NMA collection record

Saw Doctor's Wagon, 1935

Description

This is a 'Saw Doctor's Wagon' created by Harold Wright. It was used to travel around rural Victoria, to small towns and properties in the Wangaratta/Albury-Wodonga region, where Wright would sharpen saws and other tools and fix other items as requested.

Educational value

In 1935, Harold Wright (c1905-69), a young English migrant, converted a horse-drawn wagon into a travelling workshop and home that he christened the 'Road Urchin'. A variety of tools for sharpening and repairing domestic utensils and saws were fitted to the side of the wagon, with a living area at the back. For the next 34 years Harold travelled the length and breadth of eastern Australia earning a living as a travelling tinker and 'saw doctor'.

Sometime in the 1940s he fitted the converted wagonette onto the chassis of a 1928 Chevrolet light duty truck. The wagon was continually refurbished and enlarged to make it more homely. Knick-knacks, bright paint, lively signs, unusual gadgets and shapes were all added to attract the attention of potential customers. Eventually, in early 1963, the front of the truck was removed and the caravan converted to a trailer that was towed by a 1948 David Brown tractor. A utility truck cabin was fitted to the tractor and, like the wagon, it was decorated with all sorts of colourful bits and pieces.

Harold James Wright was born about 1905, possibly in London. He completed a carpentry apprenticeship in the late-1920s and, failing to get work there, migrated to Australia. In 1932 he took to the road travelling through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland looking for carpentry work. Returning to Sydney in 1935 he built a horse-drawn wagon designed for both living and for working. He then set off on a journey that did not end until his death in 1969. He met and married Dorothy Jean McDougall in Brisbane in about 1940 and together the couple raised a daughter, Evelyn May.

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