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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, c. 1917 (printed)

Cameron Studios

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image: 24.5 cm x 15.5 cm)

Les Darcy (1895–1917), boxer, earned his first money in the ring as a 14-year-old. By the time he was 18, 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 military 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 an infection; soon, he died of pneumonia. After an immense funeral procession in San Francisco, his 21-year-old 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 2009

Accession number: 2009.44

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Cameron Studios (age 27 in 1917)

Les Darcy (age 22 in 1917)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

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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.