The Saw Doctor’s Wagon
Film by Raimond DeWeerdt, Karlie Hawking, Chris Pidd, and Jenni Munday, featuring Dennis Shephard, Ian Cramer, Neil Ramsay.
Project Director: Malcolm McKinnon.
Project Coordinator: Karlie Hawking.
Project Assistance from National Museum Australia: Adam Blackshaw
Produced in partnership with National Museum Australia.
Archival video reproduced with kind permission of the National Museum Australia. Archival still images reproduced with kind permission of Peter and Wyn Herry, and the National Museum Australia.
This video was created as part of the Murray Arts “Stories of the Upper Murray” project, with assistance from the Commonwealth Government’s Regional Arts Fund, Regional Arts Victoria, National Museum of Australia, City of Wodonga, Shire of Towong, and Museums Australia (Victoria).
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Murray Collections Network, and the artists.
"I painted it up brightly and wrote signs and decorated it to make it attractive to the public. I called myself “The Sharpening King”, thinking this would attract more business and make life a bit easier.” Harold Wright, 1957
In the early 1930’s Harold Wright took to the road in a horse drawn wagonette. He travelled with his wife Jean and daughter Evelyn through Eastern Australia until 1969.
One side of the wagon housed a wide range of sharpening tools and devices. The other side was set aside for domestic appliances and tools. The wagon is now in the National Museum of Australia Collection.
DENNIS SHEPARD: The saw doctor's wagon were the home and the workplace for the Wright family for about-- from the 19-- the mid 1930s up until 1969, when Harold Wright died. The wagon was decorated with a lot of family photographs capturing that-- that interest in just this unusual wagon, because the photographs on the outside certainly reflect the evolution of the wagon from when it was horse-drawn through to when it was fitted on the back of a Chev truck and through to it being pulled by-- by-- by the David Ram tractor. The wagon's been described as looking a bit like a circus tent at night, with all the lights that were around it.
A dog kennel on the right, in the middle, chicken coop with decoration here.
OVERLAPPING VOICES: So that's just to make it look nicer, Give it a bit of sparkle-- for the eggs-- was-- is the catbox-- and right underneath-- bits of brass, bits of copper, bits of bronze. Two axles-- that looks like a-- here's the other dog kennel-- that's a land that would have had-- it's an example of-- I mean, it's the ultimate example of--
NEIL RAMSEY: Jean, which is Harold's wife-- she'd always make a cup of tea and she would always like to sit down and have a talk. And if a customer paid Harold, he would automatically just go over and give it to Jean and Jean would drop it-- Jean never counted. She just grabbed it and just dropped it in her little tin.
But he used to say if he was going anywhere and it gets middle of the day-- it was a bit hot-- he would pull in under a tree on the side of the road. And the farmers would be a bit of sticky beak. They'd be wanting to know what's going on. And they'll usually come across the paddock and they'll have a talk to him. And they'll come back in 10 or 15 minutes later with their knives and a kitchen scissors and a couple of hand tools. And he'd be there sharpening them. And if it's a big job, he would stay the night. Occasionally, a farmer would pick him up and take him back to their place for tea and they would have a shower. That's how they just sort of plugged around.
-I was fortunately the one who collected it. So my first sighting of it was in a shed, dusty old shed outside of Wangaratta. As part of the decoration on the wagon, we've got a number of different names. Harold's called himself the "Sharpening King." He's called himself the "Saw Doctor." He calls himself the "Battler from the Bush." The wagon itself has been variously called the "Road Urchin," sort of reflects that life of moving around.
And when Harold died, there was a map on the inside of the wagon which had a path traced out on it. Unfortunately, that's-- that's gone. So we just have to make assumptions about where he went. So they traveled the extent of eastern Victoria-- eastern Australia from at least southern Queensland, possibly further north in Queensland, right out to Western Victoria.