Howard, Leslie and Rowland Baldwin were born in Bristol, England and migrated to Fremantle in 1911 with their mother Louisa. Father Fred had travelled ahead of his wife and children. Fred had been a blacksmith in England and found work at the State Engineering Works in North Fremantle.
After leaving school Howard worked at The Grant Cycle Agency in Market Street Fremantle and Les worked as a farm labourer. Both young men were keen cyclists and Les competed in amateur races for a short while. Rowland joined his father at the engineering works, and was in the RAAF during WWII.
Howard nurtured his talent for cycling production, sales and promotion while working at for Mr Grant. In 1927 Howard and Les started Swansea Cycle Company at 9 William Street in Fremantle, naming it either for the Welsh waterside city near their birthplace, or for the proximity of the Swan River and Indian Ocean to their new home in Monument St, Mosman Park.
Howard and Les quickly established and supported the Swansea Road Race, a 50 mile event run by the Fremantle Cycling Club, and they provided excellent prize lists for both amateur and professional cyclists in races year round. Swansea supported riders won most of the big cycling races in WA during this era.
Both Fred and Rowland were employed at the Swansea factory; Fred after he retired from the the SEW, and Rowland on his return from war. In 1943 whilst working in the Swansea factory Fred had a massive heart attack and couldn’t be revived. Rowland, memorable for his long dust coat, worked in the reconditioning department.
Howard and Les Baldwin are remembered as gentlemen with a distinctive quaver in their voices. Les Baldwin’s generous nature endeared him to cyclists everywhere. He was seen at every country and metropolitan cycling carnival in Western Australia. He helped all riders, whether they were riding for Swansea or not. He was also keen photographer and was known to have a collection of photos of successful cyclists from across Australia.
None of the brothers married until relatively late in life. Howard had two boys, Noel and Chris, Les had no children and his estate was left to Rowland’s adopted daughter, Gail.
Fred and Louisa also had a daughter, Violet, the only family member born in WA. She never married and having lived her life with her parents at Mosman Park, moved to Cottesloe when they died.
Two brothers with a great passion for cycling left their mark on the cycling industry and established their name in the history of Western Australian manufacturing.