the Founding Members, as he encapsulated all that was great about motoring in the 1920's. He was a true pioneer automobilist, criss-crossing the continent enumerable times, and being the first to drive from England to Australia. He was a mega-star in his day attracting thousands to the start and finishes of his journeys. He was also egotistical, heartless and totally driven. His first marriage did not survive the honeymoon and he abandoned his wife, ironically named Frances. He was also the toughest bastard to walk the earth, or in his case, drive it.
     The Wikipaedia entry does not do him justice, and gives no flavour of the man. We aim to remedy this. Why? Because we reckon he is an important figure in the history of motoring, and especially so for Australian motorin

Back O' Beyond With Two Men and a Dog.

     The first parts of the archive will be the Unpublished Manuscript, by his crew member, Roy Fry, of a 1920 Federal Government sponsored journey to plot the track for the Alice Springs to Darwin railway, and to identify suitable aero landing sites along the way. This is the toughest tale you will ever read about, and makes Peking-Paris look like a stroll in the park. Interestingly, it also displays the virulent racism that was accepted as normal in Australian society, and which is still there, but just below the surface.
The Long Lead by M.H.Ellis

      Beautifully written account by ex-Bulletin writer M.H.Ellis, the laconic humour reminds one of the prose of Mark Twain, especially with its yearning of an even older past than the 1924 journey it describes. There is some enlightening insights into aboriginal life, as well as life in the far Outback. There is none of the rushed account of Roy Fry here, it is told by a true wordsmith, and there is no doubt who the hero of the story is, it's Francis Birtles. A joyful tale of a long journey by two friends,  a dog, and the Engineer.


Express To Hindustan by M. H. Ellis 
The sequel to The Long Lead, but the easy going warmth towards Frank has gone. Instead of being the good friend of the author, and treated with laconic good humour, is portrayed as an incompetent, bigotted, foul-mouth. In fact he is not mentioned at all in the last pages of this book. The reasons for the change can be found in the preface. Apart from that, this is a superb book, Ellis' descriptions of life in the Balkans, especially Turkey are masterful. He beautifully captured a society that in all probability is still there, in the more remote parts at least. He also ranges onto the Armenian Genocide, which is very revealing