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Photo: Josephine King (daughter of Charlie Dempsey
Eastern Suburbs AFC - Elephant Race at Glover Park was one of sports most inventive fund raising events.
Under the guidance of the Club Chairman, Charlie Dempsey, Eastern Suburbs held one of the more inventive and ‘outside the box’ events to help raise funds for his football club.
One of Suburbs' big annual events in the 1960’s (and still is) was the annual gala day – it was also a major fund raising event for the Club. Charlie organised various races to help profile and attract people to the gala day. The first races were relatively tame affairs featuring wheel barrow races (with Charlie in one of the barrows of course). Charlie then organised a donkey race, but the Council’s Parks Department weren’t too keen on the idea and outlawed all donkey and horse races.
While Charlie was never one to break with the law, he was not one to take ‘no’ for an answer…he was always looked for an inventive way round a ‘no’ answer OR 'you can’t do that’ by thinking 'outside the square’. Charlie decided to think ‘big’ (literally) when he was told he couldn’t hold his donkey race.
Charlie organised three elephants from a touring circus and held an elephant race at Glover Park. Charlie was one of the elephant mahouts (or elephant driver), Merv Smith (1ZB radio host) and the great football coach Ken Armstrong were the other mahouts. It was not recorded who won the race.
When Charlie was called to the Council to atone for his blatant disregard for their directive by holding the race, in typical Charlie Dempsey style and ‘cheekiness’ he responded: "you told me about horses and donkeys’, you didn’t say anything about elephants”.
It was Charlie's ’never say never’ approach and his lateral thinking which earned him (one of Suburbs and New Zealand Football's greatest ever stalwarts & administrators) the endearing term: ‘the Mad Scotsman’.
The information for this article was sourced from the soon to be published 134 page book: “The Lilywhites, a History of Eastern Suburbs AFC. 1934 - 2015”.
Eastern Suburbs football club will soon be taking pre-orders for the book which will be posted on their Facebook page and web site.