NotesMervyn Victor Richardson (1893-1972)
M.V. Richardson was born on 11 November at Yarramalong, a town on the central coast of New South Wales. His father, Archibald George Heron (1864-1924), an Irish schoolteacher and his mother, Sydney born Charlotte Martha Griffiths (1868-1958), conceived five children, with Mervyn being the second born. All five children were born in Australia (Yarramalong, Newtown, and Paddington). The other children were: Archibald Newton Wesley (1892-1942 ); Violet May (1895-1976); Doris Dilma (1903-1972); Ivy Letitia (1904-1936). Mervyn married Vera Marie Bertram in the Methodist Church, Concord, New South Wales, on 26 June, 1926. They had one child, Garry Bertram Richardson, who was born on 1 August, 1931.
Mervyn attended primary school, but it is not certain to what level of formal education he attained thereafter. His early career was apprentice jeweller and signwriter. Between 1914 and 1916 Mervyn, with the assistance of brother Archibald, designed and build a monoplane, for which they designed a radial engine with contra-rotating propellers. The plane did not progress, as Archibald crashed it at Mascot airport. Archibald survived the crash.
In the 1920s, Mervyn found work as a motor vehicle salesman. He designed the Austin 'Wasp', a sporty, duck-tailed, coupe body for the locally assembled Austin 7 car. He established New South Wales Motors Ltd and opened a showroom in William Street, Sydney. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s found Richardson in financial difficulties, and unable to continue, he closed the business. During the Depression years, Mervyn, his wife and young son, lived in a single room at North Strathfield, from where Mervyn walked to the city in search of work. He eventually found employment as a salesman for Gold Star Coupon Co., and he also sold slide rules. Throughout the 1930s, Richardson provided as best he could for his family, and by the early 1940s, after finding employment as an engineering salesman, his financial circumstance began to improve, whereby in 1941 the family purchased a house in Bray Street, Concord.
Richardson's son, Gary, started a lawn-mowing business in 1948, to supplement the expenses associated with his university study. At this time, Mervyn made two reel-type lawn mowers for Gary in the home workshop. He continued to build mowers in this workshop and in mid-1950, he registered the name Victa (a play on his middle name). Between 1948 and 1952, Mervyn built and sold sixty reel-type mowers, powered by imported Villier's two-stroke engines.
In August 1952, Richardson used a Villier's engine to drive a set of rotating blades. He gathered billy-cart wheels, a jam tin and other parts to make his first prototype lawn mower. The mower worked on fine and long grasses. Within a few months, his mowers had sold rapidly. The post-war development of the suburbs, with homes, lawns, and gardens, made it an opportune time for the development of the workable, affordable, and serviceable rotary lawn mower. From early 1953, Richardson was fully occupied in developing the new business, which by 1953 was employing 3000 at a new factory at Milperra, Sydney. It is estimated that by this time, 143,000 mowers were produced annually and exported to 28 countries.
In the 1960s, Victa Pty Ltd diversified to the aviation, public telephone, and home building industries. The firm manufactured the red phone (a private payphone system installed in shops and clubs), the Victa Airtourer 100 (a light aircraft) and Victa project homes.
Gary succeeded his father as Chairman of the company in 1965. The company was sold to Sunbeam Corporation Ltd in 1970. In 1994, the factory moved to Campsie, Sydney, where the seven millionth Victa lawn mower was built in 1997.
The Victa prototype lawnmower (1952), other Victa lawnmowers, a model of the Victa Airtourer, and company archives are held by the Museum.