Early Competition in New Zealand.

Gilbert, an unusual name by todays standards that came from German origins and means bright promise, brilliance. Bethune must have been a family name, put them together and you get Gilbert Bethune Brown, a successful motorcyclist who may have originated from the Wanganui or Feilding area.
Who knows what spurred Gilbert on in motorcycling but by 1913 he was racking up successes in both the North Island and South Island. An advertisement in the April 3rd 1913 issue of The MotorCycle had Triumph Motorcycles seizing the moment from Gilberts success in breaking the endurance ride from Christchurch – Kaikoura and return by 2hrs 20min, over a distance of 270 miles in 8hrs 44min, averaging 31miles per hour. The route was described as being “over the most difficult country with boulder strewn rivers and unabridged rivers at frequent intervals, step hills, and roads extremely rough”. Well done Gilbert.

Not reported was his journey to the start of the endurance event. Gilbert would have ridden from Wanganui to Wellington, a challenge in itself. He would then have had to cross on the Union Steamship ferry to Picton. As there was no roll on roll off ferry until 1962 his motorcycle would have had to been hoisted onto the deck of the passenger ferry. Alighting in Picton he would have then ridden the 209 miles to Christchurch, a great warm up for the event. Perhaps that is why he was successful as having made himself aware of the route and conditions beforehand. And then there was the ride home. So total distance travelled to Christchurch from Wanganui was 330 miles, the endurance of 270 miles and return journey of another 330 miles. A total of 930 miles. A true champion of motorcycling.

Another one of Gilberts successes was portrayed in this original period photo postcard of a timed run up the infamous Paekakariki Hill. Ever ridden up it? I have, about 35 years ago and even then found it a handful.
The text written on the bottom read as follows –

GB Brown making the fastest time on the noted Paekakariki Hill beating all 8HP Twins and breaking the record by 8 1/5sec, distance 2 1/2 miles, time 4 min 11 1/5sec.

Gilberts success was even reported in the 24th June 1913 issue of the Wanganui Chronicle. Perhaps more of a dealer advertisement it read as follows –
Triumph” Wins Paekakariki Hill Climb.

On June 3rd last there was added to the long list of competitive successes of the Triumph in N.Z. the distinctive of breaking the record (made of course by a Triumph) for the Paekakariki Hill.winning the Manawatu Motorcycle Clubs annual hill-climbing speed competition and gaining the silver cup for the private owners, making the fastest time. Paekakariki is a tough hill, as every motorist knows who tackles it, and the field on the day of the competition comprised 24 riders with various makes of motorcycles from big twin cylinder 8hp machines down. G.B. Brown on a 3 1/2hp single cylinder Triumph (Tourist Trophy Roadster model) beat the lot easily, covering the distance of 2 1/2 miles in 4 min 11 1-5 secs, reducing the record he made when he won the same competition last year (also on a Triumph) by 8 1-5 seconds, and establishing a new record for the hill. Second fastest time was made by A.B.Collins (Triumph) and third fastest by G.B.Brown, this time mounted on a three-speed Triumph weighing 441lbs. There have been scores of equal convincing proofs of Triumph superiority in the past, and the repitition of these successes year after year proves that no motorcycle yet designed is in as high a class as the Triumph for reliability, consistency, economy and power in ratio to cylinder dimensions. The moral to those who propose to join the ever-increasing army of motorcyclists is obvious: Get a Triumph, and there is no doubt about having the best machine on the market. Call and see the new 1913 model Triumph. Prices: Free Engine £80, fixed £70, three-speed £87 10s. ADAMS LTD, Agents, Avenue. Wanganui.

And this is Gilbert Brown proudly sitting astride his Triumph motorcycle about 1914. Not sure if it the same machine that he did the Paekakariki hill climb with though.

To see what Triumph motorcycle Gilbert may have been riding click on the January 12th 1912 advertisement below to check out Triumphs models for 1912, including the Tourist Trophy Roadster.

Searching other records to find anything more produced very little except what may have been his death certificate. It was reported as Gilbert Brown, there was no Bethune included but the dates fit. He was born in 1874 and passed away in 1958 aged 84 years. What a story he could have told.