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Lawson, Aubrey (1914–1977)

by Peter White

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Aubrey Lawson (1914-1977), motorcycle rider, was born on 5 April 1914 near Warialda, New South Wales, second son of native-born parents John Stafford Lawson, grazier, and his wife Blanche Ethel, née Atkins. In 1924 the family moved to Sydney. On leaving Naremburn Junior Technical School, Aub worked in the Postmaster-General's Department as a telegraph messenger (from 1929) and motor driver (from 1936). In 1933 he joined the Australian Corps of Signals, Militia. He made an immediate impact in 1937 as a motorcycle racer for World Speedways Pty Ltd with a flamboyant leg-trailing style and a long tartan scarf billowing behind him. Contracted to the Wembley Lions team, he went to London in March 1939; at his mother's insistence, his sister accompanied him as chaperone. He was a sensation in Britain and qualified for the world championship final, but the title was abandoned on the outbreak of war.

Back in Australia, Lawson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 13 July 1940. Seven days later at St Clement's Anglican Church, Marrickville, he married Mary Ann Pulbrook, a 19-year-old salesgirl; they were to have five children before being divorced in 1969. Lawson served as a dispatch rider with the 8th Divisional Signals and embarked for Singapore in February 1941. Sailing from that island on special duty on 13 February 1942, he was rescued after his ship was bombed, and succoured by the Dutch on Sumatra. He reached Australia on 6 March. In Melbourne he joined Land Headquarters staff and was commissioned acting lieutenant on 3 July. Assigned to the 7th Divisional Signals, he took part in the invasion of Balikpapan, Borneo, in 1945 and on 24 January 1946 was transferred to the Reserve of Officers.

Lawson was a founding director (1946) of a promotional company to race at the Sydney Sports Ground. With slicker track surfaces (less dirt), he used his left leg in a foot-forward stance. Returning to London, he rode for the West Ham club in 1947-51; he was the team's top scorer in 1949, 1950 and 1951. During the English winters he rode in Australia. He took a break in 1952 and bought a 240-acre (97 ha) farm at Quirindi, New South Wales. Lured back to racing, he captained the Norwich club in England from 1953 to 1960 and was the team's top scorer in 1953, 1957 and 1959. Lawson qualified for ten world championship finals at Wembley—in 1939, 1949-51, 1953-54 and 1957-60. His best result was third place in 1958. He competed in eighty-four Test matches (mostly as captain of the Australian team), scored a record 680 points, and won five Australian and five New South Wales championships.

Retiring from speedway racing in 1960, Lawson made a one-off comeback at Kembla Grange in 1963 to win the New South Wales title. From 1957 he was involved with the Claremont Speedway in Perth, where he settled in 1967. On 13 November 1972 he married a divorcee Roma Domenica Gasman, née Haas, at the registry office, Perth. Survived by his wife, and by the two sons and two of the three daughters of his first marriage, he died of a coronary occlusion on 20 January 1977 at Northam and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • J. W. Jacobs and R. J. Bridgland (eds), Through: The Story of Signals 8 Australian Division and Signals A.I.F. Malaya (Syd, 1949)
  • Motor Cycling in Australia, 1, Apr 1947, p 25, May 1947, p 23, Sept 1947, p 14, Nov 1947, p 23
  • Sports Novels, 10, Mar 1951, p 64
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 June, 21 Nov, 18 Dec 1947, 12 Dec 1949, 25 Feb 1950, 13 Dec 1952
  • Sun (Sydney), 7 Dec 1957, 17 Jan 1959.

Citation details

Peter White, 'Lawson, Aubrey (1914–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lawson-aubrey-10792/text19141, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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