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First and only cycle company in Wales remembered; HERITAGE: Farming family caused sensation with `bone-shaker' bicycle they built in 1880s.


THE early days when Wales had its own bicycle and motorbike industry were remembered yesterday at the farm where it all began.

Five brothers living at Gelli Fawnen farm, Glanaman, established the Defiance, later the Royal Defiance, bike company in 1880, the first and only cycle company in Wales and one of the few to make modern ``safety'' bicycles outside Coventry.

The company also made the first Welsh motorbike in 1901 at the family's old smithy near the farm on Carmarthenshire's Black Mountain. Yesterday the brothers' nephew Dai Williams, who still farms with his son David Arwyn Williams at Gelli Fawnen, took his first ride on one of the bikes made by his uncles. ``I had never seen one of these bikes before and it brought tears to my eyes,'' said Mr Williams.

It was his uncles Arthur and William who built the first Defiance bike as soon as John Boyd Dunlop made pedal machines more practical by inventing the pneumatic tyre in 1888.

They had already designed and built a diamond-frame bike with solid tyres that Arthur rode to Swansea on Easter Monday, 1885.

``It caused a sensation,'' said Lynn Hughes, an author and historian who had tracked down an original Defiance bike to show the Williams family.

``Nothing like it had ever been seen before and people crowded in their thousands the streets of Gwaun-CaeGurwen, Cwmgors, Clydach and Morriston, astonished at their first glimpse into a future that promised cheap, practical and independent travel.''

The business was a logical extension of pioneering work by the brothers' father Moses Williams, a blacksmith, millwright and toolmaker who operated from a roadside smithy next to Gelli Fawnen.

Moses Williams and a relative, William Evans, made several ``boneshaker'' bikes, and the brothers followed this up with several ``ordinary'' or Penny Farthing models.

In time the Williams company opened shops in Ammanford, Llanelli and Swansea and their bikes were exported to Australia and South Africa, where there was a Williams shop in Johannesburg.

The company got left behind as companies with greater resources like Riley, Humber, Rover and Singer dominated the market.


MOVED: Dai Williams of Glanaman, Carmarthenshire, with the 1930s S Lady Model Defiance bicycle which his father and uncles produced
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 13, 2002
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