Edward Larkin

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Edward Larkin
ER Larkin.jpg
MLA ER Larkin 1913
Full name Edward Rennix Larkin[1]
Date of birth (1880-09-21)21 September 1880[1]
Place of birth North Lambton, New South Wales
Date of death 25 April 1915(1915-04-25) (aged 34)[1]
Place of death Gallipoli, Turkey[1]
School St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill
Spouse May Josephine
Rugby union career
Position(s) hooker[1]
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
1897-1903 Endeavour Rugby Club ()
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
1903 New South Wales 2 ()
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1903[1] Australia 1[1] (0)[1]

Edward Rennix "Teddy" Larkin (21 September[1] 1880–25 April 1915) was an Australian parliamentarian and a national representative rugby union player who saw service in World War I and was killed in action on the first day of the Gallipoli Campaign.[2] He was one of only two serving members of any Australian parliament to fall in World War I (the other, who also fell at Gallipoli (on 4 May 1915), was George Braund). Larkin was the member for Willoughby in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from December 1913 until his death.

Early life[edit]

Larkin was born at North Lambton, New South Wales, to William Joseph Larkin, a quarryman and his wife Mary Ann, née Rennix. His family moved to Camperdown in Sydney where the young Ted Larkin was schooled at St Benedict's Broadway, run by the Marist Brothers. For his last two years of senior schooling he boarded at St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, where he played in the college's 1896 first rugby XV.

After school he worked in journalism before joining the Metropolitan Police Force in 1903 as a foot-constable, later being promoted to first-constable in 1905. His prematurely grey hair made him appear much older than he actually was.[3]

Rugby union career[edit]

He maintained an active involvement in sports after completing his schooling and participated in cricket, swimming and rugby union playing first grade with the Endeavour Rugby Club at Newtown in Sydney. In 1903 he was captain of that club and made his representative debut for New South Wales against Queensland and the touring New Zealand national rugby team before being selected for Australia in the first test of 1903 at Sydney on 15 August, against those same All Blacks. Larkin played hooker for the Australian representative side, in a pack featuring future rugby league pioneers and dual-code rugby internationals Alex Burdon, Denis Lutge and Bill Hardcastle. The Australians were soundly beaten 22-3.

Rugby league administrator[edit]

Larkin knew and sympathised with a number of the senior rugby union players who in 1906 and 1907 became louder in their discontent with the administration of the New South Wales Rugby Union, over rejection of compensation payments for injuries and lost wages. The breakaway in Australia took place in 1908, as it had earlier in 1895 with the Northern Union in Northern England. A gifted public speaker, Larkin had continued to develop a strong sense of social justice during his years in the police force. After the financial failure of the 1908–09 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and claims of mismanagement by the League's founding fathers James Joseph Giltinan, cricketer Victor Trumper and Labor politician Henry Hoyle, the pioneer code looked to be in jeopardy before it had barely begun.

In June 1909[4] Larkin left the police force and was appointed the first full-time secretary of the almost bankrupt New South Wales Rugby League. He was an excellent organizer and had success in promoting the new game evidenced by the crowd of 42,000 who filled the Agricultural Oval in June 1910 to see the Australia v Great Britain Test. During his administration which lasted till 1913, he convinced the Catholic education hierarchy and the Marist Brothers in particular to adopt rugby league as their winter sporting game. The code benefits from this legacy to this day in New South Wales and Queensland.[5]

Parliamentary career[edit]

In December 1913 Larkin stood as the Australian Labor Party candidate for the conservative seat of Willoughby winning 51.61% of the vote in a second ballot. He was living at Milsons Point at the time and became the first Labor Member of Parliament elected from the north side of the harbor. He was appointed as the government representative on the board of the Royal North Shore Hospital and was vocal in his support for proposal to build a bridge across Sydney Harbour[5] Larkin was the member for Willoughby in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from December 1913 until his death.[6]

Active service and death[edit]

Ted Larkin's promising career was cut short with the outbreak of World War I on 4 August 1914. Demonstrating a patriotic fervor Larkin enlisted within ten days of war's declaration joining C Company of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade (New South Wales) of the First Australian Imperial Force's 1st Division. In his final address to the NSW Parliament, on 18 August 1914, Larkin said, "I cannot engage in the work of recruiting and urge others to enlist unless I do so myself."[7] Gray quotes a brief poem published in the Sydney Sun in 1918 acclaiming Larkin for his virtue in enlisting.

The battalion left Australia in October 1914, arriving in Egypt on 2 December. Larkin's brother Martin also embarked on the Transport A19 Afric for Egypt where Ted, a sergeant was active in promoting games of rugby league amongst the troops.

Lone Pine cemetery

The battalion landed at Anzac Cove at dawn on 25 April 1915 as part of the second and third waves. It took part in the desperate struggle for the dominating hill known as Baby 700. The Turks wrested control of the hill and counter-attacked to drive the Australians from the high ground. That afternoon Ted Larkin died from a chest wound in a hail of machine gun fire.[5][8][9]

Heads and Middleton quote from the war memoir Imperishable Anzacs' by Harold Cavill "Wounded and dying he lay, yet when the stretcher-bearers came to carry him in, he waved them on, saying 'There's plenty worse than me out there'. Later they found him dead". His brother Martin aged 37 also lost his life that day on the heights above Anzac Cove. Neither body was recovered until the burial Armistice of 24 May but there is no known grave for either of the Larkin brothers and their names are recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial commemorating 4,934 Australian and New Zealand troops killed in the sector who have no known grave.

In memoriam[edit]

Confirmation of Larkin's death didn't reach Australia until June,[10] whereupon a requiem mass was celebrated at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney attended by many distinguished citizens including the Premier and the Governor of New South Wales. Ted and Martin were both awarded posthumously the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

The 1915 Sydney rugby league City Cup grand final was held as a testimonial for Ted Larkin's widow and sons and raised £171. The St Joseph's College Old Boys' Union set up the Sergeant Larkin Bursary to help finance his sons fees at the College (at a meeting on 1 July 1915, the following resolution was passed: "That in order to commemorate the signal service of the late Sergeant E.R. Larkin, M.L.A., to Australia, the Union invite the co-operation of the all old boys to provide a bursary at St. Joseph's College for the deceased member's son").[11] The family eventually declined the offer but the bursary has survived to this day as the Old Boys' Bursary.

On 30 November 1915, in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, the Speaker unveiled a commemorative tablet in honour of Lieutenant-Colonel George Braund, Member for Armidale and Sergeant Edward Rennix Larkin, Member for Willoughby who both fell at Gallipoli.[12] The plaque reads:

Honours and awards[edit]

1914-15 Star ribbon.jpg BWM ribbon.jpg Victory medal (UK) ribbon.png

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

  • St. Joseph's College News 2008 Volume 46, #2 article by James Gray, College Assistant Archivist
  • Heads, Ian and Middleton, David (2008) A Centenary of Rugby League, MacMillan Sydney
  • Williams, Terry (1993) Out of the Blue: The History of Newtown RLFC, Newtown RLFC, Sydney
  • Williams, Terry (2008) Through Blue Eyes - A Pictorial History of Newtown RLFC, Newtown RLFC, Sydney

External links[edit]

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Charles Wade
Member for Willoughby
1913 – 1915
Succeeded by
John Haynes