From John Ray's shorter notes

10 September, 2019

My recollections of Harry Beanham

When I first came down to Brisbane from Cairns in 1963 I had left my Triumph Tiger Cub motorbike in Cairns for Frank to sell -- which he did with some difficulty.  So one of the first things I did in Brisbane was to look in the Courier mail classifieds for a secondhand motorbike.  I found and bought an old ex-army BSA -- a low revving 500cc single pot machine complete with manual advance/retard. Military equipment is often not reliable but this machine never let me down

I used it to get to work at my first Brisbane job, Abraham's Paper Sacks out at Rocklea, a firm that made heavy paper bags for the sandminers on Stradbroke Is.  But I have described that experience  elsewhere

Later in 1963, I got a job selling transmission machinery from a shop in George St., Brisbane. It rather strangely had 3 names: Gearco, Irvine's and Munro Machinery. That is such a strange job for a literary type like me that I think I should say a few words about how I got that job.

There were not many jobs advertised in the local paper for experts in Middle-English poetry -- which is what I knew most about -- so with some optimism I applied for a job as an engineering equipment salesman.

I was interviewed by Harry Beanham, who owned a chain of similar shops in other capital cities. I turned up for the interview in a green suit wearing a green fuzzy felt hat. That was not a good move. But Harry was a cautious man so he just asked me two questions which should have sent me on my green-suited way. He asked: What is a tap and what is a reamer? Being a country kid I answered both questions correctly. And if you think a tap is something you get water out of you don't know engineering machinery. Harry was so delighted to meet a kid who actually knew something that he gave me the job straight away.

Harry was usually resident in Sydney but he visited his interstate shops occasionally.  His Brisbane shop in George St. was mostly called Gearco.  The job was to run a business selling second hand factory machinery and some new machinery: Mostly to do with lathes and other machine tools. I found it interesting.

Harry was in partnership with a very smooth man (Bob Naesmith) selling new and secondhand photographic gear. I ran my (engineering) side of the shop and the other side of the shop was run by George Smith and Mrs Staer. I had for many years a SLR Pentax camera I acquired from the other side of the shop when it came in second-hand.

I once had a Pom come in to buy some chain off me. He was a bit vague about what he wanted but assured me that he was a great British engineer.  I gave him some 1/2 x 3/16 inch chain which he accepted. He came back next day rather irate because the chain did not fit.  It turned out that he wanted 1/2 x 5/16 inch chain.  I was a bit mocking about a great British engineer not knowing something as basic as the difference between 1/2 x 3/16  and 1/2 x 5/16 chain.  He couldn't recognize the difference between pushbike chain and motorbike chain.  He went away very angry with me!  A sad soul.

I made my mark in Harry's mind by being a very successful seller of diehead chasers. There was a complexity to them that interested me. He eventually sent his total stock of them up to Brisbane for me to sell. Don't ask what they are. You don't need to know. Mechanical engineers know already.

Harry was pleased to find that I was a motorcyclist as that was very much his hobby.  He was riding them well into his later years.  His favourite bike when I knew him was the Velocette, a high quality British bike.  He had one  stored in the basement of his Brisbane shop for his use when he was in Brisbane.  It was a bit like a motorscooter so I am pretty sure it was an LE model.

A 1953 Velocette LE

Harry seemed to monitor my sales and orders fairly closely and would send me up handwritten notes about them.  I suspect that he couldn't work a typewriter.  On one occasion he wrote that something I was doing was NBG.  He was a bit on the grumpy side but never unpleasantly so. He saw it as his job to teach me things about the business -- which I was glad to learn.

As well as selling new lathe gears and other new machinery.  Harry had a big stock of secondhand machinery which he had bought at auctions.  Auctions were his second favourite hobby, I gather.  So there were various things I had to do with his second-hand stock  to get it ready for sale.

And that stood me in good stead in 1968 when I was fired from the Dept. of Technical Education of the NSW public service.  You did not think ANYONE could get fired from the public service did you?  But I behaved unusually rebelliously.  I was not meant to be a bureaucrat.  Details of that episode here.

When I was fired, I went and saw Harry at his Sydney business -- in case he might want me to work for him again. He did. Harry remembered how I sold lots of diehead chasers for him in Brisbane so had a high opinion of my usefulness.  So he promptly put me to work preparing his secondhand stock for sale.  So I got a job that did not exist until I asked for it!

There are a number of affectionate stories about Harry online -- e.g. here

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