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Recorded 1973


Bill around 1925-30 (photo courtesy of Bill’s granddaughter, Gale)

Bill Coleman was born at Rutherglen, Victoria, November, 1896, to John Charles Coleman (B 1873 Buninyong, Vic) and Mary Ann Wilson (b 1879 Camperdown, Vic). He was a stuntman and coal worker and moved to Lithgow in 1920.

“I appeared at the showgrounds for twenty years one way or another. I was 70 years old when I did my last stunt.”

“Oh carrying horses up and down a ladder. You’d have two ladders parallel – up in the air – and you have a set of harnesses over your shoulder and the horse swinging between your legs and you walk up the ladders pulling yourself up with them. Anything up to half a ton.

Oh, lying on spikes was popular too. Then you’d have motorbikes run over the top with two men on it. Once half a ton of men stood on a platform on top of me but some drunken bloke also jumped on and one of the spikes went right through my rib. I was lucky the rib stopped it going any further.



Bill bends a steel bar around his neck – Lithgow Mercury June 28 1951



The horse weighs 1000 lb. Bill’s weight, then was 12 stone.
– Lithgow Mercury June 28 1951

I also used to pull cars and horse teams and I always won.

“The most dangerous stunt was – you’d arch your stomach up in the air and your back right up is an arch and there was a big knife up in the ground underneath me. Then a big rock on my chest. If I’d gone down an inch or two it’d go right through me stomach.

“I never paid much to prizes or medals or that because the whole thing was to do it and I was satisfied. It was a relaxation from the mining. I like a good book – I reckon it is a magic carpet ride for a poor man to travel.

“I never drank or smoked or knocked myself about.

“During the Depression I used to go down to Sydney every two or three weeks to wrestle with fighters like Rocky Britton and Ed Charles down at the old Leichhardt stadium. In Balmain Street. We used to get ten quid if we won and nothing is we lost.”

Bill died in May, 1974, the year after I had recorded him.

In 2005 I began corresponding with his relative (and namesake) Bill Coleman of Sydney who was able to send me photographs and newspaper reports on Bill’s life and especially his career as a ‘strong man’.

Image of The Lithgow Mercury article June 38 1951 (200k)

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An article on Bill Coleman in The Axemen’s News 1961

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Newspaper excerpts

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More photographs

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