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ROAD SIGN HISTORY

(The following is an article by Wayne Rushton, which was printed in Wheelspin.)

For many years some members, myself included, were aware of the existence of an old roadside sign from the 1930’s that directed the public to Clinton’s Pleasure Grounds & Rob Roy Hillclimb.
This sign was held by the Vintage Drivers’ Club (VDC) and was displayed on the wall of their clubrooms in Pascoe Vale.

Obviously with the passion for Rob Roy, I have been keen to secure this icon to compliment other Rob Roy memorabilia the Club has acquired over time. Over the years I have spoken to various members of the VDC as well as corresponding with a chain of Presidents. I have not been alone. With the advent of our new clubrooms I know Barry Osmond wrote to them in 2000 explaining how we now had a Rob Roy Room and various Rob Roy memorabilia which the sign would compliment.

Some years ago Roger Elliott went to the VDC clubrooms and whilst in a meeting there, saw the sign and did a sketch of it which was later published in Wheelspin.

Time marched on, and other priorities arose. Another round of discussions resulted in being advised that although the Committee agreed to part with the sign, the membership did not. In 2006 I became aware that the VDC had sold their Pascoe Vale clubrooms and were looking for a new home, and I corresponded with the then VDC President and tried the approach of obtaining the sign on a “permanent loan” basis. I did not even receive the courtesy of a formal response. Through a couple of friends who were members of the VDC, and pro delivering the sign to our Club, we kept ensuring the VDC were aware of our desires for it.

In late 2008 David White was talking with Bill Ingham, an ex member of the VDC and currently President of the Austin Healey Owners Club, and a keen competitor and supporter of Rob Roy.

It transpired it was Bill who originally donated the sign to the VDC in the 1980’s, and several years ago he had approached them to donate the sign to the MG Club but was advised that they ”would prefer to keep it”. In December 2008 he was good enough to take up the cause on behalf of Rob Roy and the “extraordinary contribution the MG Club has made to the development of the old Rob Roy Hill Climb site”. He wrote to the VDC fully explaining the past situations and asking if they would reconsider donating the sign to the MG Club.

In January 2009 he received a response from the President Ray Parker which advised that “the Committee had fully agreed with the contents of his letter and as a result have decided to take up the option of handing the sign over to the MGCC”. 

A copy of this letter was passed to myself, and I took the opportunity in February to correspond to the VDC thanking them for their generosity and confirming that our Club we would be worthy custodians of the sign.

There was however another hiccup. Evidently there was a very emotive General Meeting of the VDC where the Committee’s decision was almost overruled. This was overcome with the agreement that a Custody Agreement document should be drawn up to be signed by both parties.

After a bit of haggling on our part as to the wording, it was re-drafted and the Agreement was signed on the 26th May 2009. On that same evening, with Fred Brock and David White on one end and me on the other, we immediately carried the 8 ft X 4ft sign from their clubrooms in the Norcal Road complex to ours.

Although originally a lightweight metal sign with a timber frame, over time it had become a bit unstable so the VDC rectified it with a backing sheet of thick ply. This added considerably to the weight of it, but not enough to stop us zealots from trotting away with it.

The sign was subsequently mounted onto our Clubroom wall by Don Woods, Gavin McHugh and myself. Don and I held the sign up with some difficulty whilst Gavin being younger did the ladder work.

At the general club night on the 8th July the sign was formally handed over by Ray Parker, to myself, as the Rob Roy Co-ordinator for the Club, in the presence of Lindsay Truman (VDC) and Bill & Wendy Ingham. We went for the big unveiling. However Don Woods had done such a good job of securing fabric over the sign, only half of it was exposed when I pulled the cord (which broke) and just about left me hanging off the remains which had to be released by ladder later in the evening.

A temporary sign, to be replaced by a plaque was also unveiled with the wording:


“This is the original 1930’s roadside sign from the Eltham Yarra Glen Road
directing the public to Rob Roy.


With the demise of Rob Roy in the early 1960’s it fell into private hands
and was subsequently presented to the Vintage Drivers’ Club
who were the custodians of it for several decades.


On the 8th July 2009, when it was formally handed over,
custodianship passed to the M.G. Car Club Victoria.”

Bill Ingham was introduced by David White, who thanked him for his enormous contribution in liaising with the VDC in securing the sign on behalf of the MG Car Club.

In his response Bill explained how he came by the sign, which needs to be noted here for posterity.

Evidently Bill was aware of the existence of Rob Roy, and in the early 1980’s visited the site with the view to organising a return to Rob Roy type event for the VDC.
His visit was only a few years ahead of those of us who also visited the site in the late 1980’s, with the view to actually resurrecting the climb. During the course of organising the event he made a number of visits to the site at Rob Roy, and had discussions with the farmer there, and also some discussions with Bill Clinton who was living at Coldstream.

(Bill Clinton was the son of the founder of Clinton’s Pleasure Grounds on which Rob Roy was established, and in the early days of our Club’s involvement he made regular appearances at our events.)

During Bill Ingham’s discussions with Laurie Hense, the farmer at Rob Roy, he was told that he knew of the sign that was originally located on the corner of Clinton’s Road directing the public to the property. He advised that the sign was at the home of a Mr & Mrs Brock of Diamond Creek. Bill suggested that if he was able to contact them they may be interested in donating it to the VDC. Laurie confirmed this could be possible and that Bill should contact the Brock family, which he promptly did.

In speaking with Mrs Brock, who was a very polite and pleasant lady, Bill asked her if it would be possible to acquire the sign for the VDC for their historic use. Mrs Brock advised that if Peter didn’t require it for anything in particular then in all probability the VDC could have it. She told Bill to give her a ring the following week to confirm all this, which he did, and was advised that the Club was very welcome to have it. The following weekend Bill collected it in his trailer.

To Bill’s surprise and disappointment, when he advised the VDC Committee what he had done, they showed a lack of interest and didn’t want it. This left him feeling that he had acted in some haste and was presumptuous in his thinking that the VDC would be interested in having a piece of Australian Motorsport history. Consequently the sign remained at his place for some years.

After a number of years, a VDC official visited Bill’s and acquired it back for the Club, presumably after they had a change of heart and finally saw some worth in it.

It also came to our attention that as far back as 2000 Bill had approached the VDC in writing with the view that the sign should be donated to the MG Car Club for the reasons stated previously. At the time this request like so many of ours, fell on deaf ears. However, all this now all behind us. Everyone has moved on and the Club is the new custodian of the sign.

There were some thoughts that the sign should be displayed at Rob Roy, its logical home. However, on closer inspection of it, the decision was that it could only survive in an internal environment. As a consequence, the possibility of copying it, in its present state is being investigated, and either a full size or slightly reduced size copy, being produced for display at Rob Roy on the Sponsor’s wall of the Scrutineering Bay. 

A plaque will be attached with the wording as per the one in the Clubrooms, with additional wording that “the original is held in the Club’s clubrooms of the M.G. Car Club Victoria”.