Please Spend Time With The Remarkable Ernest McQuillan OAM NOW

A day in Ern’s life so many decades ago

What does a day in your life mean to you?

Much routine, no doubt. Work somewhere, unless you are like me and dispensed with. Then home.

But What of Ern’s Day?

Rather different from yours or mine it’s quite an adventure to tell you. I’ll do my best with that adventure.

The first thing to note is that in those early days, beginning in the 1940s, Ern’s camera was a vital instrument of a major newspaper. It was its eyes. There was no television in Australia until the late Fifties, and even then TV took a long while to find its way into every home.

James Dibble reading the first ABC television news in 1956. Attribution: Wiki Commons
James Dibble reading the first ABC television news in 1956. Attribution: Wiki Commons

Radios had to be licensed. Portable radios were not so common. You had “live” or immediate awareness of world events only if you were involved in the actual disaster or were in fact present when, say, Bradman scored his hundredth hundred.  The other immediate source was the radio if you had one and paid the licence.

A Philco "Cathederal" radio from the 1930s. Attribution Wiki Commons.
A Philco “Cathederal” radio from the 1930s. Attribution: Wiki Commons.

The standard way of getting the latest news was to read about the event in your paper perhaps around twenty-four hours later and see Ern’s pictures.

Moving pictures with voice over would take longer –  a week or more later. “Live” images in your living room were nothing but a distant future dream.

Ern and his colleagues were therefore key sources of news in that world. They were a kind of small model of what America’s Paramount News  used to call itself:

The Eyes and Ears of the World.”

So the teenager, fresh from school, was thrust into the front line of news reporting. He had to learn his craft quickly. He was well taught, for example by people like Charlie Cameron, an old time master photographer in charge of the distribution of photographic materials to the staff of Truth and Sportsman Ltd. Charlie and others mentored the lad, yet he was never spoon fed. Photographic resources were costly and money was scarce in those early years.

If you were sent out on a job, no matter how sensational or significant it was, you were never given more than six film frames for your camera. You would get them in a blackened box, 35mm raw materials. You really had to know your craft to avoid waste. You would fix one into a 4″x 5″ frame, load it into the magazine at the back of the camera and eventually take the shot. That was it: “One strike and you’re out!” Bad shot! Missed the target! Cut off a head! Too bad. No second chance.

Ern knew nothing of the present day digital simplicity: click click click click and then pick the best shot. Not satisfied? Click click click again and then take your pick.

The important point to note here is that the progress we accept as normal today was still to come. Newspapers, in Ern’s golden days, were overtly and so obviously the focal points of information for the mass of ordinary people. In the train on the way to work of a Monday morning, all you would notice was not people’s heads, but their newspapers. You would see row after row of them in every carriage.

This was the most common way we found out things. Attribution: Wiki Commons
This was the most common way we found out things. Attribution: Wiki Commons

Headlines! Headlines! Headlines! Constant repetition if you happened to walk down the carriage aisles.

Such a contrast to today: everybody cocooned in iPhones or the equivalents.

Newspaper advertising then was very profitable too. Ern had to get things right to preserve the paper’s good name linked to advertising.  To survive for fifty years in the profession, you had to conquer the challenges –  the shortages of time (deadlines were deadly) and equipment and funds. Your survival depended on your own determination and inbuilt personal resources.

The Forties and Fifties were a special time for the movies though, and news began creeping in there too.  “Picture Shows,” as we teenagers called them, began to have additions called Newsreels to bring the news to you in a retarded kind of way,  maybe a week or so after things happened.

These news elements were gradually creeping into cinemas from the Forties. In these cinemas for each program of feature films there was a usual place for newsreels, possibly Cinesound, Movietone or Gaumont British or Universal or Paramount news, before the main feature(s).

If you were a news addict, you might visit one of the newsreel theatres – small venues that showed a continuous array of around eight to ten collections of assorted, brief news documentaries. Those shows kept on repeating until closing time and, if you were part of the audience, you got up in the dark and walked out when the item you first saw came round again.

It is quite clear from this isn’t it, that newspapers and the photographs they contained, in the earlier times of Ern’s professional life had far less competition than they have today? Their status was naturally higher.

Let us look now at more details of Ern’s working day.

Ern travelled to work in a train. Sometimes by tram or in a bus. To jobs far and wide public transport was his only recourse. He had to be ready for anything on these sorties of his. He had to be prepared with equipment for any kind of news events the gods or Fates decided on. So ALL his equipment had to go with him on every job. This was far from easy.

His Speed Graphic camera for example, had monstrous weight that seemed to double after even the shortest walk.

Here is Ern showing his heavy equipment to Richard Nixon,
Here Ern shows his heavy equipment to Richard Nixon.

Then there were the telephoto lenses; the filters; the wide-angle lens. On a country job you had a bigger load to carry. You needed the chemicals for developing and printing the pictures, photographic paper, clips and string to hang the prints and let them dry. All this on top of your toothpaste and clothing and normal travellers equipment. As a former boxer and Rugby League winger Ern was fortunate to be fit enough for the task.

Apparently  a request was made to the boss of one paper, Sir Frank Packer, for something to carry small items in. Some of his photographers were soon jokingly referred to as “the plumbers” because Sir Frank had bought each of them a plumber’s bag for this purpose.

Improvisation was the key for out of town work. Dark rooms are not automatic inclusions in country hotels. Running water was also a necessity as well as the darkness, so a toilet or a laundry might have to suffice.

Let us say, to create an example, there was a break-in at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia.

Lithgow Small Arms Factory, Our Sample Job. Attribution: Wiki Commons.
Lithgow Small Arms Factory, Our Sample Job. Attribution: Wiki Commons.

Ern’s transport on this job would be a steam train from Sydney’s Central Rail Station to Lithgow, a distance of some 89 miles or 143 kilometres.



Ern's early transport to "the Bush." Attribution: Wiki Commons.
Ern’s early transport to “the Bush.” Attribution: Wiki Commons.

Should it be winter when you arrived in Lithgow, you would be weighed down further by an overcoat or else freeze towards death.

Now the Press Photographer’s Role

This is how you would complete your mission. First, your visit to the news scene. Then the shots, determined by your artistry and sense of newsworthiness.

Then it would be full speed to a dark room, wherever it may be. Develop your prints in your  container with the room essentially at the right, and only the right, temperature. The developer liquid of ready mixed chemicals then had to be quickly rinsed off. Then the fixing in another solution. Then the hanging out to dry in the darkness. Then came the printing , the 8″x 6″ or 10″x 8″ photographs for the editors to construct a story around. This stage too was work for the true artist. Perfection was never automatic.

The next stage of the process seems to us with-it folk of the twenty-first century rather quirky. It was off to the Post Office and the 6″x 5″ picturegram sent to the journalists and editors back in town. Things were out of Ern’s hands then. The experts at head office had their materials to prepare for the next deadline.


So there you have it. That will have to do for now: just a taste of a past era told to me by a master, always with a twinkle in those eyes and a smile on that face. It has been my great good fortune to know Ern and listen to his stories.

If you would like to share more of Ern’s adventures, you might enjoy a visit to this site.

If you have a special interest in Horse Racing, you might find interest at this site.

Simply for a little more pleasure in Ern’s company, you might find that pleasure here.

 Thanks for sharing this time with Ern and me. I know Ern would want to join in with those thanks.

I hope you too feel that publishers and film makers should link up with Ern while the chance exists.





Adding to what I said in my previous posts:

 I am learning to share life also with all the wonderful image makers of Creative Commons and Wiki Commons. 

It’s such a joy. It works for me. I want to recommend it to anyone who reads these thoughts.  I wish – especially wish for this post, to acknowledge the mastery of the Russian artist whose work is my featured image (and whose name I have not yet been able to share because of language difficulties).  More details can be found at the link below. As with all material used independently by me, my best course seems to provide the link to my source.


Please Note: The works of original artists used by me on this post are unchanged and used totally independently by me. As you can see, in my effort to show respect for the artists, I have linked to where I found each image. If I have erred in any way, please advise and I shall remove the problem. In response to each picture I have used my imagination to try with my words to leap into different parts of your thinking space. I feel so fortunate to find such shoulders to try to stand on.


I would like to end with these two quotations by Elizabeth Barrett Browning on photographs. I have treasured them for a long time.

Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_by_Michele_Gordigiani_1858. Attribution: Wiki Commons.
Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_by_Michele_Gordigiani_1858. Attribution: Wiki Commons.

I long to have such a memorial of every being dear to me in the world. It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases – but the association and the sense of nearness involved in the thing … the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever! It is the very sanctification of portraits I think – and it is not at all monstrous in me to say, what my brothers cry out against so vehemently, that I would rather have such a memorial of one I dearly loved, than the noblest artist’s work ever produced.Elizabeth Barrett Browning(1843, letter to Mary Russell Mitford)

The charm, one might say the genius, of memory is that it is choosy, chancy and temperamental; it rejects the edifying cathedral and indelibly photographs the small boy outside, chewing a hunk of melon in the dust.Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My Source Is:,Elizabeth#ixzz3PFJxgqbY


Racing: More On The Importance Of Being Ernest McQuillan

1948 Cox Plate Racebook
1948 Cox Plate Race Book

This race book is a kind of carbon copy of many  years for Ern. The W S Cox Plate for 2014 has just been run at the time of my writing of this post. Ern and I feel we owe the remarkable Cox family the respect of beginning this post with a link to its position in the Racing Hall of Fame. Perhaps you will follow that link as time suits.

And now back to Ern McQuillan’s links with racing history.



Ern McQuillan OAM
Ern McQuillan OAM

So the years have moved relentlessly on for Ern, as they do for all of us. War after war, season after season, he was there with his heavy camera and the few resources he was allowed, telling us through his own artistry what had happened in places where we couldn’t go.

Now the reputation of the media has become somewhat tainted in recent times. The truth there is often elusive and clouded by agendas of powerful people. Not so the images Ern has left us. They are for me one source of uncontaminated truth.That is the excitement I have found in the time I have shared with him in these later years.

One of the greatest joys has been Ern’s insight into racing. That is why, as the Victorian Spring Season is with us again in Australia, I thought I must share some of that joy with you in this post.

I am going to let Ern’s pictures do most of the work.

Ern was there in 1951. Michael, his son, arranged the layout.
Ern was there in 1951. It’s his picture.Michael, his son, arranged this layout.

This picture is a remarkable collection of images of the great Sydney jockeys of the Fifties and later. Ern knew them all and was a close friend of several, including their families.

The Munro photo is a result of a special request from Darby for a BCU. As Ern put it to me, “He was not exactly the most handsome of men.” It’s a lovely, warm photo however. The “Demon Darb” was very pleased with it. Me too.

The shot of George Moore actually hides tennis shoes, socks and shorts. Ern interrupted tennis at George’s home with a request for a picture in colours for the next day’s edition. George willingly interrupted the game for his friend but requested no jodhpurs—such a nuisance to put on and take off.


Ern's Picture of the crowd on a big race day at Randwick in 1953.
Ern’s Picture of the crowd on a big race day at Randwick in 1953.

The times do keep on changing. Ern’s visual record shakes us with awareness of this change. These recollections from Ern’s and my life’s journey might bring this awareness a little more strongly into your mind.

We remember when it was illegal to bet outside any sporting venue. With racing, for example, so keen were the owners of racecourses to make you attend, that radio’s race callers were prohibited from entry into the courses. People like Ken Howard and Cyril Angles in these prohibition days had to call the races from long distance, perched in precarious vantage points such as trees or hastily erected platforms or rooms with windows, all OUTSIDE the course.

In time, the pressure became too great and they were let in. Here is Ken Howard calling the 1941 Melbourne Cup. What a joy to hear that voice in 2014! How lucky we are government archives have given us this site!

Radio stations in the Forties and Fifties were not allowed to broadcast the prices of horses until after the last race. Nor were they allowed to give any indication of favouritism or betting markets. Television and TABs et al. were future dreams to come true. SP betting was big business throughout Australia at this time.

John Wren (With thanks to the lovely site of Tim Vagg)
John Wren (With thanks to the lovely site of Tim Vagg)

John Wren, for example, the famous business man, political figure, and enemy of Frank Hardy, got his start through SP Betting.

As a Newtown kid like Ern, I remember the SP runners. Mine, in Georgina Street, was a thin little chap wearing sandshoes, quite thin and pale with an anxious look on his face and constantly glancing behind him like an escaped, present day asylum seeker. My “mob” lived in a three story tenement and we would lower our bets from the first floor balcony on a long piece of string. If we won, we would collect our winnings downstairs with the front door half open.

The Totalizator (Off-course Betting) Act 1964 (Act No.1, 1964) changed all of this. What a different world we have now! No need for me to tell you about that.

Here’s Ern’s next image from the past .


Racing as the crowd above would have seen it.
Racing as the crowd above would have seen it.

Notice the Flat opposite the members’ heads in the foreground. No longer available to spectators (the Flat I mean, not the heads). The Flat was where I went—it was the cheapest viewing spot. Have you ever thought of how big attendances at venues were in those pre-television days? That was the only place you could see the events as they happened. I remember attendances over 60,000 at Sydney Cricket Ground – lots of standing, a few on the Bob Stand roof and some even next door on the Showground stand.

Do you see the running rail space before the leading horse in the picture above? That was approximately Ern’s special spot to take the next picture below.

Ern's Image: "Around the Bend"  – literally, not metaphorically.
Ern’s Image: “Around the Bend”  – literally, not metaphorically.

The stewards gave Ern permission to enter the area near the winning post. Photos were important PR and the racing staff trusted him. There he went then, lugging the heavy camera of the time with telephoto added. When the field thundered around the bend, Ern was there. Well not precisely there. He, with the basic (non-digital) tools of his time, including a telephoto lens, was 410 yards  away at the other end of the Straight (beside the winning post).

Here is that finish, taken from the same place I showed you, but this time amidst the thunder of the hooves and without telephoto.

Ern Winning Post


When the last desperate breaths of horse and rider exploded at the winning post, to the beat of the whips, Ern was there with the permission of the stewards, resting just behind that winning post railing.

My grandfather on my mother’s side had a favourite saying: “I’ll be there when the whips are crackin’.” When I grew up a little, I really understood that was the kind of place a miner from far away Cobar knew about. That was where fates were decided.




This picture.

So there you have it. Jockeys are human. Neil McKenna, distinguished trainer of the post war period, taking the place of a parent.

How much those jockeys needed love and care. They were children playing the role of adults in one of the toughest communities on Earth. You will see what I mean if you patiently enlarge the image of the press cutting on this site I have given you (Trove).

Every day  for the jockey children was filled with early rising, hard work, danger and insecurity. Only a few succeeded. Many of them alas, shrivelled away into insignificance.

So many of them, however, who completed the struggle successfully, were friends of Ern.

Their stories are worth sharing. A few of them we shall share here in what space we have.

Before we do, here is another of Ern’s glimpses into the life they led.

Harry Darwon

Here’s a nice little tale about Harry Darwon by the distinguished journalist Max Presnell.

The press photographer of those times was a vital source of communication in Australia. Newspapers then ruled the roost now occupied by the social media and probably television. Managers, publicity agents and spin doctors were largely clutter for the future. For trainers, jockeys, stewards, owners, bookmakers and others, the photographer then was an important link, your pathway to public awareness.

Most worked willingly with Ern and with a common interest. Ern knew so many, and very often as a good friend. The jockeys: Darby Munro, George Moore, Athol Mulley and so many more worked with him for years. So too the trainers: Tommy Smith and daughter Gai. It was sad to discover that Bragger, Tommy’s horse that gave him his start as a trainer, died from a road accident. Tommy’s failure to save him, with the help of vets, broke his heart.

Tommy and GaiGai is still blooming as a trainer so I will leave discussion of her to a later time.

Here is another of Ern’s pictures of her with another great colleague. Th image is overflowing with the human effort and tension of their work.

Bart Gai Old

This McQuillan image of the brilliant Bart reveals a great rapport between photographer and the horse-training genius.

Bart Cummins

There are so many more trainers on our list; so many more.

Owners too : “Azzalin the Dazzlin” Romano, Jim Bendrodt. many more of them too.

Other personalities teemed in Ern’s life. “Hollywood” George Edser, Joe Taylor, Perce Galea (the three to be discussed more in a later post) and still more. Space here is totally inadequate.

 Let us focus on more of the pictures. The visual record of the stars of the racing world meant lots of early rising for the photographer.

Bernborough returning from trackwork.
Bernborough returning from track-work.

Many race meetings had to be attended as well. Here is a shot of two great friends, triumphant in the 1946 Newmarket Handicap.

Bernborough and Mulley return to scale in triumph.
Bernborough and Mulley return to scale in triumph. 1946 Newmarket, Flemington with 9 Stone.13. What a career this was!

I am lucky as a teenager to have seen this giant red horse thunder down the long straight at Randwick. To meet someone in my old age, who knew the horse and rider so well, somehow makes you feel that old age is not such a grim affair after all. Which brings me to another remarkable pattern of Fate. Ern had close and continuing contact with owner Romano as well.

One of the great social advantages of press photography was a strong link with some of the most important people of our age. In his work for The Australian Womens Weekly, for example, Ern photographed Queen Elizabeth’s first step on Australian soil and later shook her hand. Another example lies in his societal work at Sydney’s leading restaurants.

Take “Dazzlin’ Azzlin” Romano for instance, the man who bought Bernborough and set him on his 15 consecutive win journey.

"Dazzlin' Azzlin" Romano
“Dazzlin’ Azzlin” Romano

This photo we have through the magic of the National Archives of Australia. You can have similar adventures with so many images HERE if you want to.

I first saw that shot on another wonderful site, Pittwater Online News. The links I have given are really worth following.  They deal beautifully with the two big-time restauranteurs in Sydney around the time of World War II: AO Romano and J C Bendroit.

I have discussed elsewhere the significance of Romano’s purchase of Bernborough. It changed the horse’s life as it did for the new owner. Court cases revealed that at least some of the funding for the purchase came from sly grog selling in the Martin Place Restaurant (Castlereagh Street entrance). But the Italian immigrant of the Twenties was a master of restaurant procedures. Whenever a really significant guest was on the premises — Gracie Fields, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier, Vivien Leigh or even a special, local star —” “Dazzlin’ Azzalin” would be on the phone to Ern  with an invitation to do a Womens Weekly story. Words with the rich and famous were a constant outcome, together with a “Why don’t you stay for (a free) lunch?”

So Malcolm Fraser got it wrong. There was such a thing.

Things were very similar in Jim Bendroit’s Princes Restaurant, just a little way away in Martin Place. The free lunch was there too. In my younger days I used to ice skate at Bendroit’s Ice Palais in the old Sydney Showground. The crowded Trocadero, with its dance band music swinging through the night, was also known to me. As for the owner of both places, he might have lived on another planet. To talk now with someone who knew him so well, is in my twilight, a strange experience.There is no more space here to dwell on that remarkable life.

I want to finish here with just a brief mention for now of some jockeys.

Ern knew at first hand the gentle courtesy of the brilliant Neville Selwood, killed eventually in 1962, at the age of 39, in a fall in France.

Selwood’s riding skill was well summed up by his popular title “Nifty.” “He was always quietly polite and willing to cooperate,” Ern told me.

Neville Selwood
Neville Selwood

I remember “Nifty Neville” was my grandfather’s favourite jockey. He followed him closely and from what I could gather “Nanny” was in the black as a result. Many of us felt we had lost a friend when Neville died in France, as so many Australians had done in earlier times. Because this great craftsman was a leading jockey, Ern photographed him and shared words with him many times.

It is hard to shut Athol George Mulley out of your thoughts.

A. GEORGE Mulley (with thanks to Wiki Commons).

Here is a good account of that life. He apparently hated “Athol” as a name. He preferred his second one, GEORGE.

He spoke more than once on the bond between rider and horse. Bernborough and he were one. The horse knew who it was when Mulley mounted in the enclosure. A welcoming and reassuring pat on the neck usually followed.

Ern was at Mulley’s wedding to his lovely wife June. He knew the rider as a struggler with practical things, such as getting to the right race meeting on time, but as a dedicated family man. You will gather the truth of this statement if you visit this valediction.

More evidence: this present for his lovely daughter.

Michelle Mulley

The caption from the old press cutting is hard to read. Here it is more legibly:

Little Michelle, Denise Mulley (2), daughter of Australian Jockey Athol Mulley, brought back this walking-doll Anne, larger than herself, when she arrived in Sydney from Singapore by B. O. A. C. with her mother at the weekend. Mulley has been riding in Singapore.

 Some More on the Racing Giant, Darby Munro.

Darby on Rogilla in the 1933 W S Cox Plate
Darby on Rogilla in the 1933 W S Cox Plate, (with thanks and respect to Les Haigh)

Ern tells me Darby was a strong, determined person to talk to. No airs, but a means business kind of chap. This cutting might show you that even in the last century, when money didn’t rule EVERYTHING, if you were brilliant in your profession, your opinion was both sought and heeded.

Darby Views


Jack Thompson I remember well.

Apprentice Jack Thompson
Apprentice Jack Thompson

“Quiet,” says Ern, “Always cooperative. The tallest jockey I have ever seen.” Darby Munro supported him in his apprenticeship years. Downplayed his height and praised his timing. During that apprenticeship, Darby forecast a bright future for Jack. He was right.

An example of Jack Thompson's skill.
An example of Jack Thompson’s skill.

I myself remember a frightening day at Rosehill when his horse collapsed and died under him, and Jack Thompson broke his leg. Remember my earlier comment about the jockey’s harsh world?

Ray Selkrig is another interesting and quite inspiring thought here.

Ray Selkrig



… his greatest triumph was in a moderate Kembla Grange race on a sprinter, Hot Chestnut.

”He was one of those horses who watched shadows on the ground,” Selkrig recalled last week.

”As we were near the post he seen this brown patch and propped. He just threw me straight out of the saddle. He kept going, I held on to the mane and rein and my feet hit the ground.

”Being dragged I looked over my shoulder and wouldn’t let go until I passed the winning post.”

Objections were lodged and punters, myself included (Max Presnell), who backed the runner-up, trained by Jack Denham, were confident of being awarded the race, despite Selkrig’s courage and commitment, later confirmed as he had cracked his pelvis in three places.

”Stewards reckoned the horse done a harder job pulling me than carrying me,” Selkrig explained, and the result stood. 

The full story is beautifully told by Max Presnell, with a brilliant picture. His site is truly worth a visit.

One more image: Darren Beadman after a taxing ride.

Darren Beadman's exhausting life.
Darren Beadman’s exhausting life.

Press photographers, unlike the rest of us, saw the humanity of the stewards rooms. This has changed now through the power and intimacy of television.

Reluctantly I leave our jockey tales. More to come in later posts. There are so many wanting to be told.

A Special Ern McQuillan Picture

Back to horses briefly. Click the picture for a better view.

The first Australian triple dead heat. Ern was there. This is his visual record.
The first Australian triple dead heat. Ern was there. This is his visual record.

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” said Keats in his poem “Endymion.” I can’t help thinking of poetry here. Remember this image was not taken digitally. With the camera of the time it was one click and that’s it. The camera was heavy too, as I’ve said elsewhere. I have seen other pictures from different angles, but this is Ern’s.

More poetry leaps out at you, don’t you think?  William Blake’s words from “The Tiger” come easily into my mind:

What immortal hand or eye      
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Another comparison surges from D H Lawrence’s striking description of horses in his novel The Rainbow.

But the horses had burst before her. In a sort of lightning of knowledge their movement travelled through her, the quiver and strain and thrust of their powerful flanks, as they burst before her and drew on, beyond.

… She was aware of their breasts gripped, clenched narrow in a hold that never relaxed; she was aware of their red nostrils flaming with long endurance, and of their haunches, so rounded, so massive, pressing, pressing, pressing to burst the grip upon their breasts, pressing for ever till they went mad, running against the walls of time, and never bursting free. Their great haunches were smoothed and darkened with rain. But the darkness and wetness of rain could not put out the hard, urgent, massive fire that was locked within these flanks, never, never. (pp. 722-3 Kindle Edition)

To return to more routine matters, here are the details of horses and riders.

Source: Victorian Racing Archives
Source: Victorian Racing Archives

I have been reading, in David Hickie’s wonderful book Gentlemen of the Australian Turf (1986, Angus and Robertson, Sydney) about race caller Joe Brown’s involvement in the event. One of the judges, Stan Shannon, rang Joe to advise him it was a triple dead heat. The announcement brought a loud roar from the crowd and there was great confusion and delay with payouts. The official semaphore frame had space for only TWO numbers. Another judge, Dudley Zillman, had to hold up a number next to the other two (p. 317).

Here is a nice story about this event. I have a friend I won’t embarrass with name disclosure. Like me he was a teacher in 1956 in an isolated bush school. He told me recently that, when school was over on that day, he rang another friend to see who won the Hotham. He was delighted to find his horse, Ark Royal, had won. Joy soon turned to sadness however when he heard of the other two winners. He actually lost on the race.

Incidentally, do you know why we use the term DEAD heat? In the early days of Australian racing (and no doubt elsewhere) three race (heat) contests were common to decide the best horses. If there was a tie, that heat didn’t count. It was declared dead and had to be run again. The re-runs died out but the name lasted.

I want to conclude with mention that our indigenous brothers and sisters have inspired me with their deeds in many sports. I have taught many in my fifty years as a teacher, and I am still delighted by their speed and skill and by the radiance of so many of their smiles. All this is why I want you to visit web site linking us to the history of indigenous jockeys. Ern has talked to me about Darby McCarthy, whom he met quite often.

No pictures. Just an ongoing dream of admiration.

Now a momentary word to the kind people who have started to “follow” me. Thank you for the encouragement. I am so sorry I have not been more in touch but, you see, I am so busy writing to share all that I want to share before “weight’s right” for my involvement in the human race, that I just haven’t had the time to reach out to you. I long to do this and promise to try to reach you soon. In the meantime, good going and more thanks from octogenarian me.

Thank you for your visit. I am working on my post re. Ern McQuillan’s Melbourne Cup experiences. I hope to finish in time for Tuesday November.







Here is another notice to publishers and film makers:

Come and See Us

We Have So Much To Share

Your Opportunity Is Like Us

It Won’t Last Forever



Fate plays strange tricks on ordinary people sometimes. It did with me when I first met Ernest Mervyn McQuillan.

That was about two years ago. I was the ordinary person. Ern was, among other remarkable things, the trick that Fate played on me.

Ern McQuillan OAM
Ern McQuillan OAM

The meeting arranged by my friend Les Johns did the trick. It literally changed my life.

First, I discovered that Ern was once a Newtown (Sydney Australia) kid like me. We went to the same Newtown school. We were both interested in sport and were both quite good at it. There the comparison ends. Very definitely.

You see, Ern is one of Australia’s best known twentieth century press photographers. His dedication and skill saw him in continuous demand throughout the second half of the twentieth century under the gaze of such demanding taskmasters as Ezra Norton, the Packers, and Rupert Murdoch.

As for me, I am merely an ex-teacher in schools and universities, and a writer with a particular interest in history. That might help you to understand why my weekly chats with Ern for the past two years have made me a riveted listener, and a discoverer of surprising historical details few people would know about.

I have got so close to Ern’s life I feel my own life has changed into something close to his. Seriously. At times I think I am, like Ern, a former drinking mate of Keith Miller, the famous Australian cricketerErn knew him very well, as you can see.

Keith posed this shot for Ern.
Keith posed this shot for Ern.
Keith Miller In His Golden Days
Keith Miller In His Golden Days
In the company of a friend.
In the company of a friend.

I feel I have photographed the Queen’s first step on Australian soil in 1954

Her Majesty On Our Shores For The First Time: 1954
Her Majesty On Our Shores For The First Time: 1954

It’s wonderful fun this “work.” I’m starting to feel like a Balmain (Sydney) Rugby League star meeting the Queen.

The Queen and Balmain.
The Queen and Balmain.

While we’re on Rugby League, I seem to have gone over to another club, Newtown. I’m starting to think I was once a good mate of “Bumper” Farrell, Newtown and Australian footballer as well as Head of the CID at Darlinghurst (Razorhurst), Sydney …

The Mighty Bumper Farrell - Named After The Cigarette Bumpers Smoked At School
The Mighty Bumper Farrell – Named After The Cigarette Bumpers He Slyly Smoked At School. He was a very good friend and drinking mate for Ern.

I’m beginning to dream I was the one who showed Richard Nixon how my old (now vintage) camera worked. No fancy digital machines then. The Quarter Plate Speed Graphic Press Camera was no piece of trivia. It was heavy. It gave you once in a lifetime pictures close up or far away; still or moving.

One problem however! You had to be an artist to use it. You had to predict the shot before the event happened. You had to have a sense of proportion and sensitivity. You had to get the light and other mechanics right. And you had to have allies in your human subjects and a rare kind of affinity with the non humanYou developed the photos taken with your big, heavy camera yourself, if they were satisfactory. One shot and you’re in — or you’re out …

Ern Touched Base With Many Powerful People.
Ern Touched Base With Many Powerful People.

Ern’s meeting with such a powerful figure was no minor achievement. You might enjoy this study of Australian Prime Ministers’ struggles to do the same.

After sharing so many stories with Ern, I feel I am really identifying with that military photographer of World War II?

So many of them went, including Ern as photographer.
So many of them went, including Ern as photographer.

Reality again. I WAS there at the Sydney wharf when the hospital ship Manunda brought my grandfather Sidney Isaac Levi home after his work on the Burma Railway. I have since discovered Ern was there with my family and me.

The Manunda: Hospital Ship
The Manunda: Hospital Ship

Was that me who knew famous jockeys and their families as close friends? Did I visit their homes and family functions?

Ern's Picture of Riding Fast and Bill Williamson
Ern’s Picture of Rising Fast and Bill Williamson

Was I available for special shots to fit in with the Jockeys’ lifestyle? Was that me, for example, who needed a shot of the champion George Moore in his colours? Did I go to his Sydney home and find him playing tennis? Did he kindly agree to help me, but refuse the arduous task of exchanging tennis shorts, shoes and socks for jodhpurs? You can find the image of George here, sans tennis shoes and socks.

This is George Moore, a close friend, riding Tulloch.
This is George Moore, a close friend, riding Tulloch.

Was it me who flew around Australia for four years in a Gypsy moth taking photos of the Australian landscapes, including the great Maitland flood of 1955?  Was it me who was taught to fly by the pilot in those air voyages, A.J.R. Oates,”Titus” Oats, the DFC+ war hero of Beaufort Torpedo Bomber fame in New Guinea and elsewhere, to give “Titus” a break from flying?

Two stars and close friends: Ern and Titus.
Two stars and close friends: Ern and Titus.
Amy Johnson's Gypsy Moth. Ern's  and "Titus'" Flimsy Vehicle For Four  Years
Flying as it was in those days. Amy Johnson’s Gypsy Moth.

A little sad reality. One thing I really am — extremely sad now to discover that “Titus,” incredibly brave in wartime, was later killed in a crop dusting accident in South Africa? Ern gave him so much life in our discussions that the later discovery about Africa was almost like a bereavement.

Did I pick up Mrs Petrov’s shoe and hand it to the Russian agents when she was being arrested at Mascot, Sydney in the 1950s by the agents? Ern did; after he took this picture.

Petrova Being Taken To The Plane At Mascot Airport. Ern was part of history!
Petrova Being Taken To The Plane At Mascot Airport. Ern was part of history!

Was I the young son who learnt to box in my father’s gymnasiums, training and road running with some of the 60+ champions my father, Ern McQuillan the famous and perhaps greatest Australian boxing manager, trained and managed?

Ern’s Father: Ernest Edward McMillan OAM
Ern’s Father: Ernest Edward McMillan OAM

Did I actually get to know Chief Little Wolf and “Dirty” Dick Raines, the famous enemies of the wrestling ring, who were actually the best of friends and worked out their wrestling moves at Ern’s father’s gymnasium?

Back To The Past Courtesy Wiki Commons. (This site is really worth visiting.)
Back To The Past Courtesy Wiki Commons. (This site is really worth visiting.)

Reality again. I too am really glad now that young Ern, forced by a caring mother and boss Ezra Norton, to give up boxing and focus on press photography. It was a big step for the young pro. after he won all six of his bouts in the ring, as “Ernie Mac,” by knockouts.

Was that the wondrous Betty Cuthbert who ran out onto an empty athletic field as a favour to Ern, to give Ern (and ME) an action shot?

Betty Cuthbert kindly posed this shot for Ern.
Betty Cuthbert kindly posed this shot for Ern.

Some trick on this ordinary person, those two years of discussions between Ern and me! One emotional outcome for me is a desperate longing to see books and at least one film result from this great Australian’s fascinating life, making good use in the Ken Burns mode, of hundred’s of photographs at his disposal.

The pictures and comments of this post are an iceberg tip. The rest makes an amazing story.

There is the potential for several books – on our nation’s twentieth century history, and on remarkable, passionate incidents for several sporting categories.

Film Makers? Book Publishers?

Where are you? In Australia or anywhere.

Let his amazing records be known for the future. We have hundreds of pictures. The research is done.  Find him and give his art to the future. You will not be sorry!

I feel so strongly about the majesty and excitement of Ern’s life I need to give it a high place in my “TO DOs” here. He is still a delight to talk to. My next posts in this place will try to show you more of the adventure, the significance and the variety of that life.

Ern's Picture of Fireworks – Celebration 1946 War's End!
Ern’s Picture of Fireworks – Celebration 1946 War’s End!

Here’s to Ern, a warrior I have been extremely lucky to find.


All images on this site are my own or from Wiki Commons. If there is any error, please tell me and I will fix things immediately. All my thanks to the wonderful Wiki service, and to the artists who share their strength and bring us joy.

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