LIVE MUSIC at East's!
At East Maitland Bowling Club, we have live music playing every Friday from 8pm, every Saturday from 8pm, and every Sunday from 5pm.
To view our list of upcoming acts, please click here.
Any changes to this schedule will be posted on our facebook page.
Les Darcy - “The Maitland Wonder”
1895 - 1917
East Maitland Bowling Club is the proud custodian of a range of Les Darcy Memorabilia.
Who was Les Darcy?
Les Darcy was born into poverty in 1895 in a hut on a selection property called ‘Stradbroke’ near Woodville where his father worked as a labourer. By the age of four his family moved to work on a dairy farm at Oakhampton. Les attended Oakhampton Public School helping with the milking before and after school. By the age of twelve he could read and write so he left school for work as a farm labourer, giving his earnings to his mother.
By the age of fourteen Les was participating in friendly boxing matches around Thornton and Newcastle. His sparring partners were Les Fletcher, Arthur Howarth and an Aboriginal boy Matt Ross. The family had moved to a rented cottage in Pitnacree East Maitland, due to his father’s failing health. At age fifteen, Les was apprenticed to Mr Ford, a blacksmith in Melbourne Street East Maitland. With his father unemployed and his elder brother partly crippled, Les assumed the responsibility of providing for his parents and younger brothers and sisters. There were eventually twelve children in the family.
Les had an extraordinary physique. His muscular body was said to be impervious to heavy blows with a reach 7 inches (18cm) greater than his height of 5ft 7ins (170cm). He neither drank nor smoked attending mass at Saint Joseph’s East Maitland almost daily with the Priest Reverend Joseph Coady being one of his best friends. His performances caught the eye of Sydney promoter R. L. (Snowy) Baker. He soon became the Sydney Stadium’s leading drawcard.He boxed his way to fame winning 40 out of 44 majors. He had earned enough money to build his family a lovely home. His last fight in Sydney was a victory against George Chip from the USA. In this fight he lost his two front teeth. They were then set on pivots, the procedure causing an infection.
Les was by now the Middleweight Champion of the World. He said he would like 4 or 5 fights in America to earn enough money to make his family financially secure. However with Australia involved in World War I, passports were being refused to all men of military age and conscription was to be introduced.
On Friday 27th October 1916 on the eve of his 21st birthday Les and his friend E. T. O’Sullivan stowed away on a cargo
ship out of Newcastle with plans for his manager Hawkins to follow. Arriving in New York he met a hostile press branding
him a deserter. He was unable to get a single fight.
On 5th April 1917 he took out United States Citizenship, volunteering for War Service. His USA call-up was deferred so that at last he could train for a fight in Tennessee. On April 27th he collapsed, being admitted to hospital with septicaemia and endocarditis; his infected tonsils were removed but he developed pneumonia and died on 24th May 1917; his fiancée Winnie O’Sullivan was at his death bed.
After huge funeral processions in San Francisco and Sydney, his body was buried in the Catholic section of East Maitland Cemetery after a Requiem Mass at St Joseph’s. It was estimated 100,000 people attended.
So powerful a legend did Les Darcy become, that 50 years after his death, flags flew at half-mast and a memorial at his birth place was unveiled by Sir William McKell, former Governor-General. He had lost only four professional fights and was never knocked out.
Les was an example to every boy in fidelity to his religion and his mother.
Darcy James Leslie (Les) by W G McMinn
Australian Dictionary of Biography
“Les Darcy” by Raymond Swanick
East Maitland Bowling Club member Robbie Reid was instrumental in the restoration of a Les Darcy Memorabilia display seen in the Neville Searl Lounge of East Maitland Bowling Club. As Chairman of the Les Darcy Committee he raised money for a bronze statue in the park adjacent to the Club and for the restoration of Darcy’s grave.