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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.

Darby McCarthy, c. 1969 (printed 2019)

Ern McQuillan

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.5 cm x 32.0 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Richard ‘Darby’ McCarthy OAM (1945-2020), former jockey and proud descendant of the Mithaka and Goongurri people of south-west and central Queensland. Born in Cunnamulla into a family of thirteen children, he left school at the age of nine to start work on Yakara Station, over 900 kilometres west of Brisbane, where he became interested in horseriding. He rode his first race at an amateur meeting in Thargomindah at age ten; he then went to Brisbane, lying about his age so as to start a jockey’s apprenticeship with the Queensland Turf Club. By the age of 21 he’d ridden a number of winners at Doomben, including in the Stradbroke Handicaps of 1963, 1964 and 1966. He won the Brisbane Cup and the Doomben 10,000 before moving to Sydney where, in 1969, he won the AJC Derby and the Epsom Stakes on the same day. He then spent a year in Paris on a hefty retainer that funded a lavish but damaging lifestyle. After returning home he found work in Victoria, but in 1976, aged 31, McCarthy was disqualified from racing for seven years having been accused of helping to fix a race at the Hamilton Cup meeting. Though it was later proven that he had suffered a miscarriage of justice – he was exonerated by the Victoria Racing Club in 2007 – the scandal effectively ended his racing career. He returned to Queensland in the 1990s and settled in Toowoomba. Inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2004, McCarthy has been cited as an inspiration by Cathy Freeman and other Indigenous athletes. He was heavily engaged as an Elder in community work, such as serving on the University of Southern Queensland’s Elders Advisory Board, and initiated a number of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including the Darby McCarthy Employment Strategy. In his later years McCarthy reiterated the importance of ‘the stories of the blackfellas in sport’, and called for improved documentation of and greater storytelling about Australia’s Indigenous sporting history.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2019

Accession number: 2019.64

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Ern McQuillan (age 43 in 1969)

Richard '. McCarthy OAM (age 24 in 1969)

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.

Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan
Betty Cuthbert, 1955 (printed 2003) Ern McQuillan

Hop, skip, shoot

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

Former NPG Deputy Director, Simon Elliott talks with Ern McQuillan about his life and career as a sports photographer.

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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.