Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wallace, Thomas Samuel (1902–1981)

by Ben Wilson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Thomas Samuel Wallace (1902-1981), cyclist and businessman, was born on 24 November 1902 at Gympie, Queensland, seventh of nine surviving children of Queensland-born parents Thomas Samuel Wallace, butcher, and his wife Emily, née Frost. In early childhood Tom delivered meat orders by bicycle, a considerable feat in hilly Gympie, where local club seniors noticed his cycling strength. He won his first cycle race on a dirt track when he was 8 and had his first win of note at Gympie in 1915. In Brisbane he initially obtained work with Ashby Bros, wholesale and retail cyclists, and in 1919 he raced with Hamilton Juniors.

Wallace’s competitive cycling years as a senior were between 1922 and 1933, after World War I and during the Depression. In his decade-long career, he rode for the Hamilton Amateur Wheelers and the Kangaroo Point Cycling Club. His victories included many State titles, starting in 1923 with the five-mile track and twenty-five-mile road race, a mighty effort for a 21 year old. At 25 he was Australian track champion and had won more state track and road titles and records than any other amateur in the country. He won time trials on track and road, with half- to ten-milers his specialty, and one individual national title (1929) for the half mile, in Brisbane on the grass track at the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland’s exhibition oval. In 1933 he was a member of the winning State premiership Queensland team.

On 27 August 1928 at Holy Trinity Church of England, Fortitude Valley, Wallace had married Lillian Maud Burton, a schoolteacher. That year he established Tom Wallace Cycles in the garage of his home in Wilson (Lowerson) Street, Lutwyche. He offered bicycle repairs and frame-building, with the ‘Tom Wallace Special’ as his signature brand. The business expanded rapidly in the early 1940s when Wallace moved it to Lutwyche Road. The visibility of his name, boldly adorning his shopfront on this busy thoroughfare, provided free advertising, in which he was already adept. He had combined his training with travel around south-east Queensland, taking white paint and a brush to place simple, effective advertising signage for Tom Wallace Cycles on any stray boulder, tree or fence, a practice taken up by his supporters.

After racing, Wallace worked hard at building his business, specialising in hand-made frames, sponsoring bike races and a racing team, and helping new riders. He understood public promotion; he set up two stationary bikes outside Brisbane City Hall for riders to ‘compete’ against each other beside a huge clock face, emblazoned with his business name, to advertise forthcoming races.

As well as a notable cyclist, businessman and publicist, Wallace was a popular identity in Brisbane. Predeceased by his wife and survived by their daughter, he died on 2 December 1981 and, after a funeral service at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Fortitude Valley, was buried in Pinnaroo lawn cemetery, Apsley. His funeral cortege was accompanied by cyclists from the Kangaroo Point Cycling Club and Hamilton Amateur Wheelers.

Select Bibliography

  • Sunday Sun (Brisbane), 5 Oct 1980, p 9
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 3 Dec 1981, p 1
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 4 Dec 1981, p 7
  • Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 14 Dec 1986, p 26
  • National Cycling, Feb-Mar 1982, p 68
  • Red Bicycle Touring Club/Kangaroo Point Cycling Club photographs and clippings 1912-80 (M1170, State Library of Queensland)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Ben Wilson, 'Wallace, Thomas Samuel (1902–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wallace-thomas-samuel-15868/text27069, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 June 2021.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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