Who Were Wyres Bros?

While Wyres Bros employed many valued people from Ballarat and surrounds over its 33 years of operation between 1947 and 1980, there were four key men across that period, as pictured above.

Brothers William Ernest (“Bill”) Wyres (1891 – 1956), and Sidney Douglas (“Sid”) Wyres (1895 – 1961), were motor mechanics hailing from West Bromwich, near Birmingham, England.

The brothers certainly worked together for most of their working lives, and came to Australia with their wives Mary Wyres (nee Bond), and Minnie Wyres (nee Sloman), in 1929 via Kingsbridge in Devon, where we believe they both worked at The Quay Garage, which is still in operation today. They travelled with William and Mary’s two daughters Sylvia Mary Wyres (1918 – 2010), and Nancy Dora Wyres (1920 – 2003).

Arriving first by ship in Fremantle, then later travelling on to Melbourne, they subsequently found themselves in the employ of Vince Jermyn, a Ford agent in Ballarat. Jermyn’s were located in what is now known as Block Arcade in Doveton Street, next door to the current Target store.

Sidney and Minnie settled in the locality of Magpie, just south of Ballarat, and later moved into Sebastopol. Sidney served on the Sebastopol Borough Council for several years. In 1931, their only child, son Samuel (“Sam) Wyres was born.

Samuel attended both Magpie and Sebastopol primary schools, where Minnie was a member of the Mother’s Club for many years even after Samuel left. The school named one of their houses “Wyres”, in honour of Minnie’s long service.

William and Mary’s initial abode isn’t understood, but they certainly lived near the corner of Pleasant and Sturt Streets in the city at the time of William’s death in 1956. He had served as president of the Ballarat Rotary Club for a number of years, and of the Old Colonist’s Club in 1955.

In approximately 1937, William and Sidney joined Sam Ellis and Sons, another Ford agency in Ballarat – an “Ellis Vincent Jermyn” is listed as passing away in May of 1937, possibly signalling the closing of that business. The brothers became the joint operators of the service garage for Ellis and Sons – at 602 Sturt Street.

By early 1947, William and Sidney had taken over the premises at 602 Sturt Street and “Wyres Bros” was born. Sidney’s son Samuel was an apprentice mechanic at Wyres Bros after turning 16 later in 1947.

They initially operated as a Rootes Group agent, selling and servicing vehicle makes such as Hillman and Commer, as well as American brands Hudson and Diamond T.

At or around William’s death in 1956, existing Wyres Bros employee John Lavars (“JL”) Trevenen (1918 – 2002) took over William’s half of the business, looking after mainly the sales and marketing side of the operation.

In 1957, Wyres Bros finally became part of the General Motors family – (for which it became best known) – when it was appointed exclusive Ballarat dealers for Vauxhall and Bedford.

Sometime in the following five years, both Pontiac and Chevrolet were added.

Sidney passed away in early 1961, after having been “semi-retired” for some time, whilst he dealt with some health issues. Not long after, his half of the business was passed to his son Samuel.

Later, in approximately 1962 or 1963 – (the exact timing isn’t certain) – there was a big shake-up of the General Motors landscape in Ballarat. The famous Holden brand was being sold in Ballarat by Coliseum Motors – (later Peter Amor Motors, then Ballarat Holden) – and by M G Taylor and Sons.

In those days, the market for Holden vehicles was so large, that Ballarat had two Holden dealers to cope with demand.

However, GMH and Taylors became embroiled in some kind of disagreement, and Wyres Bros was awarded a third Holden franchise in Ballarat – as a precursor to Taylors losing their franchise several months later so that Ballarat would maintain the two dealers Holden’s formula said Ballarat required.

Through the rest of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, Wyres Bros carried on as General Motors dealership. Vauxhall, Bedford, Pontiac, and Chevrolet disappeared as GM progressively discontinued those brands in Australia, while Isuzu was added.

However, other changes in the automotive landscape in Ballarat saw other brands arrive too, including Jeep, Saab, and even BMW.

In 1971, John Trevenen was awarded “Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)” for services to the automotive industry, relating mostly to his work in establishing the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), and playing a significant role in the running of the Melbourne International Motor Show through the years.

A street in Jan Juc, Victoria – (Trevenen Court) – is named after John. The VACC owned a sizeable portion of the land in the area, and as that land became subdivided, many streets were named after VACC board members, of which John was one. He lived much of his retirement years in Jan Juc, but not in Trevenen Court!

When Holden’s share of the market started to slide in the 1970s, due mainly to more and more overseas brands entering the Australian market – (particularly from Japan) – in 1980, Holden deemed that Ballarat no longer needed two dealers, and the question became which of Wyres Bros and Peter Amor Motors would drop off the Holden roster?

The question was quickly answered – it was to be Wyres Bros.

Samuel and John had both been with the company since the very beginning in 1947, and both felt that after 33 years, it was time to move on. John was 62 years old and chose to retire, and Samuel – (now in his 50th year) – just felt it was time to do something different.

The last vehicle Wyres Bros sold to the public was a lemon-yellow WB utility, but the very last vehicle sold was actually a BMW 635CSi which had been in stock for quite some time. It was purchased by John Trevenen himself, and he continued to drive it for many years afterward.

Peter Amor Motors purchased some leftover stock, some equipment, and some other useful items – and on May 14th, 1980, the Wyres Bros chapter finished.

The roll call of employees reads like a who’s who of the Ballarat automotive industry, and there are far too many to list in entirety – however notables include Ivan Dean, Barrie Braybrook, Peter Wilmot, Paul and Tony Trevenen – (John’s sons) – Bill Isaccs, Barry Davies, and Frank Donaldson.

Some of these gentleman are still in the industry in Ballarat, though given Wyres Bros closed more than 40 years ago, most are sadly departed and missed. Wyres Bros was always a family company, and many children of the various involved families were often around the four Wyres Bros locations.

A handful of the legal commercial entities that made up Wyres Bros existed for about another 20 years, mainly as holding companies for the proceeds of the business for both Samuel and John and their families.

John Trevenen passed away in 2002.

Samuel Wyres passed in 2020, just a couple of months before General Motors closed the Holden brand. He knew before he left, and it didn’t sit well with him.