Monthly Archives: Jun 2016

More contacts from the past.

I recently made friends on FB with a woman from the old days in Brisbane. Jan is a friend to many of the old crew. I’ve since made contact with several other people so over the next few weeks, I’ll be able to post more info about the experiences from the days of the Brisbane Dogs MC. Jan is visiting Melbourne in a few weeks and as it’s been nearly 40 long years since we’ve seen each other, it’s going to be great. Two others from those days, my mate Pauly and Gayle will also be there.

Ironically, back in days of the Dogs, Gayle was my girlfriend for a short while and Jan and Paul were an item at the same time. Our wives, husbands and children are all behind us now while back in the day, those events were all ahead of us..

Mate Pauly was in the Confederates MC in Brisbane and how we met and went on to be great mates is also a good story. Again, as I find the time, that story will be told as well.

Why I’m Learning to Blog

This is the second lesson in the series “Why I’m learning to blog”. The task was to change my title and tags. I have done so.

Formally ollydownie, now  The Light At The End Of The Tunnel, Is Probably A Train.

A lengthy title I know. I was warned against this but I did it anyway. Clearly I’m a rebel without bounds. Ive also used caps for every word and I put a comma in. I’m not against using commas but I was warned recently about using dot dot dot (…) at the end of a sentence. I always loved using …,  because I was under the impression it caused a level of suspense or mystery. Maybe, maybe not…

Feedback most welcome.

Not Losing my Mind, Yet.


I’ve just returned from a lengthy visit with a doctor at a local dementia unit.

I passed all the tests with flying colours I’m exceedingly happy to report however it’s raised some points that I thought I’d share with my vast readership, and thanks in advance, to all three of you for paying attention..

This all started a couple of months ago while at my GP for a check up for one thing or another. I brought up the subject of tests for Alzheimer’s because a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of about 52. As I’m approaching 60 (…is the new 40) I simply wanted to ask about a test or even a checklist to see if my faculties are still firmly rooted in the present and correct or if they are starting on that terrible journey from where there is no return.

My GP, a lovely woman who I’ve been going to for ages, was very proactive and asked me a series of questions over the next 30 minutes to gain a preliminary insight to my brain functions. She said that as far as she was concerned, I’m quite normal but decided to refer me to a dementia clinic, just to be on the safe side. This was a great idea as far as I’m concerned because I’d much rather be 100 percent safe in the knowledge than not quite sure.

Anyway, the test itself was more like an aptitude test or possibly an IQ test, with questions ranging from did I know today’s date and who is our Prime Minister, through to remembering a name and address at the end of the test, that was given to me at the beginning of the test. There was also a blood pressure test, reflex tests, flexibility tests, maths tests and finally a visit to a set of weight scales that were hopelessly inaccurate.

When all the test were finished we had a chat about my weight, exercise regime, diet and my level of alcohol consumption. Interestingly, my weight is the one category that was influenced by all the other categories. Alright, not interestingly, sadly.

The Doctor was keen to point out the only thing that has an effect on Alzheimers and Dementia is exercise and diet.

So I’m going to pay a lot more attention to my diet. I’ve watched Dr. Michael Mosley several times, in particular “Eat Fast and Live Longer” which offers several options for the food obsessed. The 5:2 diet was an enthusiastic rush into the S&M scene for foodies and that little book now sits, nowhere handy thats for sure…

The 880 diet has been tried but 880 calories a day for 8 weeks  is slightly worse than starvation with diarrhea for 56 days so that number is no longer a favorite of mine. I’m going for the much lauded Big breakfast, Smaller lunch and Little dinner.

And I’ll try a brisk walk around the block every night, of course I will. Another interesting finding was that the scales in my bathroom are also wildly innacurate, just like ones at the clinic…



Why I’m Learning to Blog.

This is the first lesson in a series of tasks that I’ve been set, to learn the processes on the WordPress blog site.

The reasons I write are varied. I’d like to write more, I’d like to be read and have my articles commented upon. I guess to be recognised as a valuable contributor to whatever topic I’m contributing to, is some kind of validation of my experience and skills.

I recently wrote a long running column in a motorcycle magazine called Heavy Duty. This is a Harley Davidson enthusiast magazine and although I had owned several Harleys over the years, I had just bought a Victory motorcycle. This brand of motorcycle were brand new in Australia, having opened the doors on the fabulous Melbourne dealership in 2011 and as I knew the owner of Heavy Duty magazine, I simply asked him if I could write a Victory column.

He agreed, and as the Victory parent company Polaris, advertised in the magazine, we thought it would be a great adjunct.

I went on to write the column “Victory Speech” for about 4 years. I also managed to write several test ride articles for the magazine over this period. All my contributions to the magazine were gratis, except the very last article, for which I was paid $100.

Prior to this, in 1992, I was invited to write a column in the Sunday Age. This column was called “Tool Time With Olly Downie”. This was where my skills as a residential building contractor were called into action. I had at the time, recently renovated a home for a woman who was a sub-editor of the Melbourne based “The Age” newspaper. She asked if I could write. I quickly decided that I could, having just successfully written to the tax department, asking for a fine to be disallowed. As my request was successful, I naturally based the decision on my literary skills, less so on the argument that the reason for the fine was unfair…

However, she asked me to write a thousand words on the subject of what would I suggest to a new home owner, to assemble as a home tool kit, the contents of “the bottom drawer”.

After spending an afternoon with a staff photographer, that first article was published with almost no corrections, into a weekly publication with hundreds of thousands of readers……Many more articles like this followed.

This is the nub of my writing career, if it can be described as a career. I haven’t really made any money apart from my small stint with the Sunday Age. I enjoy writing, I love the challenge of belting out 1000 words with a 2 hour deadline. I thoroughly enjoy the satisfaction that comes with a well written piece. There are many more small stories to pen and I assume that many more will come with this fundamentals blogging course.


The Brisbane Dogs MC

The Brisbane Dogs Motorcycle Club

I’ve moved this over from another site, Blogger. All of it has come over but some of the comments may have been lost in the process.

I have heard from a few people that knew of the Dogs or were involved over the years and I will try and locate some of the posts and messages . The Blogger blog was a bit temperamental to use. I’m not exactly up to speed with wordpress but it seems to be the one to use. I’m seeking advice and some opinion so don’t be afraid to comment and offer either advice or more information. I look forward to your input.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I was a member of the Brisbane Dogs Motorcycle Club in 1974 – 1976.
The exact length of time I was in the club and the actual dates are not 100% clear but that was the approximate time.
I was about 18 at the time and most the other members ranged from 18 to their mid to late 20’s. The president at the time, was James Devlin.

One of the Devlin brothers, of which there several, James was the most charismatic and certainly had leadership skills and the qualities needed to be the leader of a gang of teenagers.
We all drank too much, smoked weed, rode our bikes too fast and had to deal with all of the consequences of our actions.
The other Devlin brothers also had their fair share of charisma.
Dibbles ( not 100% sure if that’s right) or David, was a leader of the pack in the school yard. That’s where I first met him.
I had been transferred to the Macgregor high school in Brisbane’s outer suburbs from Balwyn High School in Melbourne. My mother had re-married and her new husband had been transferred to Brisbane to open a new branch office.
The first day at my new school was”formative”. I was put into a nearly all boys class. There was one average looking girl and later in the year we got another girl, definitely an above average chick who, upon being thrust into our midst, must have wondered what she had done to deserve this lot of smart arse little bastards.
At lunch time I noticed the all the usual suspects race down to a spot blow the school oval, shaded from view by a row of trees. I guessed that down there was where all the action was, so I wandered down there to have a look. Sure enough, there was Dibbles, holding court and smoking a cigarette with all the attitude of the Marlborough Man. They said shit, there’s the new kid, and at that, I produced my own pack of cigarettes and was immediately accepted as a rabble rouser and brother ne’er do well.

The first one of all my new mates in Brisabne to get a bike, was Dave Grant. He was the oldest and we all used to hang out at his place after school, smoke, bullshit and pick on any poor girl that wandered past.
Dave bought a brand spanking new Yamaha TX650.

This is me and Dave Grant. Dave is on the right.
This was taken sometime around 1975

These were the Japanese answer to the dominant Triumph, Nortons and BSA’s motorcycles of the time.
There wasn’t a lot of choice in those days. The Honda Four had only been around for a couple of years, but the Yammy was a real prize.
The Dogs had been a club for a little while before Dave got his bike, but as it was the neighborhood gang, it was kind of expected that he would start hanging out with them. Not long after Dave got his bike, I bought my first road bike, a Yamaha TX 500 8 valve twin. It was second hand when I got her, but she only had 500 Klms on the clock. It was still under warranty.
I bought it off the brother of a school mate. I don’t remember why he sold it, but I took it back to the dealership where he bought it, and they gave it its first service. During the service, the apprentice who was working on it, let it vibrate off the work stand and it fell onto the floor, damaging the bike but also chopping off the finger of the poor apprentice who was working on it.
The dealer fixed the bike, but I never heard what happened to the apprentice or to his finger

Hi there, i know this is an old thread but i was an original member of the dogs – fist sergeant of arms – voted in – James was president – George was VP? – other members:
Unsure of some peoples real names…Colin and Chris Folley
Barry ? (smelly)
Dave Balcom (monkey)
Edward Gilligan (waard)
Noel Harker
Ken Sharp
At the time there was approximately 30 members, memories are a bit vague but more talking on the subject would help. Have got some photo’s would be great to catch up with some old stories?
PS Ollie, skeeta asked if you remember Fiona Luton??

cheers, Billy   Nov 2012

Sorry for taking so long to reply to this.
I woke up this morning and for some weird reason, this blog was on my mind. I just set up a Facebook page for the Dogs as well. Brisbane Dogs MC.
I also wrote a reply just like this one that promptly disappeared when I tried to post it…..
I do remember Fiona. She was my girlfriend for a very short time.
I remember that she took me home to meet her family. They were mortified that that she had brought home a Member of the Dogs…..
I remember as a beautiful young woman. I remember a camping trip we went on together with Pauly from the Confederates and his girl Jan MacDonald.
Jan had a brother in the Dogs, Duncan MacDonald.
Its amazing as I’m writing this, names keep flashing up.
I’m going to try and get this whole thing going again. I had some great contact from past members but I never really took it any further.
Lets hope this doesn’t vanish again…..   Sept. 2015

The Members – Dave Grant

Dave lived around the corner from Monkey and Me.
He was a couple of years older than us and was the first to get his license, a car and his bike.
Dave lived in a downstairs part of his mothers house. It had its own entry and for a long time it was the gathering place for all of us younger guys. It seemed that half the neighborhood used to stop in there after school or work, have a couple of smokes before going home. I became a part of this group when I arrived from Melbourne and quickly became good friends with Dave. A group of us would always be doing something at his place. He had an old FB Holden Panel van, it was purple and he hotted it up as much he could afford to. One day we nicked one of his mothers lace table cloths and gave it a “lace” paint job with a white spray paint can.
We used to push his mothers car out of the garage in the dead of night and drive down to Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, do a U turn at the border and drive home again. Probably full of piss.
I and probably most of the other blokes learned to drive in his old purple van and a group of us developed a leaning towards bikes at the time. When I was 15 or 16 and still at school, I joined the Surf Life Saving club at Pacific beach on the Gold Coast. It was there that I met John Jerrins, a mad bikie. He had a Kawasaki Mach 3, a two stroke rocket and sometimes he  took me down to the coast on the back of his bike. It was maybe his influence that steered me towards the bikes, maybe the radical element sub culture thing was another influence.
Dave bought a brand new Yamaha TX 650. It was bright green. The Brisbane Dogs, being the local MC,  took a keen interest, not only because Dave was a local lad but because the more members the club had, the more prestige and cred the club had. There were several other clubs in the neighborhood at the time.
The Confederates, a bigger membership than ours, had two chapters, the Northside Crew and the Southside Crew. More on the Confederates later.
There was a club called the Dogs and Daughters. I met the president once and from memory he was a charismatic and good looking bloke with a mysterious air about him.
The 2nd Foundation was a club from around our way but they came and went pretty quickly.
There were others but the names are too distant memories. I dont know what became of them.
The Rebels, The Finks, the Black Uhlans and the Hells Angels where a major force in Brisbane at the time as well but the smaller suburban clubs like ours went fairly quietly compared to the press these big outlaw clubs got.
You have to remember, we were all really young, probably the second generation of bike gang members in Australia. The Old Guys from my memories, were in their 40’s, revered and notorious.
Anyway, Dave joined up with the Brisbane Dogs. I cant remember when this was and I cant remember in what order, but I joined at about the same time along with Monkey and a few other locals.
Dave met the love of his life, Jeanette, during this period and they are still happily married with 2 adult sons and grandchildren. Dave was by no means a violent or radical man. He was placid, I cant remember seeing him angry or in a fight and I know he rarely broke the speed limit. Like all of us, he drank a lot and smoked but I dont think he smoked anything other than Winfields.
When he and Jeanette were married, I was his best man and I have a photo somewhere of us in white suits and long hair. Dave was out of the club by then.There will be a distinct lack of pictures from this era. Although a lot of stuff was photographed at the time, I lost all my albums in the Ash Wednesday Bushfires in 1983. Occasionally, I will get a few pics from someone going through an old album, but none specifically of the Dogs, or not yet anyway.

The Members – Dave “Monkey” Balcombe

Sadly Monkey is with us no more. He died early, at about 42 years of age.
I lost touch with him after I left Brisbane in 1978. He lived with his family across the street from me in the Brisbane suburb of MacGregor.  We hooked up the day my family moved in to our house and became really good mates.
I finally got in contact with his family about ten years ago. I was thrilled to be chatting to his mum and dad, Lenny and Gloria Balcombe who are great people. After about 5 minutes of catching up, Lenny said “I s’pose you’d like to talk to Dave? unfortunately Olly, he died about 6 months ago”. He was coming home from a party somewhere, he was a passenger in the back seat of a car. He fell asleep, no-one paid any attention to that, but he never woke up, just slipped quietly away. That was how I remembered Lenny telling me.
After all the times I had tried to track them down, I was 6 months too late.
I haven’t heard from Lenny and Gloria since. I will get a bit further into this Blog and try and contact them again.
Monkey became good mates with Michael “Stevo” Stevenson and Stevo kept in pretty good contact with Len and Gloria.
I heard that Monkey had been married and had at least one child. He had a younger sister as well, Annette.
Lenny Balcombe owned a fleet of trucks and he bought Dave a Triumph Bonneville. Dave was a lunatic on that bike, but he could ride it fast and it handled well and that helped. I remember once we were on a run and the bolts came out of the front mud guard and it rolled forward over the front wheel. Not much traction after that happened, and about a dozen bikes went down in that particular spill.
Later on, Lenny got him a Honda Four, an ex cop bike. He was a loony on that as well. He painted it and put on a “Harley” back wheel, a 16 incher with a “wide” 130 tyre.
One night coming back from a piss up somewhere, he hit a wet patch in a bend on the highway and aquaplaned off the tar at about 100 miles an hour and hit a tree. That didn’t kill him, though it did fuck him up pretty badly. I remember that his head hit the tree so hard, all the fillings in his teeth fell out, and a dentist had to visit him in hospital to fill his holes back in before he could eat properly.
I distinctly remember the Honda after that prang, there were bits of the tree protruding from the crankcase.
I also remember one day we visited him in hospital after that prang. There was a kid in there who was driving a car that crashed, killing four of his mates. Those must have been painful days for the Old folks.
We did crazy things in those days. Death defying, out of control, booze fueled and all of the Gods must have been on the look out for us.As This blog grows, more or less of these stories and memories will come to the surface and maybe people will see the blog and want to add to it.I recently recieved an email from Caroline Abel, the daughter of  Dave Balcombe. I will post the email she sent me here, as soon as I can find it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Clubhouse

We had a clubhouse somewhere in Beenleigh. It was someone’s rented house but the Dogs all used to meet there once a week.
The first time I went there, there was a heap of blokes there, all about my age, all half pissed and full of bad manners. I can’t remember anybody specifically at the first meeting, apart from James Devlin.
I probably went there with Dave, possibly Stevo (Michael Stevenson) and maybe Monkey (Dave Balcombe)
The club had a weekly fee, from memory it was $2 a week from each member. Not a lot of money these days but the mid 70’s it was plenty. A pack of cigarettes was less than 50 cents so compared with todays money it was around $40.
The money was used for beer and I’m not sure what else. There was a club secretary and a Sergeant at Arms.
One of the secretaries was holding the money collected from dues, we were also having meetings at his house, in the downstairs area, common in houses in queensland.
He “lost” the club money and  was excommunicated from the club, his father had to come down and break up the fight.
I remember the club President at that time was George. He took over from James. I don’t know why James quit the position, possibly he was sick of looking after a bunch of belligerent children. I don’t remember any ceremony or voting process. Someone can probably fill the bit of info in later

Tom Elliot

This is a letter I fired off to Tom Elliott, radio presenter on 3AW in Melbourne, in response to rant and sometimes vicious talkback about the ANZ bank, launching a policy that will require the bank to hire 4% indigenous people.

Dear Tom.

Listening to the discussion this afternoon about the Bank policy to employ a (small) percentage of indigenous workers, was cringeworthy. Not for the reasons most of the bigoted racists who called in to agree with your outrage, but because you are capable of a much more noble stance on this issue. The amount of Indian, Chinese and Pakistani workers in my bank for instance far outweighs other ethnicities in the community and I think it only fair and indeed righteous that this bank decide to make a stance to encourage our indigenous workers to their ranks.

This isn’t racist or political correctness gone mad, this is fair dinkum and a fair go…this is a great Australian hand up, not a hand out.The bank should be applauded.

Go inside the Laiki Bank or the Arab Bank in the CBD and count the Greeks and the Egyptians working the counter…plenty of ethnic disparity there old mate. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. It’s just a fact. Surely this policy is meant to encourage Aboriginal students to the ranks of the banking industry?

This is surely to be seen as our multi nationals encouraging our Aboriginals to look to the banking sector for a career?

The way this was presented on your program, served only to alienate Aboriginals from the argument, not at all was it structured to be inclusive. We need to encourage our indigenous population, not further alienate them. The spurious argument that it’s reverse racism is just a tool for bigoted and racist haters to stand up and wave their arms for 5 seconds of pathetic notoriety. This discussion needs encouragement, not bleating about equal rights. We all need to stand up for our Aboriginal community here in Melbourne. WE need to encourage everybody to excel, not shame them because of their Aboriginality. I know there are members of the aboriginal community that are working hard to be inclusive and have pride in themselves and and their accomplishments and in their families and in their communities.

You, wether you like it or not, are a leader in this community and I believe that you should, as much as you can, encourage the good work and look for gems among the shit that we’re usually dished up. Our Indigenous, our Aboriginals are ours, they’re Australians, they’re unique to US and we should be proud to be among those that encourage, inspire and empower them all. Anything less is beneath our honour and our spirit of goodwill.

I’m a typical white Melbournian bloke with two very proud Aboriginal men in my family. I have nothing but praise for these men and they have shown me another way of thinking, a less racist way and a more inclusive way of understanding.