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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Les Darcy, Australian Middleweight Boxer, c. 1910

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 20.3 cm x 14.1 cm, image: 20.3 cm x 14.1 cm)

Les Darcy (1895–1917), boxer, earned his first money in the ring as a fourteen-year- old. By the time he was eighteen, Sydney boxing promoters had begun to import fighters to challenge him. Throughout 1915 and 1916 Darcy won 22 consecutive bouts, in all winning 46 of his 50 professional fights. His toughness, his boyish looks and his humble background quickly made him a national hero – until he was suspected of shirking enlistment. Denied a passport, he stowed away on a ship bound for New York on the eve of the 1916 conscription referendum. He was stripped of his titles, and American promoters dropped him. He became a US citizen and volunteered for the army in April 1917, but a fortnight later was admitted to hospital with a dental infection; soon, he died of pneumonia. After an immense funeral procession in San Francisco, his young body was brought back to Australia. Some 250,000 people are said to have lined Sydney’s streets as his coffin made its way back toward his native Maitland.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2008

Accession number: 2008.65

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Les Darcy (age 15 in 1910)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist

Seeing stars

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2013

Joanna Gilmour explores photographic depictions of Aboriginal sportsmen including Lionel Rose, Dave Sands, Jerry Jerome and Douglas Nicholls.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.