who was teddy larkin?
Edward Rennix “Teddy” Larkin was born in Newcastle on 3 January 1880, the son of a miner, William Larkin, and his wife Mary Ann. The family moved to Sydney when he was young, and Larkin attended St Benedict’s Broadway before securing a scholarship to St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill for his senior years of schooling. There he excelled on the football field, representing the College in its 1896 First Rugby XV.
An able sportsman, Larkin continued to participate in cricket, swimming and rugby union after leaving school. Off the field he worked briefly as a journalist before joining the Metropolitan Police Force in 1903. The same year he married May Yates, with whom he later had two children. 1903 also saw Larkin make his representative debut for New South Wales, after which he was selected for the Australian side. Larkin first pulled on the green and gold jersey in August 1903, playing hooker for the Wallabies against the All Blacks.
Although he had risen steadily through the ranks and been promoted to First-Constable in 1905, Larkin’s love of sport prompted him to leave the Police Force in 1909 and take over administration of the then-struggling New South Wales Rugby League. Gifted with brilliant organisational, promotional and public speaking skills, and possessing a strong sense of social justice, Larkin quickly turned the fortunes of the NSW Rugby League around. By the winter of 1910, a crowd of 42,000 turned out in Sydney to see the Kangaroos play Great Britain when the Lions toured Australia and New Zealand.
In December 1913, Larkin decided to direct his considerable talents to running for public office, and he was subsequently elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly as the Labor Member of the traditionally blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Willoughby – the first Labor member to live on and represent constituents of the north side of the harbour. Larkin was a vocal supporter of the proposal to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and was such a popular Member of Parliament that he was touted as a possible future premier of the state.
Tragically, the outbreak of World War One in August 1914 put paid to Larkin’s future ambitions and plans. Within ten days of war being declared, Larkin enlisted in C Company of the 1st Battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces’ 1st Division. He remains one of only two serving members of any Australian Parliament to sign up for active service, and explained his reason for doing so in his final address to the NSW Legislative Assembly on 14 August 1914: “I cannot engage in the work of recruiting and urge other to enlist unless I do so myself.”
Refusing to accept a position as a ranking officer, Sergeant Teddy Larkin landed with the rest of his Battalion at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. During the desperate struggle to dominate a hill known as Baby 700, Larkin was shot and wounded in a Turkish machine gun assault. “There’s plenty worse than me out there,” he was reported as saying when he waved on the stretcher bearers who came to collect him, and he died later that day of his wounds. He was 35 years old. Larkin’s name, along with that of his brother Martin and 4,933 other Australian and New Zealand troops for whom there is no known grave, is now inscribed on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.
Teddy Larkin was an all-round good bloke, a family man who gave selflessly to the community in his work, on the sporting field, in public office, and in making the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
EDWARD RENNIX “TEDDY” LARKIN
3 January 1880 – 25 April 1915