Daredevil motorcyclist who thrilled the island
Daredevil, evangelist and motorcycle stuntman Cyril “Big” Smith has died at the age of 75.
David Jones Sr, the founder and former president of the Bermuda Motorcycle Racing Club, said Mr Smith was “one of Bermuda’s greatest stuntmen”.
Mr Jones added that as a small boy he had watched Mr Smith perform motorcycle jumps over cars at PHC stadium in the 1970s.
Mr Smith was well known for leaping his bike over a row of cars at the stadium in August 1974, as well as for a one-off stunts in a motorised wheelchair.
Wendell Anderson, the past president of the Bermuda Autocycle Union, said the wheelchair stunt was a first.
“No other stunt person in the world had ever achieved that,” Mr Anderson said, adding that the wheelchair launch had been covered by an ABC news crew.
His daughter, Carleen Place, said that his nickname came from his days of motocross racing on Coney Island, where an early stunt included an unsuccessful attempt to jump across the pond.
That ambitious stunt was called off because it was on Government land.
Ms Place explained: “He always pushed himself — no job was too big or too small.”
Mr Smith also worked as an electrician, mason and plumber.
His expertise as a contractor has endured in buildings such as the Bermuda Institute auditorium, the Rosedon Hotel and the Devonshire Seventh-day Adventist Church.
He set out to make a name for himself with feats that included jumps over cars and trucks at PHC, and riding through a wall of wood at St David’s.
Mr Smith told The Royal Gazette in 1987: “I didn’t get into it so much for the thrill of it as I did for the money,”
He added he had launched his bike over four cars twice in one night at his first public show.
He hired the field and built his own ramp and also handled all the publicity for the event.
Mr Smith credited his religious faith for getting him through his hair-raising stunts when it “occurred to me that something might go wrong”.
The worst injury in his career was a dislocated shoulder.
Mr Smith in his later years organised evangelical events on Court Street and at the Rubber Tree in Warwick and became a lay preacher at the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
His family said he was “a disciplinarian, generous, compassionate, perfectionist, and a story teller”.