Sunday History Photo / SA

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 08:42
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Hugh Reskymer "Kym" Bonython, AC, DFC, AFC (15 September 1920 – 19 March 2011) was a prominent and active member of Adelaide society in Australia, with a very wide range of interests, activities and achievements in the fields of business, the arts, entertainment and public service.
His occupations included radio broadcaster, pilot, speedway motorbike rider, speedway racing car driver, speedway promoter, hydroplane racer, author, concert promoter, art dealer, art promoter, art collector, jazz aficionado, jazz promoter, jazz collector, jazz musician, monarchist, euthanasia advocate, company director, board member and numerous others.
"Kym" was born on 15 September 1920 in Adelaide, South Australia), the youngest child of Sir John Lavington Bonython and his second wife Lady Jean Bonython, née Constance Jean Warren. (Sir John's first wife died in childbirth, aged 26). He was named "Hugh Reskymer Bonython" after an ancestor who had served as High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1619.

He attended St Peter's College, Adelaide, and upon completion entered into accountancy on the recommendation of his older half-brother John. The Second World War interrupted this in 1940 he began training as a pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Bonython served in the (then) Netherlands East Indies and New Guinea, experiencing several "death defying" near misses. He was in hospital in Darwin (with dengue fever) during the 1942 bombing - he had just evacuated and taken cover when the ward he had been in took a direct hit. During his time with the RAAF, Bonython filled the roles of aircraft captain in 1941, and chief flying instructor with the rank of squadron leader in 1943. On 1 September 1944, Flight Lieutenant Bonython (Aus.280778) was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC), and on 22 February 1946, Squadron Leader Bonython AFC was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

When he returned from service he chose not to return to accounting, deciding on a very different career path. Initially he took up dairy farming on his father's Mount Pleasant property, where he introduced artificial breeding of cattle into Australia. In the 1950s his career changed to incorporate music, the arts, and motor racing.

Remember "Friday night is speedway night in Adelaide, And the cartoon "Almost everybody goes to Rowley Park on Friday nights" which showed everyone from a grandmother to ambulance drivers and a jockey all making their way into the speedway. Ah yes, the golden era of speedway with Kym Bonython and his company Speedway Pty Ltd.
In its heyday Rowley Park Speedway was attracting crowds every Friday night upwards of 15,000. In 1965 a reported crowd of 20,000 "Pie Eaters" (Kym Bonython's nickname for the regular speedway crowd) packed into the speedway to see Australia's first Demolition Derby. The Police were called in to handle traffic and hundreds of fans were turned away as the 'House Full' signs went up. The derby itself had 100 entrants and lasted for over 75 minutes.

Bonython himself wasn't just the promoter and director of Rowley Park Speedway. He was also a speedcar driver who had considerable success winning the South Australian Championship on two occasions. He was also involved in some of the more spectacular crashes seen at the speedway though luckily he didn't suffer any serious injuries at the wheel in an era when driver safety wasn't a major concern and major injuries or even death was accepted as just part of the sport.
Kym Bonython gained a reputation as a daredevil partially through another of his interests, motor racing. He raced Speedcars at the Rowley Park Speedway in the Adelaide suburb of Bowden, which he also owned the lease on and successfully promoted from 1954 to 1973. Bonython had some major crashes in Speedcars but also some success, winning the South Australian Championship in 1959/60.

He didn't just compete at his own track. Bonython competed at venues such as the Sydney Showground Speedway, Claremont Speedway in Perth and the Brisbane Exhibition Ground (Ekka). At one stage he was also the national hydroplane champion. His life in motor sports led to many accidents, the most serious being in 1956 when, racing to defend his Australian hydroplane title at Snowdens Beach, his boat crashed; the injuries that resulted led to Bonython spending the next 14 months on crutches. Amongst his achievements in motor sports was his work to bring Formula 1 to Adelaide in 1985. In 2007, he was one of 10 inaugural inductees into the Australian Speedway Hall of Fame.
Kilburn was the location for racing before Rowley Park,

Bonython suffered a massive triple blow in 1983, when the Ash Wednesday fires burnt to the ground his ancestral house - the mansion Eurilla, near Mount Lofty, that was bought by his father in 1917.

Lost was his valuable collection of 5000 jazz records (many signed by the artists), a large collection of works by the cream of Australian artists, including Boyd, Nolan, John Olsen, Lloyd Rees, Whiteley and Bryan Westwood, as well as his library, collectable furniture, wartime photographs and movie film from the 1930s.

He died on 19 March 2011 at his home in North Adelaide, aged 90.

Note: Eurilla was rebuilt back to its former glory, Lawyer Chris Ganzis and his wife Jacquie bought the burnt out ruins in 1998 and have gradually restored the home and gardens.

gift by Daughter

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Reply By: MUZBRY- Life member(Vic) - Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 08:58

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 08:58
Thanks Doug
Interesting fella.
Great place to be Mt Blue Rag 27/12/2012

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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 09:49

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 09:49
Thanks Doug

Another interesting read as usual for Sunday.

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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 10:16

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 10:16
Ah Doug,

Brings back many fond memories of my involvement with Rowley Park in the 1980's.
Spent many a Friday Night as an Official there and had the best seat in the house, manning the pit intercom in the control room where the timekeepers, stewards and announcers Rob Kelvin and Noel O'Connor (and me) were stationed.

I'm diagonally parked in a parallel Universe!

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Reply By: Member - Bigred13 - Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 11:04

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 11:04
Hi Doug ,Another great read on a Sunday ,brings back many memories for me ,I was racing Stock Saloons at Rowley Park in 1967,68 and 69,and in 1970 I was the second last car moving in the Demo Derby,I had a idler arm drop off and had no steering unless I got hit by another vehicle to change direction,unfortunately I was the one told by the official to go and knock the other one out,but with no other cars to hit me in the right direction to the other end,I was flagged out.
Rewards John
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Reply By: kevmac....(WA) - Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 12:04

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 12:04
Love reading about places in my old home state , or places I have been. Thanks again Doug.
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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 13:09

Sunday, Oct 11, 2015 at 13:09
Thanks Doug, an interesting bloke with an amazing life story. I never knew he had such a varied career. He was certainly a real daredevil, and it looks like luck played a big part in him reaching 90!
Used to go to Claremont Speedway as a teenager, when I could get away from work in the bush, and the speedcars always provided exciting racing.
I went to the Quairading Show yesterday and they had a sizeable display of speedway cars and speedway bikes on show there.
One of the blokes showing off cars apparently has a Museum in Mandurah (West Coast Motor Museum) which contains a sizeable collection of speedway cars.
I didn't even know the Museum existed. Apparently you need to make an appointment to view it.
The car display at Quairading was exceptional, particularly the Veteran cars.
One car on display that was particularly impressive, was a '63 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible that formerly belonged to the Emir of Kuwait. It's in superb condition, it's only done about 100,000kms.
The bloke who owns it, fell in love with it when he was 18 - but had to wait 44 years to own it! This car is the ultimate "Yank Tank"!

1963 Chrysler Imperial Crown convertible

Cheers, Ron.
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