It used to be a tribal signal but as gay style has moved into the mainstream, the look has become harder to pin down. It’s forcing creatives to really push the boundaries if they want to make a statement
When he was studying at Central Saint Martins, London, in the late 00s, Craig Green wrote his dissertation on the adoption of gay style subcultures by straight men. In the preceding decades, perfumed dandies, dilly boys, mods, skins, clones, new romantics, scallies, fierce vogueing divas and muscle Marys had all been sieved out of their natural habitat on to the high street for brief moments of mass consumption. But by the time Green – currently reigning menswear designer of the year at the British fashion awards – was weighing up his thesis, things had changed. The bears – hirsute, gay men – crowded on the dancefloor of London’s XXL nightclub were barely distinguishable from bearded Bon Iver fans.
A reciprocal shared wardrobe, common across menswear emerged. “When I was younger,” says Green, who was born in 1986, “what I thought of as a very gay look was really a metrosexual thing, a bit Italian, clothes a tiny bit too tight, skinny jeans, tanned, tight T-shirt, worked out. Most of the men who dressed like that were straight. Gay men all seemed to be growing beards, too. It was a less specific time. You couldn’t really tell who was who any more. Had we come to a melting point?”
From the vantage point of the DJ booth in the capital’s Horse Meat Disco, Luke Howard has been well positioned to watch the changing appearance of gay men over the past 16 years. He has noticed something similar to Green. “Lads in a straight club in Sheffield or Leeds don’t look that different from an average crowd we get at Horse Meat Disco,” he says. “These days I can barely tell the difference between straight men and gay.”
At the beginning of last year I started writing a book, Good As You, about the mainstreaming of gay pop culture as gay men headed towards complete equality in British law; roughly, a journey from Smalltown Boy to same-sex marriage that felt personal and lived, but would hopefully reflect a wider shift in the country as the gay culture has come into the light. Across the 30 years I looked at (1984-2014), the sheer number and range of signals that gay men sent out through their personal, often tribal, style fitted a wider emerging narrative, reframing the British gay man’s story from victimhood to a kind of valiant heroism. By the time I had finished the book, a moustache was no longer a moustache, it was part of a suit of no-nonsense sex armour.
“Traditionally,” says Tim Blanks, editor-at-large of Business of Fashion, “gay style was about men who took a lot of care and attention about their appearance.” The Beckhamification of culture that begot the metrosexual ended all that. The most popular gay cultural figures in its slipstream were visibly paying less attention to their clobber than the majority. For Blanks, this is even truer of gay cultural figures now. “Where is gay style now concentrated?” he asks. “[Singer] John Grant’s statement is the most chic, stylish and sophisticated art. But it isn’t visual.” Like the musician Perfume Genius, AKA Mike Hadreas, Grant favours contemplation of the interior life over the exterior.
Yet just as the gay scruff-as-cultural-archetype boomed, a raft of new figures emerged, reframing sexuality and style, both in and out of high fashion. Demna Gvasalia (Vetements, Balenciaga) and Alessandro Michele (Gucci) became the most influential designers of their era by taking – respectively – utilitarian street style and ornate embellishment down strange, pleasingly radical avenues, upsetting the strict tenets of buttoned-up, sartorial menswear. Meanwhile, American designer Rick Owens has looked to the brilliantly extreme edges of performance art, taking inspiration from the purposefully surreal, absurdist and unsettling physical disposition of David Hoyle and Christeene Vale. Things have shifted. “Oh, I could look at [queer experimentalist] Arca 24 hours a day,” says Blanks. “He is phenomenal. His look embodies transgression, intellectual depth, incredible provocation and sensuality in exactly the way Bowie’s and Lou Reed’s did when I was teenage.”
For a young breed of designers, a sense of controlled, thrilling outrage – a sense incubated in gay nightlife – is once more tickling the underbelly of fashion. “You have all those children of Kim Jones,” Blanks notes. Jones, head of menswear at Louis Vuitton, made a path from 90s London gay club culture to the apex of men’s fashion. He was a regular at 90s gay clubs from Kinky Gerlinky to Queer Nation, which he has heavily referenced in his collections. Young designers including Christopher Shannon and Bobby Abley have done their own idiosyncratic takes on that journey, too. It’s a path that can work in reverse, too. In their earliest incarnation, Take That, five straight men from the north-west, were styled to catch the eyes of ritzy gay clubbers at La Cage in Manchester.
Another who trod that path was Green, whose richly specific fashion vernacular feels technically in the lineage of Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. Then there’s JW Anderson’s fruity gender play, putting men in frilly boob tubes and thigh boots during his early years.
As Green was writing his thesis, the young designer Charles Jeffrey was being beaten up in Glasgow for his appearance. An obsessive fan of Southend gothic revivalists the Horrors, he tried to emulate their style on a pocket-money budget. “I wanted the panda eyes and the big black hair but I had to buy winklepickers from Burton and women’s blouses from Primark,” he recalls. Hair was a big thing for Jeffrey, his point of differentiation, the “this is me” moment that many men have traditionally alighted on when they adapt publicly into a chosen gay identity. “I was called a ‘faggot’ and a ‘poof’ for having bright orange hair in what I thought of as really quite an aggressive look. I didn’t see it as being gay at all and I was punched in the face in George Square for it.”
“Gay men have co-opted both masculine and feminine imagery,” says Howard, “in an either/or way as regards their choices of clothes.” This delineation has precedent. “In the late 70s, you had new romantics with their velvet and face powder, which coincided with the clone look – handlebar moustache, muir cap, leather and denim – inspired by construction workers and uniformed personnel.” He thinks the reason these polarities exist might be connected to deeper identity questions. “Boys that grow up to become gay men have often personally experienced or at least witnessed anti-gay bullying, which perhaps then becomes either externalised – I’ll be as flamboyant as I want in my attire and to hell with you all – or internalised: I’ll be more masculine-looking than the most heterosexual men.”
The digital age has complicated personal identity issues for everyone. For many gay men, the closure of bespoke social spaces, as clubs and bars shut up shop, has meant formalising an identity online. “At the Blitz and Taboo,” says Blanks of the legendary London gay clubs, “it was always about not wanting to be stuck at home.” Times change and styles change with them. “Now, it is absolutely all about staying in.” The 2017 gay male archetype could easily be the bearded, topless selfie guy, stomach clenched, puckering up in his bathroom mirror, who routinely clogs the suggestion feeds of gay Facebook and Instagram users.
“What a shame,” Blanks continues. “The notion of community used to be absolute. The internet presents a different sense of immediacy. Your desire is now more important than your style.” In this sense, the most useful arbiter of gay style may be Ernesto Sarezale, the London nightclub fixture who frequently attends, dances and leaves completely naked.
Jeffrey’s Loverboy parties have seen the emergence of a newly radical slant on the club kids who have defined gay culture. “What I love about someone like [Loverboy regular] Harry Charlesworth,” says Blanks, “is that he’s sitting dressed like a southern belle with a hairy chest that Burt Reynolds would be proud of. It’s that visual idea that ties back to the Cockettes.” The revolutionary late 60s/early 70s San Francisco drag ensemble – a template for wild expression – are a touchstone in the gay style story.
“My gay style icon would have to be Sylvester,” says Howard, about the Cockette who broke free from the underground to define the sound, look and spiritual outer edges of disco. “He used his body and the clothes he wore as a way to express his liberation from the oppressive restrictions of heteronormative culture. If only more men, gay and straight, myself included, could be more like him.”
Wardrobe constraints can be further complicated by the thorny issue of sex. “Dress codes are generally about getting laid,” says GQ Style’s editor, Luke Day. “The connecting tissue between all gay subcultures is that you’re generally expressing your sexual preference in some sort of way. We are trying to attract. What we put out there is what we fancy.”
“There are gay men that I like the style of,” says Green. He mentions his former stylist and collaborator Julian Ganio, the fashion director of Fantastic Man magazine. “He wears things really well. It’s quite difficult to look good in denim shorts, a bucket hat and a pair of shearling loafers, but he’s got a magic way of holding himself.”
Ganio himself doesn’t think that gay men’s style has changed much over his time. “It never really does,” he says. “In 30 years’ time, it’s more than likely the leather queens will still wear leather, the bears will wear a plaid shirt and beard and the scallies will wear Reebok Classics with a Ralph Lauren polo shirt.”
Howard thinks the real influence of gay men on mainstream style may not even be on their own kind. “Perhaps, traditionally, gay men have had more time and money to spend on their clothes and bodies, but gay men have arguably had more influence on women’s style and fashion than men’s.” The recent appointment of Edward Enninful as editor of British Vogue would suggest that. As for the question that haunts the debate of gay men and style, Ganio has a simple and succinct answer.
Why are so many gay men designers?
“Because gays are fab,” he says.
Seven key gay styles
Origins: Tom of Finland.
Subcultural habitat: The End-Up nightclub, San Francisco.
Crossover moment: Tom Selleck as Magum PI, the Village People.
The dilly boy
Origins: The rent boys of yore plying their trade at Piccadilly Circus.
Subcultural habitat: Smoking a Virginia Slim louchely under Eros with a Jean Genet paperback.
LONDON >> The former homes of the writer Oscar Wilde and the composer Benjamin Britten are among six sites that were recognized on Friday by an arm of the British government for their significance in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history.
Oscar Wilde’s house, 34 Tite St, Chelsea
Historic England, a body that designates places worthy of legal protection, announced the decision, the latest in an effort to showcase “queer history.” Last September, Historic England gave the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a well-known gay pub, a Grade II listing, meaning that it cannot be demolished, extended or altered without special permission.
Similar efforts to recognize gay history are underway in the United States. In June, President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn, the location of a 1969 police raid and subsequent protest that galvanized the gay rights movement, and surrounding sites a national monument.
Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, said in a telephone interview that the decision was “part of a deliberate policy of looking at what we protect and commemorate by a listing, to see that it is more representative of society as a whole.”
Through a research project called Pride of Place, people have been invited to submit places of importance to gay history, many of them forgotten or obscure. More than 1,600 submissions have come in. The project will in part serve to commemorate the 50th anniversary next year of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales (1967).
Britten House, Lowestoft. Home of the Suffolk born composer, Benjamin Britten.
There are about 500,000 listed buildings in England, of which 2.5 percent are in Grade I, reserved for buildings of “exceptional interest,” like Stonehenge and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and 5.5 percent are in Grade II*, which covers “particularly important buildings of more than special interest.” The rest are in Grade II.
Of the six sites announced Friday, one is a new Grade II listing: the grave of Amelia Edwards — a writer, musician and founder of Egyptology in St. Mary’s Churchyard, in Bristol. She and her partner, Ellen Braysher, lived in the nearby town of Weston-super-Mare, where Edwards died of pneumonia in 1892, a few months after Braysher’s death.
(The New York Times, which covered a lecture she delivered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1889 on the hidden cities of ancient Egypt, said that an 1875 trip to that country was the “turning point” in her life.)
The Burdett-Coutts Memorial at St. Pancras Gardens in London, was given a higher listing, Grade II*. The memorial commemorates, among others, the Chevalier d’Eon, who was a French spy and diplomat in the 18th century.
A minor aristocrat from Burgundy, the chevalier was sent to Russia as a spy, fought in the Seven Years’ War and helped negotiate the treaty that ended war between Britain and France. The chevalier lived the first part of his life as a man, and the last few decades as a woman; the remarkable story has inspired art, plays and studies.
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern
The memorial is made of limestone, granite and marble, includes a sundial and is built in the High Victorian style.
The other four properties were given updated descriptions in the National Heritage List for England, the searchable online database that Historic England maintains, to better reflect their significance to gay history.
Two are well-known to arts lovers. One is the house at 34 Tite Street, in the Chelsea neighborhood of London, where Oscar Wilde lived with his wife, Constance Lloyd, and their two children from 1884 until his trial for “gross indecency” in 1895. Convicted of having sex with men, Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor. The law under which he was convicted was not repealed until 2003. (The house, which has a blue plaque outside, is still a private residence.)
After catching influenza, Edwards died on 15 April 1892 at Weston-super-Mare, having lived at Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol since 1864. She was buried in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Henbury, Bristol, where her grave is marked by an obelisk, with a stone ankh at the foot.
The other is theRed House, in Aldeburgh, a town on the east coast of England. Benjamin Britten and his partner, the tenor Peter Pears, lived together there from 1957 until Britten’s death in 1976. (The house, run by the Britten-Pears Foundation, is open to the public.)
The remaining two sites were used by people who had to shield parts of their lives. n West Yorkshire, was the home of Anne Lister, a landowner who kept diaries, part of them in code, about her relationships with women. She lived in the house for several years with her partner, Ann Walker.
Shibden Hall, Halifax
In Chertsey, a suburban town in Surrey, is St. Ann’s Court, which Historic England cited as an example of “queer architecture.” The concrete house, built between 1936 and 1937, was the home of Gerald Schlesinger and Christopher Tunnard, a gay couple who designed their home in response to laws that made homosexual sex a crime, even in the privacy of one’s home.
Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial
The house’s master bedroom could be separated into two, promoting an image to visitors that the two men slept separately. Phil Manzanera, a guitarist with the rock band Roxy Music, later lived in the house.
Harvey Milk and Republican state Sen. John Briggs of Orange County met in September 1978 for a debate at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek over the Briggs Initiative, a proposition that would have made it mandatory for school boards to fire openly gay and lesbian teachers. The photos were recently found in The San Francisco Chronicle archive by pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub and published for the first time in decades. 📷: John Storey
Australia can’t claim many famous witches but Rosaleen ”Roie” Norton, a talented bohemian painter, adhering to a form of pantheistic / Neopagan witchcraft which was devoted to the pagan god Pan, was known for most of her life as the ”Witch of Kings Cross”.
Rosaleen Miriam “Roie” Norton was born on the 2 October 1917, in Dunedin, New Zealand to Beena & Albert Norton, an English middle class, Anglican family who had moved to the country a number of years before. She was the third of three sisters and her siblings, Cecily and Phyllis, were each over a decade older than her.
When she herself was eight, in June 1925, her family emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where they settled in Wolseley Street, Lindfield. As a child, she never liked being conventional, and disliked most other children, as well as authority figures, including her mother, with whom her relationship was very strained. Her father, who was a sailor, was regularly away from home, although provided enough of an income so that the Nortons were able to live comfortably. Nonetheless, she would later describe her life at this time as being “a generally wearisome period of senseless shibboleths, prying adults, detestable or depressing children whom I was supposed to like, and parental reproaches. Due to this, she kept herself to herself, sleeping not in the house, but in a tent which she pitched in the garden for three years, and kept a pet spider at the entrance which she named Horatius, as well as other pets including cats, lizards, tortoises, toads, dogs and a goat.
She later claimed she was born with certain markings that set her apart as a witch, such as pointed ears, blue markings on her left knee and a strand of flesh that hung on her body.
Norton was enrolled at a Church of England girls’ school, where she was eventually expelled for being disruptive and drawing images of demons, vampires and other such beings which the teachers claimed had a corrupting influence on other pupils. She subsequently began attending East Sydney Technical College, studying art under the sculptor Rayner Hoff, a man who encouraged her artistic talent and whom she greatly admired.
Following her art college studies, Norton set herself up to become a professional writer, with the newspaper Smith’s Weekly publishing a number of her horror stories in 1934, when she was sixteen, after which they gave her the job as a cadet journalist and then as an illustrator. However, her graphic illustrations were deemed too controversial, and she lost her job at the paper. Leaving Smith’s Weekly, Norton moved out of her family home following the death of her mother, and sought employment as an artists’ model, working for such painters as Norman Lindsay. To supplement this income, she also took up other forms of work, including as a hospital’s kitchen maid, a waitress and a toy designer. Meanwhile, she had taken up a room in the Ship and Mermaid Inn, which overlooked Circular Quay, Sydney, where she began reading various books on the subject of the Western Esoteric Tradition, including those on demonology, the Qabalah and comparative religion.
In 1935, Rosaleen met a man named Beresford Lionel Conroy and they married on 14 December 1940, before going on a hitch-hiking trip across Australia, from Sydney to Melbourne, and on through to Brisbane and Cairns. Returning to Sydney, Conroy enlisted as a commando and went off to serve in New Guinea during the Second World War, and upon his return, Norton, who had been forced to live in a stable during this period, demanded a divorce, which was finally settled in 1951. During their marriage, the couple lived at 46 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross in 1943. Now single once more, Norton took up residence in a boarding house known as the Merangaroo in the Rocks area, which she enjoyed for its “eccentric, communal living.”. She began looking for illustration work once more, being employed by a monthly free-thinking magazine known as Pertinent, which had been founded in 1940 and which was edited by the poet Leon Batt. Batt admired Norton’s work, which was being increasingly influenced by pagan themes, describing her as “an artist worthy of comparison with some of the best Continental, American and English contemporaries.”
By the age of 32, she had held an exhibition of her art at the University of Melbourne’s Rowden White Library, where four paintings were removed by the prudish Melbourne police, who argued they were obscene.
Norton was subsequently charged under the Police Offences Act of 1928. At the court case, held in Melbourne’s Carlton Court, she was defended by A.L. Abrahams, who argued that the images in the recently published The History of Sexual Magic, a book that the Australian censors permitted, were of a far more obscene nature than Norton’s paintings. She won the case, and was awarded £4/4/- in compensation from the police department.
While working at Pertinent, she met a younger man named Gavin Greenlees (1930–1983). Greenlees had grown up in a middle-class family where he had developed an early interest in surrealism, and had become a relatively successful poet, having his work published in such newspapers as ABC Weekly and Australia Monthly. By mid-1949, the two had become good friends.
She returned to Sydney in 1951 and settled in Kings Cross, becoming an integral part of the suburb’s bohemian scene. Norton and Greenlees (who had become lovers), moved into the house at 179 Brougham Street. This was in the area known as Kings Cross, which at the time was renowned for being a red light district and for housing many of those living bohemian lifestyles, particularly artists, writers and poets. and mixing with the likes of Dulcie Deamer the ”Queen of Bohemia”, drawing large occult murals. Visitors were greeted with a sign declaring: ”Welcome to the house of ghosts, goblins, werewolves, vampires, witches, wizards and poltergeists.”
The police saw her as a menace and arrested her for vagrancy. When she appeared in court, she was saved from prosecution by Walter Glover, a publisher who employed her and subsequently published The Art of Rosaleen Norton, which ensured her enduring infamy. Glover was charged with the production of an obscene publication and two images had to be blacked out before the book could be sold. Norton was called into court to explain the nature of her works. The judge ruled that two of the images in the book, The Adversary and Fohat, did qualify as being obscene under Australian law, and that they had to be removed from all existing copies of the book. The authorities in the United States were even stricter, and actively destroyed any copies of the book that were imported into their country. The controversy had helped gain publicity for Norton’s work, although the whole affair had bankrupted Glover, and the book’s binder Alan Cross, realising that he would never get paid, was instead given his pick of Norton’s work, for which he chose Fohat
Norton’s reputation as a witch was compounded in 1955, when she was falsely accused of holding a satanic Black Mass. In 1955, a mentally ill vagrant named Anna Karina Hoffman swore at a police officer, and was subsequently charged, but at her trial claimed that her life had fallen apart after taking part in a SatanicBlack Mass run by Rosaleen Norton, a claim which was picked up in by the sensationalist tabloids. Norton, who did not consider herself to be a Satanist but a pagan, denied these claims, and indeed Hoffman later admitted that she had made them up. However, by this time, the press had picked up on the idea of Norton as a devil worshipper, and spun stories around the idea, for instance claiming that she committed animal sacrifice, a practice which in reality Norton abhorred. With this public outcry against her work, the police once more began to act against her and those who supported her. In 1955, they successfully took the proprietor of a local restaurant, the Kashmir, to court, for displaying some of her works publicly.That year the police raided Norton and Greenless’ home, and accused them of performing “an unnatural sexual act”, evidence for which they had obtained in a photograph displaying Greenless in ritual garb flagellating Norton’s buttocks. It was subsequently revealed that the photos had been taken at Norton’s birthday party, and stolen by two members of their coven, Francis Honer and Raymond Ager, who planned to sell it to The Sun newspaper for £200.
The following year, she was caught up in an obscenity scandal surrounding British conductor Sir Eugene Goossens, who was then in Australia and who had an interest in the occult, read a copy of The Art of Rosaleen Norton and decided to write to the artist herself. She invited him to meet her, and the two, alongside Gavin Greenless, became friends and lovers. In March 1956, Goossens was arrested attempting to bring 800 erotic photographs, some film and ritual masks into Australia from London, and was charged under Section 233 of the Customs Act. In court, he pleaded guilty to bringing “blasphemous, indecent or obscene works” into the country and was fined £100. He resigned his positions at both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and New South Wales Conservatorium of Music and returned to Britain, his international career ending in disgrace. Norton’s relationship with Goossens ended, and soon the life that she had held with Greenless also collapsed, as he was admitted to Callan Park Hospital with schizophrenia. She would continue to visit and support him, and in 1964 he was let off on temporary release, but suffered a schizophrenic attack and attempted to kill Norton with a knife before being re-admitted. He would only be discharged permanently in 1983, approximately four years after her death.
Norton openly declared herself to be a Witch. She tried to explain her beliefs to interviewers, emphasising her faith in pantheism. Along with selling her paintings, she was also making charms and casting hexes for people, using witchcraft to supplement her income.
For a short period, Norton moved in to live with her sister Cecily, one of the few family members whom she got on well with, at her flat in Kirribilli, although in 1967 moved back to Kings Cross, taking up residence in a derelict house in Bourke Street, Darlinghurst. She later moved into a block of flats in Roslyn Gardens, Elizabeth Bay, accompanied by her pets. Here she began to live a more reclusive and private existence, avoiding the media attention of previous decades.
Although her two main sexual relationships in her life were with men (Gavin Greenlees and Sir Eugene Goossens respectively), Norton was bisexual, and allegedly enjoyed all forms of sexual activity with both men and women, including bondage and sado-masochism. She was also known to enjoy sexual intercourse with gay men, believing that in such situations she could play the active role. She also actively engaged in sex magic amongst her coven, having learned much about it from the writings of Aleister Crowley and from Goossens, who himself had been very much interested in Crowley’s work.Norton died in 1979 from colon cancer at the Sacred Heart Hospice for the Dying, in Darlinghurst, Sydney, still worshiping Pan; a pagan until her death. Shortly before she died she is reported as saying: “I came into the world bravely; I’ll go out bravely. A plaque dedicated to her has since been installed in Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross.
In December 1982, a play opened at the Tom Mann Theatre in Sydney entitled Rosaleen – Wicked Witch of the Cross, by Barry Lowe. It starred Jane Parker as Norton, Peter Laurence as Glover, Christopher Lyons as Greenlees and Alan Archer as Pan, and was attended by both Wally Glover and Gavin Greenlees themselves. However, according to Nevill Drury, who was invited to the show by Glover, “the play itself had most of the weaknesses of an amateur production – it was unconvincingly acted and was not acclaimed a critical success.
In 1988, the anthropologist Nevill Drury, who had published a number of books on the subject of witchcraft and magic, released a biography of Norton entitled Pan’s Daughter: The Strange World of Rosaleen Norton. This volume was subsequently re-released under the title The Witch of Kings Cross. He later “substantially expanded and reworked” this into a new book titled Homage to Pan: The Life, Art and Sex-Magic of Rosaleen Norton, which was published in 2009. Drury had himself met her only on one occasion, at her apartment in 1977, at a time when she had become somewhat of a recluse.
In 2000, an exhibition of Norton’s paintings was held in Kings Cross, Sydney, organised by various enthusiasts including Keith Richmond, and Barry Hale of the Australian Ordo Templi Orientis. A full-colour catalogue, The Occult Visions of Rosaleen Norton was published to accompany this exhibition.In 2009, Teitan Press published Thorn in the Flesh: A Grim-memoir by Norton, with an introduction by Australian Norton scholar Keith Richmond. The volume comprises poetry (often humorous), reminiscences, and various occult jottings by Rosaleen Norton, with reproductions of two stunning photographs of Norton, as well as some half-a-dozen examples of her art (mainly in color).
In 2012 Norton’s work was including in the major exhibition, “Windows to the Sacred” curated by Robert Buratti, which toured a number of Australian museums until 2016. The exhibition drew together drawings and paintings alongside work by Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, surrealist James Gleeson and many others.
The most fascinating aspect of Polari isn’t so much what we no longer use, as how much we still use both on the scene, and in everyday slang.
Polari (or alternatively Parlare, Parlary, Palare, Palarie, Palari; from Italian parlare, “to talk”) is a form of cant slang used in Britain by actors, circus and fairground showmen, merchant navy sailors, criminals, prostitutes, and the gay subculture. There is some debate about its origins, but it can be traced back to at least the nineteenth century and possibly the sixteenth century. There is a long-standing connection with Punch and Judy street puppet performers who traditionally used Polari to converse.
Polari is a mixture of Romance (Italian or Mediterranean Lingua Franca), Romani, London slang, backslang, rhyming slang, sailor slang, and thieves’ cant. Later it expanded to contain words from the Yiddish language and from 1960s drug users. It was a constantly developing form of language, with a small core lexicon of about 20 words (including bona (good ), ajax (nearby), eek (face), cod (naff, vile), naff (bad, drab), lattie (room, house, flat), nanti (not, no), omi (man), palone (woman), riah (hair), zhoosh (tjuz) (smarten up, stylize), TBH (To Be Had, sexually accessible), trade (sex), vada (see)), and over 500 other lesser-known words. According to a Channel 4 television documentary,[which?] there was once (in London) an “East End” version which stressed Cockney rhyming slang and a “West End” version which stressed theatrical and Classical influences. There was some interchange between the two.
Polari was used in London fishmarkets, the theatre, fairgrounds and circuses, hence the many borrowings from Romani. As many homosexual men worked in theatrical entertainment it was also used among the gay subculture, at a time when homosexual activity was illegal, to disguise homosexuals from hostile outsiders and undercover policemen. It was also used extensively in the British Merchant Navy, where many gay men joined ocean liners and cruise ships as waiters, stewards and entertainers. On one hand, it would be used as a means of cover to allow gay subjects to be discussed aloud without being understood; on the other hand, it was also used by some, particularly the most visibly camp and effeminate, as a further way of asserting their identity.
The almost identical Parlyaree has been spoken in fairgrounds since at least the seventeenth century and continues to be used by show travellers in England and Scotland. As theatrical booths, circus acts and menageries were once a common part of European fairs it is likely that the roots of Polari/Parlyaree lie in the period before both theatre and circus became independent of the fairgrounds. The Parlyaree spoken on fairgrounds tends to borrow much more from Romany, as well as other languages and argots spoken by travelling people, such as cant and backslang.
Henry Mayhew gave a verbatim account of Polari as part of an interview with a Punch and Judy showman in the 1850s. The discussion he recorded references the arrival of Punch in England, crediting these early shows to a performer from Italy called Porcini (see also John Payne Collier’s account of Porsini—Payne Collier calls him Porchini—in Punch and Judy). Mayhew provides the following:
“‘Bona Parle’ means language; name of patter. ‘Yeute munjare’ – no food. ‘Yeute lente’ – no bed. ‘Yeute bivare’ – no drink. I’ve ‘yeute munjare,’ and ‘yeute bivare,’ and, what’s worse, ‘yeute lente.’ This is better than the costers’ talk, because that ain’t no slang and all, and this is a broken Italian, and much higher than the costers’ lingo. We know what o’clock it is, besides.”
There are additional accounts of particular words that relate to puppet performance: “‘Slumarys’ – figures, frame, scenes, properties. ‘Slum’ – call, or unknown tongue” (“unknown” is a reference to the “swazzle”, a voice modifier used by Punch performers, the structure of which was a longstanding trade secret).
There are many sources of polari lexicons or “dictionaries” online, most of which are random collections with little or no research, rather than a descriptive list of terms in use.
Decline in use
Polari had begun to fall into disuse amongst the gay subculture by the late 1960s. The popularity of the Julian and Sandy characters played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams ensured that some of this secret language became public property, and the gay liberationists of the 1970s viewed it as rather degrading and divisive as it was often used to gossip about, or criticise, others, as well as to discuss sexual exploits. In addition, the need for a secret subculture code declined with the legalisation of adult homosexual acts in England and Wales in 1967.
In popular culture
Polari was popularised in the 1960s on the popular BBC radio show Round the Horne starring Kenneth Horne. Camp Polari-speaking characters Julian and Sandy were played by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams.
In the first series of British comedians’ panel television series Jokers Wild (1969), comedian Ray Martine is asked to explain the term palone (woman), which he used while telling a joke. In response to the definition, programme presenter Barry Cryer refers to Martine as a bona omi (good man).
Jason King star Peter Wyngarde recorded a self-titled album in 1970 which contained the song “Hippie and the Skinhead” about Billy the “queer sexy hippie” “trolling the Dilly”.
In the long running BBC Programme Doctor Who, in the episode “Carnival of Monsters”, Vorg, a showman, believing The Doctor to be one himself, attempts to converse with him in Polari. The Doctor states that he doesn’t understand him.
In 2015, filmmakers Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston made a short film entirely in Polari, entitled “Putting on the Dish”.
The lyrics to David Bowie’s 2016 song “Girl Loves Me” consist chiefly of a blend of Polari and Nadsat slang. Use today
Since the mid-1990s, with the redistribution of cassettes and CDs of Round The Horne, and with increasing academic interest, Polari has undergone something of a revival. New words are being invented and updated to refer to more recent cultural concepts.
In 1990, Morrissey titled an album Bona Drag – Polari for “nice outfit” – and the single “Piccadilly Palare”.
Also in 1990, comic book writer Grant Morrison created the Polari-speaking character Danny the Street (based on Danny La Rue), a sentient transvestite street, for the comic Doom Patrol.
The 1998 film Velvet Goldmine, which chronicles a fictional retelling of the rise and fall of glam rock, contains a flashback to 1970 in which a group of characters converse in Polari, while their words are subtitled.
In 2002, two books on Polari were published, Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men, and Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang (both by Paul Baker). Also in 2002, hip hop artist Juha released an album called Polari, with the chorus of the title song written entirely in the slang.
Characters in Will Self’s story Foie Humain, the first part of Liver, use Polari.
Comedians Paul O’Grady, Julian Clary, David Walliams, and Matt Lucas incorporate Polari in their comedy routines, as did Rik Mayall.
In 2012, artists Jez Dolan and Joseph Richardson created an iPhone app which makes available the Polari lexicon and comprehensive list of etymologies.
Entry into standard English
A number of words from Polari have entered mainstream slang.
The Polari word naff, meaning inferior or tacky, has an uncertain etymology. Michael Quinion states that it is probably from the sixteenth-century Italian word gnaffa, meaning “a despicable person”. There are a number of folk etymologies, many based on acronyms—Not Available For Fucking, Normal As Fuck—though these are backronyms. More likely etymologies include northern UK dialect naffhead, naffin, or naffy, a simpleton or blockhead; niffy-naffy, inconsequential, stupid, or Scots nyaff, a term of contempt for any unpleasant or objectionable person. An alternative etymology may lie in the Romany naflo, itself rooted in násfalo, meaning ill. The phrase “naff off” was used euphemistically in place of “fuck off” along with the intensifier “naffing” in Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse (1959). Usage of “naff” increased in the 1970s when television sitcom Porridge employed it as an alternative to expletives which were not considered broadcastable at the time. Princess Anne famously told a reporter, “Why don’t you just naff off” at the Badminton horse trials in April 1982.
“Zhoosh” (/ˈʒʊʃ/, /ˈʒuːʃ/ or /ˈʒʊʒ/) (generally pronounced “zhuzh” with the vowel sound of “hood”) meaning to smarten up, style or improve something, became commonplace more recently, having been used in the 2003 United States TV series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and What Not to Wear.
acdc, bibi- bisexual
ajax – nearby (shortened form of “adjacent to”)
alamo! – they’re attractive! (via acronym “LMO” meaning “Lick Me Out!)
aunt nell listen!
aunt nells – ears
aunt nelly fakes – earrings
aunt nell danglers – earrings
barney – a fight
basket- the bulge of male genitalia through clothes
bat, batts, bates – shoes
bitch – effeminate or passive gay man
bijou – small/little (means “jewel” in French)
blag-, pick up
blue -,code word for “homosexual”
bod – body
bona – good
bona nochy – goodnight (from Italian – buona notte)
bonaroo – wonderful, excellent
bungery – pub, this comes from bung.
butch -,masculine; masculine lesbian
buvare – a drink; something drinkable (from Italian – bere or old-fashioned Italian – bevere or Lingua Franca bevire)
cackle – talk/gossip
camp – effeminate (possibly from Italian campare “exaggerate, make stand out”)
capello, capella, capelli, kapella – hat (from Italian, also Greek – cappello)
carsey, karsey, khazi – toilet
cartes – penis (from Italian – cazzo)
cats – trousers
charper – to search or to look (from Italian – acchiappare – to catch)
charpering omi -,policeman
charver – sexual intercourse
chicken – young man
clobber – clothes
cod – bad
cottage – a public lavatory used for sexual encounters
cottaging – seeking or obtaining sexual encounters in public lavatories
cove – taxi
crimper – hairdresser
dally – sweet, kind. Possibly an alternate pronunciation of dolly.
dilly boy – a male prostitute
dinari – money (Latin denarii was the ‘d’ of the pre decimal penny)
Omies and palones of the jury, vada well at the eek of the poor ome who stands before you, his lallies trembling.—taken from “Bona Law”, a Round The Horne sketch written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman
Translation: “Men and women of the jury, look well at the face of the poor man who stands before you, his legs trembling.”
So bona to vada…oh you! Your lovely eek and your lovely riah.—taken from “Piccadilly Palare”, a song by Morrissey
Translation: “So good to see…oh you! Your lovely face and your lovely hair.”
As feely ommes…we would zhoosh our riah, powder our eeks, climb into our bona new drag, don our batts and troll off to some bona bijou bar. In the bar we would stand around with our sisters, vada the bona cartes on the butch omme ajax who, if we fluttered our ogle riahs at him sweetly, might just troll over to offer a light for the unlit vogue clenched between our teeth.—taken from Parallel Lives, the memoirs of renowned gay journalist Peter Burton
Translation: “As young men…we would style our hair, powder our faces, climb into our great new clothes, don our shoes and wander/walk off to some great little bar. In the bar we would stand around with our gay companions, look at thegreat genitals on the butch man nearby who, if we fluttered our eyelashes at him sweetly, might just wander/walk over to offer a light for the unlit cigarette clenched between our teeth.”
In the Are You Being Served? episode “The Old Order Changes”, Captain Peacock asks Mr Humphries to get “some strides for the omi with the naff riah” (i.e. trousers for the fellow with the unstylish hair).
African American Vernacular English (sometimes called Ebonics)
Carny, North American fairground cant
Lunfardo and Vesre
Polari at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). “Polari”. Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
Quinion, Michael (1996). “How bona to vada your eek!”. WorldWideWords. Retrieved February 20, 2006.
Collins English Dictionary, Third Edition
a b c Mayhew, Henry (1968). London Labour and the London Poor, 1861 3. New York: Dover Press. p. 47.
a b “British Spies: Licensed to be Gay.” Time. 19 August 2008
“The secret language of polari”. liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. Retrieved on 27 August 2015.
Baker, Paul (2002) Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang. London: Continuum ISBN 0-8264-5961-7
“Gay men in the Merchant Marine, Liverpool Maritime Museum”. Liverpoolmuseums.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
Partridge, Eric (1937) Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English
Punch and Judy. (with Illustrations by George Cruickshank). Thomas Hailes Lacey, London, 1859
a b Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 206. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
Paul Baker (2 September 2003). Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men. Routledge. p. 161. ISBN 9781134506347. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
Lowder, J. Bryan (2015-07-28). “Listen to Polari, the Lost Art of Gay Conversation”. Slate.
“The Old Order Changes”. Are You Being Served?. 18 March 1977.
Baker, Paul (2002) Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang. London: Continuum: ISBN 0-8264-5961-7 Baker, Paul (2003). Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781134506354.
Elmes, Simon & Rosen, Michael (2002) Word of Mouth. Oxford University Press: ISBN 0-19-866263-7
Back in the dim days of my youth, the BBC had a succession of hugely successful radio comedy programmes which have never been matched since. The BBC itself has a strong tendency to be nostalgic about them, calling them the Golden Age of Radio Comedy, though these days the gold mainly ends up in the till, now it has discovered how many other people have fond memories of the shows and are prepared to pay to hear them again on CD or cassette. The best known is almost certainly the Goon Show, attested by its Usenet newsgroup and its fan clubs in North America, Britain and elsewhere. Others included Take It from Here, Hancock’s Half Hour and Round The Horne. This last show was introduced by Kenneth Horne, an urbane straight man, who had previously partnered Richard Murdoch in Much Binding in the Marsh, a send-up of a small RAF station “somewhere in England”, but who in the intervening years had had an extremely successful business career. He was partnered by Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick and Betty Marsden, with scripts by Marty Feldman and Barry Took.
One element of the show, which was stereotypical in its layout, always featured a pair of screamingly camp young men: “Hello, I’m Julian and this is my friend Sandy”, overplayed by Williams and Paddick to an extent which robbed it of much of its latent homophobia (particularly as both were known to be gay), though I cannot imagine a similar duo being allowed anywhere near a BBC microphone in this supposedly more permissive but also infinitely more sensitive age. These two spoke in a slangy language which was virtually incomprehensible to anyone hearing it for the first time, though by repetition week by week a mental glossary could be constructed. “How bona to vada your eek!” was a recurring expression; there were references to “butch omis” and to “omipalones”; they always “trolled” everywhere, though their “lallies” weren’t up to much of that; things were “naph”, “bona” or sometimes “fantabulosa”.
This was not a constructed language, but a secret vocabulary, a cant or argot in the linguist’s term, which uses the grammar and syntax of English as well as most of its core vocabulary. It was in fairly common use in the theatre and in related branches of show business such as ballet and the circus, to the extent that a book on the Round the Horne series remarked that Williams and Paddick often really did speak like that in real life. It is variously called Palare, Palyaree, Palary or Polari from its own word for “talk” or “speech”.
HORNE: Would I have vada’d any of them do you think?
SANDY: Oooaaawwh! He’s got all the Palare, ain’t he?
JULIAN: [archly] I wonder where he picks it up?
Linguists still argue about where it came from. The larger part of its vocabulary is certainly Italian in origin, but nobody seems to know how the words got into Britain. Some experts say its origins lie in the lingua franca of the shores of the Mediterranean, a pidgin in use in the Middle Ages and afterwards as a medium of communication between sailors and traders from widely different language groups, the core of this language being Italian and Occitan. Quite a number of British sailors learnt the lingua franca. On returning home and retiring from the sea it is supposed that many of them became vagabonds or travellers, because they had no other means of livelihood; this threw them into contact with roving groups of entertainers and fairground people, who picked up some of the pidgin terms and incorporated them into their own canting private vocabularies. However, other linguists point to the substantial number of native Italians who came to Britain as entertainers in the early part of the nineteenth century, especially the Punch and Judy showmen, organ grinders and peddlars of the 1840s.
But Polari is a linguistic mongrel. Words from Romany (originally an Indian dialect), Shelta (the cant of the Irish tinkers), Yiddish, back slang, rhyming slang and other non-standard English are interspersed with words of Italian origin. Take this exchange from one of the Round the Horne sketches:
SANDY: Roll up yer trouser legs … we want to vada yer calves.
JULIAN: Hmmm … his scotches may be a bit naph but his plates are bona.
So it would not be surprising to find that both the Italian showman and the lingua franca theories are right, each contributing words at different stages in Polari’s development. This might indeed explain the substantial number of synonyms noted at various times. However, the vocabulary is not well recorded, and now may never be, because it was normal until quite recently for linguists to ignore such low-life forms, which rarely turned up in print (and then only in partial glossaries). But we do know that a few of Polari’s terms have made it across the language barrier into semi-standard English, much of it seeming to come to us via Cockney: karsey, a lavatory; mankey, poor, bad or tasteless; ponce, a pimp; and scarper to run away.
The rest have stayed within the theatrical and circus worlds, and have also been incorporated particularly into the private languages of some homosexual groups, as Julian and Sandy make very clear. Some writers have sought to claim Polari exclusively for the gay community, renaming it Gayspeak. In the 1990s it certainly seems to be heavily used by some city-based British gays (but only male gays, not lesbians), who have invented new terms like nante ’andbag for “no money” (handbag here being a self-mocking example of metonymy). However, it can scarcely have always been so, unless every fairground showman, circus performer, strolling player, cheapjack and Punch and Judy man in history was gay, which seems somewhat unlikely.
There are other characteristics of the language of Julian and Sandy. They tend to make diminuitives of nouns: would you like a bijou drinkette? for example. They also playfully invent words based on Italian models, such as fantabulosa. And they use a few terms which seem to be Polari and yet are unrecorded in glossaries: luffer = finger and nish = no, stop (as in “nish shouting!”; unpublished researches of the OED suggest this is either of Yiddish origin or comes from Irish Gaelic.)
A quick Polari lexicon:
batt = shoe; bevvy = drink (or possibly an abbreviation of beverage, or both); bijou = small; bimbo = dupe, sucker; bona = good; camp = excessive or showy or affecting mannerisms of the opposite sex; charper = to search (leading to charpering omi = policeman); dolly = nice or pleasant; dona = woman (hence the Australian slang word donah); drag = clothes (and so possibly via the gay world to the informal but widespread use meaning to dress in the clothes of the opposite sex); eek = face; fantabulosa = excellent; feele = child (hence feely omi = a young man, sometimes specifically an underaged young man); lally = leg; lattie = house, lodgings; leucoddy = body; naph = bad (quite possibly the origin of the current British English slang term naff); nante = none or nothing; ogle = eye (hence ogleriah = eyelash); omi = man; omipalone = homosexual; palare = talk; palone; woman; riah = hair (possibly back-slang); tosheroon = half a crown (two shillings and sixpence), possibly a much-corrupted form of the Italian mezzo caroon; troll, = walk, wander; vada = look; walloper = dancer; zhoosh = fix, tidy. And perhaps you might like to be able to count to ten in Polari: una, duey, trey, quater, chinker, sey, setter, otto, nobber, dacha.
Now you can have a go at translating this:
As feely homies, we would zhoosh our riahs, powder our eeks, climb into our bona new drag, don our batts and troll off to some bona bijou bar.
Edward De Lacy Evans (born Ellen Tremayne or Tremaye, 1830? – 25 August 1901) was a servant, blacksmith and gold miner, who immigrated from Ireland to Australia in 1856, and made international news in 1879 when it was revealed he was a woman.
Early life and name
Mystery surrounds Evans’ early life and his choice of name. He told miners he worked with in Australia that he was born in France, had stolen £500 as a boy and fled to Waterford, where he acquired his Irish accent. A woman living near Corop, who claimed to be a former Kilkenny neighbour, said he was the well-born ‘Ellen Lacy’ who had an illegitimate child, fled to America, but returned in the early 1850s as ‘Mrs De Lacy Evans’ to ride her horse through a gathering called by John Ponsonby, 5th Earl of Bessborough before being ‘dragged off her pony’ and forced to ‘clear out’. Evans’ third wife, Julia Marquand, said the name was a family one and his uncle was the well known British General George de Lacy Evans.
After his hospitalisation, Evans said little about his past, and was described as ‘not disposed to be communicative' and someone who ‘observes unusual taciturnity.’. Asked why he had ‘impersonated a man’, he replied ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, and the sooner they put me out of the way and get done with me the better.'
Immigration to Victoria
In 1856, Evans arrived in Victoria, Australia, then in a goldrush ‘boom’ period, aboard the Ocean Monarch as part of the ‘assisted immigration scheme’ which aimed to provide the workers and residents needed in the growing colony. Evans traveled under the name Ellen Tremayne and, in the information he provided, stated that he was aged 26, born in Kilkenny, was a Roman Catholic, a housemaid and could read and write.
For most of the voyage to Australia, Evans wore the same outfit of ‘a green merino dress and sealskin coat reaching almost to her ankles’ with men’s shirt and trousers, and was said to have a traveling trunk full of male attire, stamped with the name ‘Edward De Lacy Evans’. This, and the fact he appeared to have ‘formed sexual attachments’ with some of the women he shared a cabin with, led to on-board speculation he was a man impersonating a woman. One of these women was later identified as Rose Kelly who was said to have been taken ill and, as a result, departed at Rio de Janeiro en route, while another was said to have been a Mary Montague. Further speculation, from among his fellow passengers, was that the ‘real’ Edward De Lacy Evans had enticed ‘Ellen Tremayne’ to take passage with him on the ship by sending his trunk ahead but he then abandoned ‘her’. A later theory, not publicly mentioned during the voyage or late 19th century newspaper reports, was that the clothes belonged to Evans, and he had been wearing them prior to his immigration, but decided to make the long sea voyage – either through fear of disclosure among men, or preferring the company of women – in a female guise.
As a condition of his assisted passage Evans, under the name Ellen Tremayne, had been indentured as a maidservant to McKeddie, a Melton hotelkeeper, at a wage of 25 shillings per week, but he soon left the position and found one of his fellow passengers from the Ocean Monarch, Mary Delahunty. Delahunty was a 34-year-old governess from Harristown, Waterford, in a similar area of Ireland to Evans, and another of the ‘close attachments’ he had made on the voyage. Mrs. Thompson, a passenger on the Ocean Monarch, later said that Evans and Delahunty were from the same village in Kilkenny and that Delahunty was in possession of £900. She also recalled Evans saying he would marry Delahunty ‘as soon as the ship reached Melbourne' and, with Evans wearing male clothes, and calling himself ‘Edmund De Lacy’, the Roman Catholic ceremony took place at St Francis’ Church.
Little is known of Evans and Delahunty’s married life over the next few years but there were reports that they ‘did not live comfortably together’. Evans moved to work as a miner at Blackwood, in the state’s north-west, not far from Melton where he’d been employed as ‘Ellen Tremayne’, and Delahunty followed him in 1858. Delahunty established a school in Blackwood but in 1862 left to marry Lyman Oatman Hart, an American mining surveyor. Delahunty told ‘all who objected to this blatant act of bigamy’ that her first marriage was not legal as Evans was a woman. Delahunty and Hart moved to Daylesford where they lived through the 1860s and 1870s.
Evans also left Blackwood in 1862, moving to the central Victorian city of ‘Sandhurst’ (now known as Bendigo), and, describing himself as a widower, he married a 23-year-old Irishwoman, Sarah Moore. Over the next five years he held various occupations including carter, miner, blacksmith and ploughman and lived with Moore in several nearby towns. He also owned shares in a number of gold mines and paid property rates in Sandhurst and the adjoining district of Eaglehawk. When he was found in a servant’s bedroom at a local hotel he was jailed for trespass for seven days.
In 1867, Moore died of pulmonary tuberculosis and the following year Evans met, and married, a friend of his former wife’s sister, 25-year-old Julia Marquand. Marquand was a French dressmaker’s assistant who lived with her sister and brother-in-law, the prominent Sandhurst businessman, and owner of the ‘City Family Hotel’, Jean Baptiste Loridan.
In the early years of their marriage Evans and Marquand often lived apart but the couple reconciled by 1872. Evans progressed in his mining profession and their Sandhurst home was a cottage that he had built. A formal studio portrait taken at this time may be significant in its representation of how they saw themselves and their ‘establishment of a stable and traditional family unit’.
In 1877, Marquand gave birth to a daughter the couple called ‘Julia Mary’. Evans later supported Marquand when she brought a child maintenance suit against her brother-in-law Jean Baptiste Loridan for the child but he gave his name as father on the birth certificate. Around this period Evans’ was injured at work and, while he ‘welcomed the child as his own’ he was also ‘deeply disturbed by the circumstances in which his wife became pregnant’.
On 21 July 1879, Loridan took him to the Bendigo Hospital as he was ‘dangerous to others’, but, when told to take a bath, he refused and escaped. The following day he was arrested at home and brought to the Police Court where the magistrates agreed with the medical assessment that Evans was suffering from ‘softening of the brain’ and ordered him to be involuntarily committed to ‘the lunatic wards’ of the Bendigo hospital.
‘A curious incident has occurred’ Edit
For six weeks at the Bendigo Hospital Evans refused to take a bath. He shared a room with a warder called Gundry to whom he said that ‘his parents were Irish, but that he had come from France when about seven or eight years of age’. However, when Gundry used some French phrases, Evans claimed that he’d ‘forgotten the language’. While there he had regular visits from his wife and daughter, as well as other relatives, one of whom called Evans ‘Uncle’, while Julia Mary called him ‘Dadds’.
On 30 August 1879, the hospital decided to send Evans and another patient to the Kew Asylum near Melbourne, accompanied by a police constable. Marquand was at the station and Evans told her to care of Julia Mary and ‘both he and his wife were weeping’ by the time they left.
The events at the Kew Asylum were described in The Argus on 3 September 1879:
“A curious incident has occurred at Kew Lunatic Asylum. A lunatic was brought from Sandhurst by the police, and was admitted into one of the male wards. The patient was tolerably quiet until preparations were made for giving ‘him’ the usual bath. On the attendants attempting to carry out the programme, violent resistance was made, the reason for which proved to be that the supposed man was in reality a woman. The most singular part of the affair is that the woman had been received into Sandhurst Hospital as a male patient and sent thence to the asylum under the name of Evans. She states that she has lived at Sandhurst for many years dressed in male attire. Her age is about 35.”
On 4 September 1879, the Bendigo Advertiser ran with the headline ‘Extraordinary Case Of Concealment Of Sex’ and wrote:
“One of the most unparalleled impostures has been brought to light during the past few days, which it has ever been the province of the press of these colonies to chronicle, and we might even add is unprecedented in the annals of the whole world. A woman, under the name of Edward De Lacy Evans, has for 20 years passed for a man in various parts of the colony of Victoria… As it is almost impossible to give an account of the case without making use of the masculine pronoun when referring to Evans, we propose to use that appellation… “
It was soon reported by local newspapers, and then the ‘colonial and international press’, that Evans had been determined by the Kew Asylum to be a woman, and ‘promptly handed over to female nurses’ and sent back in Bendigo. Evans later recalled:
“The fellers there took hold o’ me to give me a bath, an’ they stripped me to put me in the water, an’ then they saw the mistake. One feller ran off as if he was frightened; the others looked thunderstruck an’ couldn’t speak. I was handed over to the women, and they dressed me up in frocks and petticoats.”
While still a patient at Bendigo, Evans said he knew who the father of his child was, made a reference to his wife not being ‘true’, and mentioned concerns about financial difficulties and possibly losing the house he had built, before adding, ‘Everything coming together was enough to drive a man mad.' Marquand also spoke to the press and insisted she had never known Evans was not a man.
It wasn’t only the newspapers that covered the ‘curious incident’; Stawell photographer Aaron Flegeltaub began selling copies of the formal portrait Marquand and Evans had taken in the early 1870s, while Sandhurst photographer N. White managed to gain access to the Bendigo Hospital and took a number of head-shots of Evans wearing a ‘white hospital nightshirt (or straight-jacket)’ and looking ‘wild eyed and probably affronted by the intrusion’ which were used to create an image he also sold. The hospital refused requests from ‘entrepreneurs’ for Evans be ‘publicly exhibited’.
‘Another intrusion’ was a gynaecological examination conducted by a Dr Penfold, which caused Evans to ‘cry and scream’ when the speculum was used, and resulted in a finding that he was ‘physiologically female’ and ‘had carried and borne a child’. Evans later said the ‘examination had injured’ him.
On 10 October 1879, the Bendigo Hospital declined a request by the Kew Asylum to return Evans as he ‘was improving daily, and will soon be in a fit state to be discharged’. By December, Evans was declared ‘cured’ and released, but, a few days later, dressed in female clothes, he was ‘still mentally distressed’ when he gave evidence in support of Marquand’s unsuccessful suit against Loridan.
Later life and legacy
In late December 1879, Evans was part of events by ‘panorama showmen’ Augustus Baker Pierce and William Bignell in Geelong and Stawell and newspapers noted that ‘neither mind nor body possesses the vigour once so noticeable’. This was followed, in 1880, by appearances in Melbourne billed as ‘The Wonderful Male Impersonator’ as part of the ‘living wonders’ at the Waxworks, while Sydney shows were accompanied by pamphlets about ‘The Man-Woman Mystery’.
By February 1881, Evans had applied for admittance to a Benevolent Asylum and he was sent to the Melbourne Immigrants’ Home in St Kilda Road. He remained there until his death, twenty years later, on 25 August 1901.
In 1897, Joseph Furphy, who, from the late 1860s, lived near Bendigo, published his first novel Such Is Life and included the comparison to Evans with the mention; ‘one of those De Lacy Evanses we often read of in novels’.
In 2006, sites associated with Evans were included in the history walk presented as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival.
Colligan, Mimi (Autumn 2002). “The Mysterious Edward/Ellen De Lacy Evans: The Picaresque in Real Life”. The La Trobe Journal (69). Retrieved 2013-10-03.
Lucy Sarah Chesser (2008). Parting with My Sex: Cross-dressing, Inversion and Sexuality in Australian Cultural Life. Sydney University Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-920898-31-1.
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“INTERVIEW WITH MRS. EVANS.”. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 4 September 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
“THE SANDHURST IMPERSONATOR— EDWARD DE LACY EVANS.”. Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 1 October 1879. p. 155. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF CONCEALMENT OF SEX.”. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 4 September 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
“FURTHER PARTICULARS.”. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 5 September 1879. p. 1 Supplement: Supplement to The Bendigo Advertiser. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“Ellen Tremaye, alias Edward De Lacy Evans, the Female Impersonator.”. Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW: National Library of Australia). 11 October 1879. p. 32. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“Ellen Tremaye, alias Edward De Lacy Evans, the Female Impersonator.”. Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW: National Library of Australia). 11 October 1879. p. 32. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
Lucy Sarah Chesser (2008). Parting with My Sex: Cross-dressing, Inversion and Sexuality in Australian Cultural Life. Sydney University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-920898-31-1.
Lucy Sarah Chesser (2008). Parting with My Sex: Cross-dressing, Inversion and Sexuality in Australian Cultural Life. Sydney University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-920898-31-1.
Lucy Sarah Chesser (2008). Parting with My Sex: Cross-dressing, Inversion and Sexuality in Australian Cultural Life. Sydney University Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-920898-31-1.
“The Female Impersonator.”. The Northern Territory Times and Gazette (National Library of Australia). 15 November 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“CROSS PURPOSES.”. Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 23 July 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
“Victoria.”. The Evening News (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 3 September 1879. p. 2. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
Pryor, Lisa (2012-08-04). “Born as a girl”. Daily Life (Fairfax). Retrieved 2013-10-03.
“SANDHURST.”. The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 10 October 1879. p. 3. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“Victoria.”. The Evening News (Sydney: National Library of Australia). 6 December 1879. p. 5. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“DEATH OF DE LACY EVANS.”. The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 27 August 1901. p. 5. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
“MAN IMPERSONATORS.”. Queanbeyan Age (Queanbeyan, NSW: National Library of Australia). 23 November 1906. p. 4. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
Hunter, Tim (2006-01-26). “The queer streets of Bearbrass”. The Age. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
Pamphlet sold at Sydney ‘shows’: The History and confession of Ellen Tremaye, alias, De Lacy Evans, the man-woman (1880)
Daily Mail Australia – 14 August 2014
By Louise Cheer for Daily Mail Australia
Was this Irish maid Australia’s first transgender person? Ellen Tremayne was leading a double life as Edward De Lacy Evans in 19th century Victoria
For about 20 years of his life, Edward De Lacy Evans lived as a man
He was born in Ireland as Ellen Tremayne and died in 1901 in Melbourne
Mr De Lacy Evans was married three times and was ‘father’ to one daughter
He worked as a carter, miner, blacksmith and ploughman across Victoria
The story of Edward De Lacy Evans read like every other man’s in the 19th century – he was a labourer, husband and father.
But underneath the suit and tie was a body of a woman named Ellen Tremayne – also known as Ellen Tremaye – who could have been Australia’s first transgender person.
Mr De Lacy Evans arrived on Australian shores from Ireland in June 1856 as an assisted immigrant on-board the Ocean Monarch.
It is speculated he was born between 1829 to 1841 due to a discrepancy in shipping lists, and birth, marriage and death certificates.
According to ship records, he was a 26-year-old Roman Catholic from Kilkenny who could read and write, and was listed as a housemaid.
When she arrived in Victoria, Mr De Lacy Evans was still known as Ellen Tremayne and caused quite a stir on the trip over.
According to the State Library of Victoria’s The La Trobe Journal, he wore a man’s shirt and trousers underneath his dress and had formed sexual attachments to some of the other female passengers on the Ocean Monarch, including his soon-to-be first wife, Mary Delahunty – a 34-year-old governess who was also from Ireland.
He travelled with a trunk labelled with the name ‘Edward De Lacy Evans’ on it who, according to De Lacy Evans’ third wife, was his uncle.
There was also speculation her husband or lover was named ‘Edward De Lacy Evans’ and he had somehow tricked the transsexual by placing his trunk on the Ocean Monarch and deserted the 26-year-old.
Mr De Lacy Evans’, who was still identified as a woman, first job in Australia was as a maidservant at a Melton public house but some time after he left his position and started dressing like a man, and ditched the name of Ellen Tremayne.
Now as Edmund De Lacy, he went and sought out Ms Delahunty, marrying her at St Francis’ Roman Catholic Church in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
But their marriage was not a happy one, with evidence suggesting they ‘did not live comfortably together’.
After Ms Delahunty opened a school in Blackwood, she left Mr De Lacy Evans and married an American mining surveyor Lyman Oatman Hart who lived in Daylesford – north-west of Melbourne.
In the next 20 years, Mr De Lacy Evans married twice – his second wife was Sarah Moore who died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1867 and a Julia Marquand of Bendigo – north of Melbourne.
Mr De Lacy Evans worked as a carter, miner, blacksmith and ploughman in the areas of Blackwood, Bendigo and Stawell.
The breakdown of his third marriage came after March 1878 when Ms Marquand gave birth to a child fathered by her brother-in-law, Jean Baptiste Loridan.
Despite Mr De Lacy Evans knowing it was not his child, he registered himself as the child’s father but his resentment over the pregnancy started taking its toll on the marriage.
In July 1879, he started violently acting out against Ms Marquand and his 15-month-old daughter, fell into a deep depression and then was admitted to Bendigo Hospital’s lunacy ward for amentia – a mental disability.
For the first six weeks of his stint in the hospital, Mr De Lacy Evans refused to bathe until he was transferred to the Kew Asylum and forcibly stripped that his secret was discovered.
He was handed over to female nurses and forced to dress as a woman
In an interview, Mr De Lacy Evans’ recalled the moment he was outed as a female at Kew Asylum.
‘I was sittin’ the carriage at the railway station, an’ the wife was cryin’ and the kid was squealin’, an’ I was laughin’ at ‘em,’ he said during an interview.
‘Well, when we got to Kew, the fellers there took hold o’ me to give me a bath, an’ they stripped me to put me in the water, an’ then they saw the mistake.
‘One feller ran off as if he was frightened; the others looked thunderstruck an’ couldn’t speak.
‘I was handed over to the women, and they dressed me up in frocks and petticoats.’
Mr De Lacy Evans’ outing as a female caused a worldwide stir, with one photographer named Nicholas White sneaking into the hospital and taking photos of the transsexual dressed as a man and a woman as well as possibly a straitjacket.
As a transgender person, Mr De Lacy Evans’ faced brutal treatment inside the asylum including a report done up by The Australian Medical Journal that said he cried and screamed as he was probed during a gynaecological examination – which verified he was a physiologically a woman.
With the news in circulation, Mr De Lacy Evans received offers to be ‘publicly exhibited’ and after his release from Kew Asylum he took up the opportunities. He was once offered three to five pounds per week for a tour.
He appeared as ‘The Wonderful Male Impersonator’ at St Georges Hall on Bourke Street in Melbourne in January 1880 and another time alongside a trapeze artist and ‘The Electric Boy’ at Sydney’s Egyptian Hall on George Street in September 1880.
When the truth came out his wife, Ms Marquand denied knowing her husband was in fact a woman and accounted for her daughter’s existence by telling reporters: ‘Some strange man entered the house one night about the time her husband should have returned home’.
Ms Marquand also stated her husband would never let her see him stripped or washing himself.
Additionally, Mr De Lacy Evans could have fooled his wife into thinking he was a man by fashioning a homemade strap-on dildo.
There was also evidence Mr De Lacy Evans’ second wife, Sarah Moore, found out about her husband’s cross-dressing about a year into their marriage
A witness reported seeing Ms Moore punching Mr De Lacy Evans in the breast – her ‘weak place’.
Mr De Lacy Evans lived as a man for another 25 years and found no success in show business.
In February 1881, he was applying for relief at the Melbourne Police Court and wanted to be admission to the Benevolent Asylum.
Mr De Lacy Evans died in August 1901 in the Melbourne Immigrants’ Home at St Kilda Road, where he had been since February 1881.
The Mysterious Edward/Ellen De Lacy Evans: The Picaresque in Real Life – No 69 Autumn 2002 – La Trobe Journal
Only a month or so ago, a 15-year-old Muslim boy left his home, paid a fleeting visit to his local Mosque, chaned his clothes from everyday wear to a robe, then walked to the Parramatta Police Centre, and shot a non-police pencil pusher as he left the building to go home, all the time yelling religious quotes. Police officers shot him dead. Good tiddance, I say! Appears that he had been indoctrinated online by ISOS.
The real horror of this is…RELIGION! That a 15-year-old…caught at the most confused and influential time of his life…can be turned into a religious fanatic through technology is frightening! As usual, we are told it’s a solitary event, and to get on with our daily lives without letting it frighten us…but even liberal-minded lefties like myself are getting concerned. I’m not frightened in the literal sense of the word…it’s more like a nagging, unsettled feeling. That I am now expecting all attacks like this to beMuslim-centric speaks heaps about the worrying changes in my thinking – from tolerance and acceptance, to actually siding withthose fighting the building of Mosques in their communities. And I hate myself for even beginning to think that way. Why is it that the examples of this type of terror are becoming the predominant face of the Islam religion! Yet, now we have the Paris attacks! Even more innocent bystanders! People out for a meal in a cafe, or attending a concert are now dead, and the sheer barbarity of the attacks harks back to the dark days of the Crusades.
And therein, once again, lies the crux of the problem…RELIGION! What is it about religion that promulgates so much hate, intolerance, discrimination and death – the EXACT opposite of everything it is supposed to stand for…according to those who lead and preach it, anyway!
I’m an Athiest, as is just about everyone I know. I’m an intelligent, thinking, analytical man. After many years of blindly following theologies, tenets, doctrines, philosophies and faith that I was always sort of suspicious about, I sat down and had a good, long think about it. After getting up from this self-imposed think tank, I tossed it all overboard! What intelligent, thinking person could actually fall for that crap! A man wandering around a desert with 12 other men; dying, coming back to life (after creating a mysterifying shroud), moving a stone wighing many tons and just toddling off; flying up to heaven on a cloud; popping back down occasionally for a visit; likewise for his mother..a virgin impregnated by a spirit (a hortor movie in the making there); she seems to keep her dead self busy by appearing at the most unlikely places, usually to neurotic women or fanatical men; a Jew and Jewess who are depicted as anything but; a fierce, sadistic, demanding, megalomaniacal God who evidently has a very long beard, and sits around all day listening to a lot of griping, and judging people – whilst seated up amongst the clouds on a throne, reached through some pearly gates and along a gold road. He’s surrounded by all these winged people playing harps and blowing trumpets – who are also busy popping down to earth and creating a bit of havoc – and whose arch-enemy lives in this fiery place under the eath, where he is busy torturing people, wearing red outfits topped off with forked tail, horns and a pitchfork. If you believe the bible – which all true creationists do – then the earth was made in 7 days, Adam and Eve played with snakes under apple trees, and had two SONS from whom we all came…and to think – the people who follow these fairy tales obstruct marriage equality…mmmm! Then we have huge floods with two of EVERY animal, bird and insect cramned onto a boat…with no deaths, or fights…or preying. We have wine being created from water, 5,000 people being fed from one loaf of bread and a fish, some walking on water, healing some lepers and blind people by touching them…and these are just the biblical foundations of belief! No wonder I’m Athiest!
Mind you, the Muslim religion – which I confess to knowing bugger-all about – is not the first religion to try to claim world domination. The Catholic religion had dibs on that long before they came along. If you didn’t follow all the tenets of the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church..then….well, lets have a look at that! As soon as anyone started to think outside the square – take the Cathars as an example – then the church got antsy and sent out a group of very umpleasant men called the Inquisition (or Spanish Inquisition, depending on where you lived) who, as a way of helping you back to the one true faith, would judge, torture and burn you at the stake…unless you recanted your heretical ways! Henry VIII got a bit jack of not being able to divorce his wife – who was his brothers wife originally, and who he married to keep the peace – and told the same One Holy Catholic etc etc to go to buggery, as he was starting his own church, which was going to be way better than theirs, and he’d divorce and marry anyone he liked, even if he had to lop their heads off to do it. The Catholic church got a bit miffed. And as a way of getting his revenge Henry tore down all the monasteries – who, by the way, provided most of the assistance to the poor and dispossessed, so he just added to any social problems they already had – and stripped the churches, cashed in all the art, artifacts and building materials, and killed or burnt anyone who defied him. For the next couple of hundred years, including the rise and fall of the religiously fanatical (Protestant) Thomas Cromwell, England swung between Catholicism and extremist Protestantism, with thousands of people being killed as they tried to keep up with the latest religious trend. What a fuck-up…all in the name of God!
But that wasn’t even the worst of it! The Holy Roman etc etc Church was intent on displaying just how Holy and Apostolic it really was…not! One hardly knows where to start here. Well, on top of forcing itself on the poor folk of Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Holland etc etc, it decided it needed to be totally inclusive, and force any other infidels to come into the fold. Jerusalem looks good, as does Byzantium. Those pesky Muhammad-pushers are also interested..so, let’s have a war, but we’ll call it a Crusade. That way, everyone can get involved, and have a jolly good time raping and pillaging their way across Europe, and take Jerusalem away from both the Jews AND the Turks. This went on for about 200 years (1095-1291), with no clear outcome, though once again many thousands died in the name of The One Holy etc etc. Naturally, both Popes and Kings had nothing better to do with their time, and got involved. Holy indeed!
This broughts heaps of money, art and treasure into the hands of the One Holy Roman etc etc, so it got richer and richer, greedier and greedier. The richer and greedier it got, the more demanding and controlling it got. It created prelates and princes. Popes married, or were just licencious, fucked around, had kids…but…don’t do what I do, do what I say. All these Popes, and prelates and princes covered themselves in gold bling, ran around in silk damask robes lined with ermine furs…drag taken to its most devout degree! To make even more money, they promised that if you parted with some cash and bought some of their recently released indulgences…hey presto! You get to skip purgatory! Feeling a bit bored? Hey..,go for a pilgrimage to some far flung corner of the earth to pray in front of some fake blood, or fake “saints” bones, or a rigged statue that bleeds. Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs! Part with that hard-earned cash, and buy your way into heaven. Let’s create an institution….no, we’ll make it a sacrament…called “marriage”. It has no legality as it is just a ritual, but we’ll hijack it anyway, and use it as another way to control people! We’ll bedazzle you with rites and splendour, intone ceremonies in ancient language, convince you that sin is bad, gulit is good! Make women a sub-class, and deny our priests a fulfilling life by enforcing celibacy. Want to molest some children as an outlet for repeessed sexuality and control? That’s fine, as long as no one finds out. After all, you are a Cardinal, or a Bishop, or a Monsignor, or a monk, or a nun. You are way beyond reproach! Let’s totally confuse you with rhetoric and theology…words like “transubstantiation” sound so much better than “cannabilism”, don’t you reckon! Want to become a saint by becoming a martyr in defence of all this “faith”? Then get yourself spit-roasted, or pack-raped, or see visions, or get frenetic enough about it all to develop stigmata, or get burnt at the stake, or whatever…then off you go! In 200 years, after appearing on a fence post and curing someone of something you’ll be sainted!
Books? Don’t try and educate yourself, or read anything alternative or progressive! We’re burning all those, and if we catch you reading it…we’ll burn you too!
And with all our Catholic humanity and compassion, we realise that there are primitives and cannibals around. Look at all those tiny islands, South America and Africa…full of them! We need to make them all Catholic or Protestant so they have something genuine to believe in! Destroy their culture? Don’t be silly…they never had a culture, fucking little pagans! Some nice missionaries will knock dome sense into them! They must be saved from themselves!
Even in more enlightened times we remain in the past, locked in a time when we could influence the gullible, instil fear, create guilt. Want to take the pill, or use a condom? Of course you can’t! Nothing quire like a religion that promotes STDs, and unwanred children! Sex for PLEASURE! Who are you to even think that! Missionary position, everyone…and NO pleasurable sounds, please! This is your duty!
And that was just the Catholics! The Protestants – who broke away from Catholicism for all these reasons – were no better! Subjugate everyone with excessive guilt! Rob them of every single pleasure and joy life has! Convince them that deprivation, hardship, blandness and fanatical devotion and zeal were the sure paths to heaven! Thousands died so that these beliefs could be upheld.
There is not one single, solitary off-shoot of Chritianity that is redemptive, or lives up to the so-called precepts of said religion. We have Opus Dei; evangelicals; glossolalia; snake charming; Jim Jones and Jonestown; Hillsong (sing alleluia and pass the plate); Mormons…who are themselves divided; Scientologists…yeah, lets base a cult (it is NOT a religion) on science fiction; Baptists; Methodists; Uniting Church; Church of Christ; Unitarians; Westboro Baptist Church…where hate and intolerance is openly preached; Right to Life movements…who ignore the most basic of human rights…choice; Jehovah’s Witnesses; Bahai..the list just goes on…and on…and on! A whole raft of idealogical theologies that do NOTHING but promote hate, intolerance, injustice, prejudice, stigma, discrimination…and yet blame everyone else for their own shortfallings. It disgusts me!
The most blatant lies of all…that the bible has the answers for starters! This heavily quoted tome is a collection of stories passed down through word of mouth, and eventually put into writing by civilisations and lifestyles long dead. And should remain so! Every single Christian religion has added and subtracred from this book…depending on what met their needs, or what was surplus to requirements. It is so corrupted, distorted and misquoted for all the wrong reasons that I just laugh when I read it being quoted…usually by half-witted fundamentalists. The other lies belie and degrade the true nature of our humanity, of how we would be if we were just left to sort out right and wrong for ourselves. After all, Christianity is only 2000 years old, and does not have the history to define the most basic of human precepts. Civilisations were doing just that LONG before the Christians came along. You see, we do not need Christianity, or any other religion, to prescribe morals and ethics. We can do that…and indeed have, in times past..as a society. We all intrinsically know what is right, and what is wrong! What we need to do to live in harmony and peace, to respect each other, to not judge, to not pontificate. Religion seems to think that without them, there would be no charity, no humanity, no help for the dispossessed or those in need. It would appear to the unthinking that we need obscure Jews wandering the deserts of the Middle East, bearded men in the sky, and fanatical prophets to achieve these things. Wrong!
If we cannot achieve morals and ethics through our own humanity, through our own sense of self worth,through a sense of justice that is all encompassing, through our collective belief in the good that is inherent in all of us (and acknowledge that aberrations exist, for better or worse), that I cannot help and support my friends and family as part of a living, thriving society that does not need to resort to fallacy, misconceptions and gobbledygook for its existence…then perhaps we don’t deserve to exist at all!
I am not sure why we fail to acknowledge that almost every single genocide, mass instances of torture, sadistic, unnecessary deaths, indeed most wars are religion-based. Millions have died in the name of religion! Millions! And still are! Isn’t it time we grew up, and admitted that as an institution, religion has failed! The current Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse is one of the most horrifying instances of religious and secular abuse imaginable. All the disgraceful hush-ups, turning a blind eye, shuffling the problems around, and disbelieving everything that was being said by the victims is staggering! Many committed suicide, many others live every day with the aftermath of this abuse. It hasn’t been going on for decades, it has been happening for hundreds of years! Every single religion, every single religious order, every single charity is involved! To be on the commission panel must be heartbreaking! To sit through every day listening to that horror!
It is time to say…enough is enough! Begone religion! Leave us in peace!
Mike Leyland, MBE (4 September 1941– 14 September 2009) and Mal Leyland, MBE (born 1945), also known as the Leyland brothers, were Australian explorers and documentary film-makers, best known for their popular television show, Ask the Leyland Brothers. The show ran on Australian television from 1976 until 1984.
In November 1990 the Leyland Brothers opened the theme park Leyland Brothers World (32°37′3″S 152°4′48″E), on a 40 ha property at North Arm Cove on the Pacific Highway north of Newcastle, New South Wales. It included a 1/40 scale replica of Uluru, as well as amusement rides, playground, roadhouse, museum and a 144 student capacity bush camp. In a 1997 article in the Sunday Age, Mike Leyland said that the initial A$1 million loan blew out due to rain during construction and a 27% interest rate. In July 1992 Chris Palmer of BDO Nelson was appointed receiver and manager of the park when the Leyland Brothers company failed to meet its loan commitment to the Commonwealth Bank. Auctioneers Colliers Jardine estimated the yearly attendance of the park to be about 400,000 people, with 10,000 students for the bush camp. After an auction held by the receiver on 26 November 1992 the theme park was sold for $800,000, and continues to trade successfully as the Great Aussie Bushcamp.[ The brothers went bankrupt.
After the 1992 bankruptcy, Mike and his wife Margie ran a New Lambton video store and worked for the park’s new owner. In 1997 Mike sold part of his Tea Gardens property to fund the production of a far north Queensland film for Channel Seven. Mike and his wife Margie signed a contract with Channel Seven for 12 one-hour documentaries, the first of which aired in 1998 in The World Around Us slot. On 14 September 2009 Mike Leyland died from Parkinson’s disease. He was 68 years old. Mike is survived by his wife Margie, his daughters Kerry, Sandy and Dawn, his stepdaughters Sarah and Alison, and seven grandchildren.
Mal and his wife Laraine ran a photo processing lab in Queensland and launched a travel magazine. In 1997 Mal and Laraine launched a bi-monthly magazine, Leyland’s Australia. In 2000 Mal produced the television show Leyland’s Australia, with his wife Laraine, daughter Carmen and her husband Robert Scott – travelling around Australia in a caravan. In April 2000 Channel 9 cancelled the show after 6 episodes but the series was then picked up by Network Ten.
Leyland Brothers: Mal Leyland reveals financial rift tore popular brothers apart
Australian Story By Brietta Hague
Updated 16 Feb 2015, 11:34am
Mal and Mike Leyland in the Simpson Desert
PHOTO: Mal and Mike Leyland film in the Simpson Desert in central Australia, 1989.
Long before Steve Irwin was jumping on crocodiles, Mike and Mal Leyland were sailing down the Darling River in a chaotic dinghy without oars — all in the name of entertainment.
They were the television legends whose wild adventures captured Australia’s imagination.
Armed with a camera and a catchy song that few can forget, they pioneered a successful outback documentary format and made millions of dollars along the way.
But it was their disastrous decision to branch out into the tourism industry by building their theme park Leyland Brothers World that would end the brothers’ collaboration — and relationship.
Mike Leyland died in 2009 and his brother Mal, now 70, has now agreed to repeated requests from Australian Story to tell their story.
“This is the first time that I’ve publicly spoken about what happened to the Leyland Brothers and why Mike and I went our separate ways,” Mal Leyland said.
“We made a conscious effort to make sure that people thought we were still travelling together.
“We didn’t want people to feel as though we were actually ready to rip each other’s throats out.”
By the time the project collapsed in 1992, they had lost more than $6 million and were bankrupt.
“The receivers came in and took possession of the whole lot,” Leyland said.
Who were the Leyland Brothers?
Australian explorers and documentary film-makers
Best known for their TV show Ask the Leyland Brothers, which ran from 1976-1984
Starred in a following series called Leyland Brothers’ World
Both brothers were awarded MBEs in 1980
“In hindsight, Leyland Brothers World was a huge mistake, the biggest mistake we ever made.”
Amid the financial woes, media reports claimed the brothers had transferred more than $1 million of assets into their wives’ names over an 18-month period.
“I didn’t really mind losing the money. I objected to being treated like a criminal because I lost the money,” Leyland said.
“The partnership that Mike and I had for 29 years was crumbling before my eyes and I knew would never be the same again.
“And since there was now nothing left that we jointly owned, there was no need for us to stay in partnership, so for the first time we went our separate ways.”
Brothers were original Ten Pound Poms
Despite their quintessentially Australian characters, the brothers were born in England and arrived in New South Wales in 1950.
Even at a young age they were fascinated by the outback and all things Australian.
The Brothers first set off to explore the country with their cameras in 1961 when Mal Leyland was just 15 and television was first starting to come to Australia.
Mal Leyland speaks with Australian Story
PHOTO: Mal Leyland says the financial rift over the failed theme park ended up pushing the brothers apart. (ABC: Anthony Sines)
They were the first to film Uluru in the wet and first to travel the length of the Darling River in a dinghy.
“We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. We were so inexperienced; we had no oars and only an outboard motor,” Mal Leyland said.
The adventures grew in size and ambition.
Their decision to travel from Australia’s western-most to eastern-most point was a feat never before captured on camera.
It was this entrepreneurial take on filmmaking that led to their early success.
“We decided we would road show the film, we would take it around the country and hire town halls, cinemas if we could, and advertise it ourselves and see how we went,” Mal Leyland said.
It was a risk that paid off.
“At the end of the two-week season we’d recovered $15,000, enough money to buy three houses at the time,” he said.
And so the Leyland Brothers were born.
Before long, their quirky television program Ask the Leyland Brothers was attracting some of the highest ratings of the 1970s and 80s, and the theme song is still a familiar tune to millions of Australians.
“Their place in television history is there forever. Historically, the films are incredibly important,” said entrepreneur Dick Smith, whose decision to make his own travel documentaries was inspired by the success of the Leyland Brothers. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-16/mal-leyland-reveals-financial-rift-tore-popular-brothers-apart/6091042
Above 2 photos taken in 2002. Private collection of Tim Alderman (Author)