The sport of pugilism, or bare knuckled fighting, was illegal. The names, (although often with an alias) of the participants, and the hoteliers, who stood to gain much from the activity are known, however, the spectators remain anonymous. The exact location of some of the fights is difficult to identify, some being described simply as, “not one hundred miles from Cook’s River.”

The peculiar style of the nineteenth century sporting journalist is seen in the following descriptions of the contests.

In 1831 on “Anniversary Day” (now Australia Day), we have the first recorded bout on the Cook’s River. The vigilance of the police force within the City of Sydney seems to have moved such events to ‘the country’- beyond the city limits.

.Multum in Parvo (Much in little)


On Monday a battle took place between Phil Hyde and Bill Richards (otherwise the Butcher) for 20L. aside. 

This affair, which excited great interest in pugilistic circles, came off on Monday last on ‘No Man’s land,’ within 5 miles of Sydney, in a 20 foot roped ring, on a level piece of ground, on the banks of  Cook’s River, encircled by a spacious enter ring. There was a string muster of the “FANCY.” Precisely at 8 o’clock Butcher flung his “Castor,”(hat) into the arena. it was quickly followed by Hyde’s, and both men immediately entered the ring. Hyde was seconded by Sweeny and Jack England. Butcher was up backed by Charley Rowley, alias “Charley the baker,” and his brother Tom Richards. …. Butcher looked tawney, Hyde appeared in tolerable condition, and being half a stone heavier, and several inches taller than Butcher, most people considered the latter over matched.

Both men sparred cautiously… Hyde showed first blood.

In the 4th round… A desperate rally ..in favour of Hyde, who gave Butcher a few sharp hits about the nasal promontory from which the claret flew in bumpers.. a heavy right handed blow and a “drop in the eye,”…. sent him down. The Patlanders (Irishmen) cheered their man on with repeated assurances “that he was winning as fast as a horse could gallop,” and as for odds, why they said it was “St. Giles’s church to a Highlander’s breeches, and no chance for the native.”

The contest concluded with:

42nd – Butcher planted three right handed body blows and fell retreating.

43rd – Both men steady, Butcher exhibited dreadful marks of punishment about the head and both went down very weak.

44th – The Men sparred for a few moments Hyde made play, struck Butcher in the throat he fell from weakness, and on time being called, he was reluctantly compelled to say he had “enough” and could fight no longer.

REMARKS – The above fight was altogether one of the best seen for many a day,- it was evident from the commencement, that Butcher was overmatched, his antagonist being much longer in the reach and something heavier, but he made a noble stand against these disadvantages, and shewed the most determined “game” to the very last… Butcher’s friends are very well satisfied with him, and are willing to back him against any thing alive of his own weight. We have no doubt another fight will take place between the same men, as Butcher wishes to have another “UP” for it.

Another newspaper provides the answer as to where the bout took place.

BOXING.- EARLY ON MONDAY morning a fight took place at Mud Bank, Botany Bay, between a man named Philly Hyde, an Emeralder, and a man  cognominated Little Butcher, a native youth, for ten pounds a-side. After a hard fought battle … lasting one hour and a quarter, Philly was declared  victor, this was no cross battle; each side did his best.

‘Mud Bank’ was swampy land near the original entrance of Cooks River into Botany Bay. The mouth of the river was diverted in 1948 to its present position.

Edward Redmond was the first recorded white settler in the Botany area, the land was so swampy that he called his property Mudbank.

In March 1836, Alexander Brodie Spark of ‘Tempe House’, on the southern bank of Cook’s River, wrote in his diary,

Sunday. Found the whole of my assigned servants absent, in consequence it was supposed of a projected fight between Flash Harry and another man…It was amusing to hear the different excuses made by the men in apology for their absence. Some were gathering the grass trees to make hats, some were promised water melons and went to get them, one was taking a walk in the bush, another was seeing a Corroboray among the blacks, none however was seeing a fight  and I understand that no fight took place. Allowed all to escape on this occasion, with a promise that it should never again occur, and charged the Constable to be on the watch …

Newspaper report, October, 1838, –

Yesterday morning a pugilistic contest, which has been on the tapis for some time, and was to have come off at Cook’s River, between Walter Hall, and a man named Spark, was interrupted at the sixth round by the appearance of the Police, who secured Hall. Spark managed to escape.

The following day all was revealed. –

Prize Fighting.- A match, said to be for £30 aside, came off on Tuesday morning on the other side of Cook’s River, between a man named Sparks, a native (born in the colony) residing near Port Aiken (now Port Hacking), and William Hall, a notorious character, whose name has frequently before been mentioned in connection with these disgraceful proceedings. Information of the circumstance having been communicated to the Police, a party of constables was sent out under the charge of Inspector Ryan to apprehend the parties, On reaching Cook’s River, Ryan adopted a very prudent course; he concealed his party on the Sydney side of the river, while himself and McCarthy, the district constable, with their coats stripped to disguise themselves, pulled (rowed) across the river and walked unobserved into the midst of the assemblage. Ryan immediately secured Hall, and directed McCarthy to apprehend Sparks. This man, however, escaped, but Hall was secured, conveyed to Sydney, and confined in the watchhouse. Measures have been taken to apprehend Sparks, who is said to be already under articles of the peace for similar conduct. When will these disgraceful exhibitions be put down?

The ‘native’ named Sparks, residing near Port Aiken, was possibly of the Parkes family, of Parkes Camp, which became Earlwood. Signing the registers of St. Peters Church, Cook’s River, with a cross, they were never quite sure if they were Sparkes or Parkes.

A celebrated Cook’s River identity featured in an aborted court case in June 1842.

A PRIZE FIGHTER – Yesterday, Joseph Hilder, alias Joe the Basket-maker, lately free, appeared before Captain Innes, at the Post Office, on a charge preferred against him by Mr. Henry Calvert, of endeavouring to get up a prize fight. As there was no prosecutor present, and Joe had since his residence in the neighbourhood of Cook’s River, been very efficient as a voluntary constable, he was admonished and discharged.

Joseph Hilder, alias Joe the Basket-maker, was more correctly Joseph Hilton, who with his wife, Elizabeth, (known as the “Fighting Hen of Cook’s River,”) is buried in the St. Peters Church graveyard. Hilton was known to match himself, his dog, his cock or his wife against any other in the colony.  

The venue for a contest late in September 1845 was again south of Cooks River.


…an affair took place on White Gum Flat (Rockdale area) in the neighbourhood of Cook’s River on Monday morning last. The cue not having been given publicly, a numerous attendance could not have been expected; still, however, the fancy lads mustered to about the number of one hundred and fifty.  

At an early hour, the Newtown Road presented an appearance indicative of something in the shape of funds; and although, to the usual hurrush of a Prize Fight, some over-sanguine trumpetter took occasion to add the sonorous blast of his horn, still no extra-officious peeler (policeman) attempted to interfere with the approaching struggles……The Rendezvous named for this matudinal re-union of choice spirits was in a thickly-wooded copse on the opposite side of the dam (at Cooks River),……shortly after eight o’clock, Jackson came on the ground, attended by three or four of his friends. His appearance bespoke confidence, while that of Bogan… was anything but encouraging to his backers. The last deposit, to complete the £10 side was made and the contestants proceeded to the ring, which was already staked and formed.  

Jackson first threw up his tile (hat,), which was presently followed by the cabbage-tree (hat made of the leaves of the cabbage tree palm) of the native, and, without waiting for further preamble, the umpires were chosen; the colors (two scarlets) were tied to the stakes; the customary formalities complied with; and under the guardianship of William Sparkes for York, and Douglass of Windsor for the Native, they commenced to fight.

Round 1 – The men came up to the scratch, eying one another with singular penetration and caution….Bogan was loose and straggling, while that of his opponent displayed a greater acquantance with the essential qualifications of the ring. He stood balanced and compact, .. a few light exchanges only were delivered.

From the 14th to the 20th round, the style of fighting and the chances of the youth were about equal; seldom or never managing to turn the tide of fortune in his favour. At this period of the game however, while though evidently weak and overmatched, his appearance did not indicate severity of punishment, he deliberately walked from his corner, and tipping his dexter mawley into the daddle of his adversary,(putting his left fist into the hand of his opponent,’)  declared himself incompetent at present to compete further;…..Jackson did not appear to have received any punishment whatever …neither of them displayed any extraordinary fighting capability; but true, the defeated man is but a youth, and may, under a good instructor, be able shortly to re-enter the list, and gather laurels in his native ring.

Mud Bank, Cook’s River was the venue for a bout in February 1846. Tom Sparkes (‘The Sprig of Myrtle’) was one of the Parkes family of Parkes Camp. Tom’s brother William, (‘Fighting Bill Sparkes’) was, on this occasion, his second.



.. we are glad to have it in our power to redeem the somewhat tottering honor of the local ring by a record of as game and artistical a shevo as ever stamped upon a fistic hero’s brow, the style and dignity of a man…..  

On Thursday the men met in Sydney to arrange the whereabouts, and MUD BANK was selected as the most desirable locale. According to this arrangement, the sandy and barren tracks leading from Redfern to Botany gave evidence of the interest pending and from 6 till 10 a.m., the usually deserted locality, was dotted with the heterogenius group, whose clashing plaudits were subsequently encouraging the men….. 

A few minutes after 10 the men went into the ring – Gorrick attended by Thompson of Windsor and Hill; Young Sparkes was acting under the surveillance of Hough and William Sparkes. Some little dispute took place relative to the length of the PEGS in the shoes, when they mutually agreed to fight with naked feet, and in this order commenced the FIGHT.

Gorrick came up all confidence, with a smile upon his PHIZ (face). which seemed to defy the inexperience of his antagonist. With open hands he played for some moments with the young un, feinting with the left, and evidently not prepared for the HUG with which he was received; at length he dropped a heavy smack upon the throat, which Sparks countered beautifully on the snorter; a terriific rally now ensued ….The succeeding rounds were mostly to the advantage of Sparkes ….. It was evident that except by finesse the young un must win. At the expiration of fifty minutes, when 42 rounds had been fought …Gorrick’s seconds took him from the ring.

REMARKS – The preceding mill may be justly included among the most prominent on record, as far as the united and important qualifications of game and science are concerned; since a more creditable combination of these two qualities it has seldom, if ever, been our lot to witness. 

A second fight came off for a purse between Ginger (probably Peter Brenan, known as the “Cook’s River Ginger,”) the red-haired brickmaker, and old Jaffry, which after eight rounds of a severe and slogging description, was won by the former. 

At this time Cooks River (St. Peters, Sydenham, Tempe area), was developing as the centre of brickmaking in Sydney so it is appropriate that the minor contest should feature a brickmaker.

In March of the same year, an advertisement informs us that

WILLIAM SPARKES will be happy to see the Friends of the “Fancy” rally round him on Wednesday next the 18th instant, when a rare treat will be afforded to the lovers of the milling art, as some of the tip top ‘uns mean to shew, it being for his (Sparkes’) Benefit.  Many amateurs, Cook’s River lads, and others, will give their assistance. Tickets and particulars may be obtained at all the Sporting Houses in Sydney.  

The same newspaper was to add,

The Hawkesbury, Cook’s River, &c., are to furnish their amateurs, and would-be champions, so that some smart setting-to may be expected. We have also learnt that Master Sparkes’ friends and backers on this occasion intend to present him with a superb belt, as a mark of their approbation of his conduct as a pugilist and a pedestrian.

Today pedestrianism would be running or walking, more often than not professional.

In August ‘The Sprig of Myrtle’ writes

SIR, – Perceiving a paragraph in your paper of Saturday last, which I suppose  was intended for a challenge, signed Charles Wootton, wherein he proposes to fight any 11 stone man in the colony, and complaining of being treated very bad by my Sydney backers as he styles them. I beg to inform him through the columns of your journal, that I am ready to make a match to fight him, or any other 10 stone man in the colony, give or take a 2lbs., for any sum from £25 to £100, and that I can always obtain the money at Cook’s River without troubling any of my Sydney friends. As I am particularly desirous of having a shy at him, he will confer a great favour by meeting me at the Redfern Inn, (Redfern) on Monday next, between the hours of 9 and 3. I will be fully prepared to enter into articles, according to the above terms, and post any sum necessary.

I am, Sir, 

Your obedient servant, 


It was remarkable that Sparkes could raise anything up to £100 from the Cooks River area, it is perhaps more remarkable that Sparkes could be such a wordsmith considering the suspected illiteracy of the family.

Late in January, 1847,


Ikey Sparkes and Bennett, both of Cook’s River, will go into tbe ring for the adjustment of their differences on Monday fortnight, the 8th of February. – £10 a-side.  

After the above, the Sprig of Myrtle, and Bennett, the elder, a brother of the above, cross hand for the honour of their respective countries, and for love.  Lots of fun may be relied on.  


For £10 a-side.

This match …. came off without hindrance or molestation from either anti-belligerent beak (magistrate) or extra-officious peeler (policeman). The men having fixed upon a sporting crib in the neighbourhood of the dam …. we repaired thither at an early hour, and found all matters as to the locale, &c. finally and satisfatorily settled; the betting also was steady, though by no means brisk, sufficiently so however to give every indication of confidence on the part of the friends and backers of both the men.

Ikey is..brother to the celebrated Bill Sparkes, now in England, Ike is also the brother of the young Sprig of Myrtle, who made his conje (bow) to Bungaree, at White Gum Flat, last year, and has since won the highest enconiums from the leading patrons of the local P.R. for his coolness, courage, and extraordinary capabilities in the convincing arena. In features he closely resembles his fraternal relative, and he evidently endeavours to adopt the Chicken’s style of fighting, but falls far short of Bill’s powers as a general and ready tactician – Nevertheless, he is not to be sneezed at, and may justly take rank amongst us as a good second rate.

Bennett also may be said to have sprung from a fighting family. His father, who still lives “in hoary age revered.” has in olden times flung his castor over the ropes. And no less than three of his brothers offered themselves in the ring on Monday last, as candidates for the knotted wipe; so that it may fairly be presumed that they are of a race peculiarly pugilistic.

The dawn of Monday saw much of the metropolitans as were intent upon witnessing the fray, en route for Botany; and a drive of less than nine miles brought them to the battle field,- an elegible piece of ground, and well adapted to allow spectators a good view. The articles provided that the men should enter the ring between 8 and 10 a.m. and at about half past 8 the two cabbage-tre came flaunting thro’ the air, in token of mutual defiance….. Having crossed hands at the scratch, they doffed (removed) the rag (clothes), and returned to scan one another’s phiz, with that peculiar intensity which doubtless each considered necessary prior to selecting the spot for digital dexterity to display itself.

Having thrown themselves into position to commence THE FIGHT.

Round 1 – The attitude of Bennett appeared somewhat odd; instead of keeping his left well forward in a line with his foot, he had it doubled across his chest, while the dexter arm was bent to form a right angle, and thus materially detract from the force and rapidity of its delivery. Sparkes position was much better, and grinning mischief, he appeared ready to go to market…..

12 – Bennett’s chance gone. In vain he grappled with the stamina and more practical operations of his adversary. no sooner, however, was he from his second’s knee than he rushed to scratch, and momentarily foiled the perspicuity of Ike, by mouthing him, for which act of special civility he napped the “double shuffle” on the gob, and went a-squatting.

13 – The wick will brighten as it appoaches its final flicker, and so, in hopes of turning the now descending scale, did Bennett in desperation rush to meet his doom. As he advanced, Ike stung him with a double quick on the mouse trap; Bennett bob’d his cobra (head or skull) and sent away a few random round shots, but all this time was acting as receiver general; at length putting up his head, he made play with vigour, got a drive at Ike’s larboard listener, which irritated Sparkes, who, frantic with the thoughts of glory and emolument, peppered ding dong at eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, till, as Bennett was gasping “hark away,” Sparkes with excellent judgment, almost lifted his enemy to his legs, and administered finally to the effects, by placing a rum un in the vicinity of the jugular, which completely cooked his hash; Bennett was, after the lapse of a minute, called to the scatch, but ‘twas like calling “Spirits from the vasty deep.”(a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry 1V ). The little affair thus terminated at 11 minutes past 9, having occupied 35 minutes.


Upon the termination of the mill, the two men whose names adorn our heading, and who had been interested and highly interesting spectators of the former settlement, entered the ropes. Myrtle (Tom Sparkes) under the dictation of Davis and Fulham, while Bennett’s attendants consisted of Yorkey and Lee. The Sprig had length, height, and youth on his side – his competitor, on the other hand, who is… far advanced in the vale of years, and the father of 8 or 9  children, contended against those physical defalcations consequent on the remote period of his nativity.

At half past nine, the aspirants had peeled, and presently having tipped the flipper, were vis a vis for the

1st Round – The symmetrical gracefulness of the Sprig, as he steadied into attitude, elicited  unbounded admiration from the sporting group around and about the ring. His hawk’s eye, peering through the well-tanned hide of Bennett, checked his antiquated ardour, but failed to dispel ill-founded ambition….Bennett feinted with the left, and then put in a body blow with the right, but Myrtle brought two of his boughs to the rescue, and levied contributions of blood from the left orbit, while the other paw was actively engaged with the conk (first blood for Sparkes); the old fellow smiled, and countered short, again napping it on the peeper, and going to prayers in the open air.

2 – Old un’s mug disfigured, yet a comical grin dimpled his cheeks, till the sprig popped his left and right to change the pleasing contour, by a knock-down crack.

3  – Quick replies in favour of Sparkes; the old boy bleeding profusely, yet holding on to the glorious uncertainty. The Sprig had him when and where he liked, each blow descending with “speed and power;” Bennett’s only chance of reaching his man was by pelting at the grizzly region of the ribs. After taking a good hammering, Bennett caught a fearful upper cut on the snout, and fell, bleeding profusely.

4th and last – Sparkes without a scatch, stood up in proud consciousness of victory, yet Bennett fought manfully till, getting a stinging sufficit of the nasal sledge-hammer, he lay his full length, and cheerfully, like a game fellow, walked across to acknowledge his opponent the best man of the two, after a lapse of 16 minutes.

The Cook’s River fighters became celebrities.


GEORGE HUFF begs to inform his friends and patrons, also the sporting public generally, that he purposes taking a Benefit at the Tennis Court, Sussex-street, on Friday, the 27th August next, on which occasion he solicits from them that support which it has ever been his study to deserve, and has hitherto  been so liberally extended to him.  

The whole of the Cook’s River fancy, including the Sprig of Myrtle, and the celebrated Old Un will be present to show off on the occasion…..Tickets 2s. 6d. each, to be had at all the sporting houses in the city.  

October 1847 saw another contest in the Cook’s River area. Banslow is more correctly Peter Hanslow, the seventeen year old son of Peter Hanslow senior, transported for seven years in 1819 and was the licensee of the ‘Dog and Duck Hotel’ on Parramatta Street (now George St. South) which became the headquarters of the National Sporting club.


This enlivening little event came off in a paddock not a hundred miles from Cook’s River, on Tuesday, in the presence of a tolerable muster of fistian-ic connoisseurs and young native gentlemen, whose taste for such exhibitions is remarkably striking. The match (for £10) was only made on the previous evening, and arose out of a difference of opinion between the belligerents, upon some very important point doubtless, but which we are unable to chronicle from want of information.  

About eight o’clock in the morning Brickfield Hill presented an extremely animated appearance, from the number of “vehicles” collected there, and which were evidently mustered for the purpose of conveying the men with their respective admirers to the favoured bit of turf, wherever its locality might be.  The office was given for the New Town road, and away went cabs, carts, horsemen and toddlers, at a pace that threatened destruction to every orange-barrow in the neighbourhood… The promised spot was reached without accident, barring a spill or two; and about ten o’clock the men made their appearance in the ring, Banslow waited upon by Bill Sparkes and Dutch Sam, while Hough and another gent did the amiable for Turbot.  

On coming to the scratch the disparity of appearance between the men was readily perceived. Banslow being much taller and longer in the reach than his antagonist, and looking considerably fresher, although his attitude was inferior to Turbot’s…..The fight continued for two hours and thirty five minutes, during which sixty-two rounds were fought, the latter twenty of which were in direct opposition to the wishes of Mr. Turbot, who at determination nailed four rum uns on the left ear, which satisfactorily cooked his goose, and all the eloquent persuasion of the Houghs could not prevail on him to continue the contest. 

Published in January 1848, fight results reveal how popular a venue Cook’s River was.


HANSLOW beat Turbot, alias “the King of the Kids,” at Cook’s River ten pounds a side, 62 rounds 2 hours and 35 minutes.  

SPARKES, ISAAC, beat Bennett at Cook’s River, ten pounds a side, 11 rounds, 35 minutes.  

SPARKES, TOM, alias “the Sprig of Myrtle,” beat Jem Bennett in the same ring as the above, ten pounds, 4 rounds, 16 minutes.  

Continuing his literary prowess, in spite of his suspected illiteracy, Tom Sparkes issued the following challenge prior to Anniversary Day, in 1848.


I’ve do doubt, my bold sailor, you proudly opine, 

That from out of my cobra you’ll take all the shine;

That your fist with its sledge hammer force, (so says fame)

Will break through my science and beat out my game.

Yet, you’ll find that the SPRIG is not easily cowed – 

Though you’re hard as a handspike and tough as a shroud;

For my tight heart, undaunted, beats gloriously still, 

And my digits are ever alert in a mill.

Yes, believe me my nipper, your Van Dieman bowscript

With a crash ‘gainst my Botany boom will soon go slit:

But what I’m afraid will give Tasman’s land grief, 

Is the manner in which both your topsails I’ll reef, 

And your binnacle lamp I’ll soon doubt in the uppers:

Whilst with your best claret I’ll rinse out your scuppers.

Your tarpaulins I grease o’er again with your blubber, 

And clearing your gun-deck, I’ll claim the grand rubber.

One act yet remains e’er I shove  on my rag.

I’ll haul down your mizen and capture your flag.

Au revoir – when we meet you will learn there’s no lark, 

About your obedient Cook’s River TOM SPARKE.

Before the end of January the following appears.



This match …. came off as appointed by the articles on Tuesday morning last at Middle Harbour, in the presence of 1,500 spectators

After 7 rounds –

On time being called, Ryan’s seconds considerately gave in for him and …… the gallant SPRIG was proclaimed victor….The confidence of the backers of thc respective men, and the universally circulated whisper that a long and gallant mill might be expected, having been thus set at rest…, we deem it scarcely necessary to reiterate our conviction of the superiority of the winning man in every essential pugilistic qualification; while of Ryan we can merely say, that “although game to the back bone” he can never hope to compute successfully with the practical science of a finished boxer such as Sparkes. 

In late April The Sydney Herald reported,

PRIZE FIGHT AND CAPTURE – Information reaching Inspector Higgins yesterday morning that a prize fight for £5 a side, between  two men named Green and Yeardon was to come off at Mudbank, near Cook’s River, he immediately proceeded thither, accompanied with a party of police, and arrived on the scene of action just as the fourteenth round was being completed. The praiseworthy attempt to secure the combatants owing to the crowd present, was no easy duty, as every possible attempt was made to get the men away, and in which they were successful with Green, whilst the police, with considerable difficulty, secured the second man Yeardon, and brought him into the city and confined him..Herald, April 20.

THE PRIZE FIGHT. – On Saturday last, Yeardon, who had been captured on the previous morning by Inspector Higgins, at Mudbank, on the Botany Road, while engaged in a prize fight for £5 a side with a man named Richard Green, was placed at the bar of the Police Court….. Inspector Higgins deposed as to his apprehending the prisoner stripped and fighting in a ring, which was surrounded by about 400 persons; and it was evident Higgins, considering the character of the parties present, had displayed considerable courage in making good his capture. Yeardon, who showed by his appearance (his eyes being nearly closed, and his face greatly bruised,) that he had received…before the arrival of the police, severe punishment, offered no defence, and was directed by the bench to enter into recognizances of good behaviour for twelve months, himself in £100 and two surities of £50 each, or in default, to be imprisoned in Sydney Gaol  for six months.  –  Herald, April 24.

Bell’s Life in Sydney, the sporting paper of the day, didn’t share the enthusiasm of the police’s efforts on the day.

ALLUSION was made in our last to a fight which was in the act of taking place at Mudbank, near Cook’s River, on Good Friday morning, when the arrival of Inspector Higgins and a portion of the distinguished corps to which he had the honor to be attached, put an end to the affair; one of the combatants, named YEARDON, alias YORKEY, being taken prisoner, while GREEN, the Vandemonian, (from Van Dieman’s Land, now Tasmania), his opponent. succeeded in retreating from the field …  We deem it unnecessary to say more than reiterate the opinion before expressed, that a more disgraceful occurrence never sullied the annals of the Australian Ring. At the same time we entertain a hope that we may never again be called on to express our unqualified censure of a similar act; for not only is it calculated to degrade the profession of the pugilist, but in a measure reflects on the supporters and patrons of those members of the Ring …..

May 1848 saw the return of William Sparkes (‘Fighting Bill’, the ‘Australian Chicken’) to the Australian ring. Now having the alias ‘Johnny Heki’, after a brief sojourn in New Zealand, the fight nevertheless was billed as Ireland against Australia.


The spot selected for the fistic tournament was situated at George’s River, … which despite the intricacies of its approach, we contrived to reach with comparitive ease, from the knowledge previously acquired of its two bearings. Every manoeuvre to thwart the interference from the uniformed myrmidons (police) of General Wearin’s (Chief Inspector of Police) CORPS was successfully brought into play, and the result was that a select muster of the right sort, numbering certainly not less three hundred, assembled in eager anticipation of being amply recompensed for the exertion and inconvenience by which alone they were enabled to gain this sequesteredl nook. Numerous were the disappointments of those to whom it was not deemed expedient by the Masters of the Ceremonies to“give the office” on the previous night; while scarcely less numerous were the mishaps and misadventures which befel many of the favored few in their zig-zag meanderings o’r hill and dale, rock and gully, scrub and plain, in their resolute endeavours to be “all there” at the appointed hour. The backers had arranged that their men should join company at (George) Dent’s (‘Rising Sun Hotel’ at Canterbury) at six o’clock, a.m. and thence proceed to the scene of action. 

This agreement was duly carried out, and the champions meeting within a few yards of the rendevous, SPARKES marched towards the convincing ground with “hasty step and air elate,” distancing his less agile antagonist, and arriving at the ring exactly at half-past nine, promenaded through it, hailed by a universal cheer from the expectant multitude.  

Considerable delay here occurred, and whispers were rife that a second dish of “gammon”(deceitful nonsense; bosh.) was about to be served up. At length when expectation had arrived at its climax, his Nobship appeared in the offing… 

SPARKES was chaperoned by the Sprig of Myrtle and Bungaree, while Carroll and Bill Davis did the amiable for the PET. The Australian made his CONGE (bow.) first, and was received with vociferous cheering, only exceeded by the thunder of applause which greeted the Irishman as he dived between the ropes.  

The usual preliminary having been satisfactorily adjusted, at 11 minutes to 12 o’clock the heroes of the day toed the scratch, and ……..

Six minutes already done; Sinclair resolved on mischief, pursued the rushing game, jumping upon his man and merrily working with his right sledge-hammer. The hero of Cook’s River appeared to be out-fought …… Paddy rushed at him …. drove him to his corner; in-fought him with tremendous body blows, and Sparkes, in attempting to escape the slauterous shower was dropping, when the Pet administered a second electric upon the throat, from which all hope of recovery was futile.  Sparkes fell and was borne senseless to his corner – a death-like stupor almost indicating a fatal termination to the combat. On time being called, he was carried to the scratch by his seconds… and he sunk powerless at the feet of his conquerer, after a struggle not exceeding eight minutes in duration.  

In July came the re-match.


£100 TO £80




The brief but slashing RENCONTRE between these men on Thursday, the 4th of May, having resulted in favour of the Patlander, the defeated party ….. lost no time in entering into communication … with a view to the renewal of hostilities.  

After a protracted negociation, in which the proposition of the challengers, that Sinclair should reduce his weight was decisively negatived, a treaty was at length concluded, articles signed, and the men handed over to their respective trainers, preparatory to a second appeal to arms. On this occasion, Sinclair’s party backed their “Pet” at £100 to the New Zealander’s £80, at which odds the betting was stationary from the first official notification of the fact, until within a few hours of the time appointed for the fray.  

The training of the Emeralder was again entrusted to his faithful squire Solly,  while Sparkes retired to his romantic and sequestered studio at Cook’s River …. under the brotherly superintendence of his private tutor, the “Sprig of Myrtle,” 

Every description of vehicle from the spicy barouche (four wheeled carriage) to the unpretending market-cart, speedily stowed away their cargo of live lumber, and the “murmur of many voices” swelled the morning breeze, and floated away in the distance as the heterogeneous cavalcade, enveloped in clouds of genuine brick-dust, left the slumbering city, with its sluggard thousands far behind. 

Preceded by an AVANT COURIER (scout or advanced guard) on whose fidelity previous experience fully warranted our confidence, we committed ourself to the road, behind a pair of thorough (colonial) breds, game enough to face… the ruts, quagmires, &c. …. whose dangers were in all probability magnified in anticipation, by reminiscences of a previous pleasure excursion to the delightful LOCALE of Frog’s Hollow (Rockdale area). Pulling up at Gannon’s (hotel, licensee Michael Gannon, site is now the corner of Gannon St and Princes Highway, Tempe, a celebrated venue for sportsmen of all persuasions) our vow of rigid abstemiousness (registered to the day only) was challenged by a host of friends …..  but … we successfully resisted the temptations of the Anti-Matthewites. A bevy of mounted sportsmen drawn up in line, smilingly greeted our approach by the extension of whip, finger, or nod, as the humour took them. Here was in truth assembled an heterogeneous mob. Contrast the loud talking, go-a-head, square-elbowed gentleman on the fiery chesnut with the placid looking individual …..while the free and easy swagger of the monkey, with his hat on one side, who has just galloped up on a thirteen hand pony is plainly indicitave of his own opinion that nothing and nobody there was good enough for HIM.  Having hastily partaken of a cup of “Mocha,” which suffice to banish every symptom of drowsiness and rendered us wide awake to the whispered inuendoes appertaining to the CHAMP DE  MARS, (field of Mars, or war) our jehu (a reckless coach driver) once more mounted on his perch, and by the aid of a few feet of Scott’s patent whip-cord, coaxed his cattle into an exhilerating trot.  

Immediately after passing the Cook’s River Dam, a cry of “breakers a-head” from the pilot, struck ominously on our ears, and further progress was temporarily obstructed by the remains of a shattered “CABRIOILY,”(two wheeled hooded, one horse chaise) the late occupants of which, with elongated phizes, were engaged in detaching their panting Rosinantes (old worn out horse of Don Quixote) and hopelessly puzzling amongst the mysterious intricacies of the harness, implored the aid of all passers by in lachrymose strains, amusingly interspersed with ejaculations only to be found in the latest edition of the “Slang Vocabulary.”  

Insensible to the moving entreaties of the suppliants, we contrive to shave their “break”and resolutely plunging into the sandy defiles of the bush, the metal of our prads (horses) so confidently guaranteed on the outset by coachee (coachman) was severely and successfully tested. Slowly but surely did we follow the intricate windings of the labyrinthine track which rumour whispered led to the already roped arena, and for upwards of an hour, … the sand-embedded “stumps” …. threatened effectually to impede a further advance……….

Eventually arriving at the destination, hopes ran high for the local favourite.

The colours- ‘Australian Blue’ and ‘Emerald for Ever,’- having been tied to the stake, the toss for corners was won by the Irishman, and every remaining preliminary satisfactorily arrranged.


Round 1- Both men advanced with alacrity – the disparity in their condition was apparent to all, Sparkes showing splendid training, as fine as a star, with his flesh firm, and wearing the unmistakeable hue of vigorous health, while Sinclair, on the contrary, exhibited a looseness of muscle, and a flabbiness altogether the reverse. As they threw themselves into position, the attitudes of the belligerents was strikingly beautiful………

16th and last – Sparkes, bewildered and groggy, opened the ball by a heavy lunge on the ribs. Sinclair not to be outdone in politeness, planted heavily on his favourite spots, the head and neck. A slashing rally followed, in which severe exchanges took place. Sinclair now seemed bent on mischief, and, as though resolved to bring matters to a conclusion, rushed into his man right and left, giving him four terrific jobs in succession with his left, and a fearful stinger under the left lug with his right, closed, and throwing his man heavily, effectually sent him to slumber. (Vociferous cheering for Paddy, while backers of Sparkes bore their insensible champion to his corner) Time was called in vain, and the ear of the gallant Australian being deaf to the summons, the sponge was thrown up in acknowledgement of defeat, while amidst the congratulatory cheers of the gratified spectators, Sinclair retired almost scatheless…. after an unusually rapid, brief, but intensely exciting fight of sixteen rounds, not exceeding SEVENTEEN MINUTES in duration.

Next we read about –


This interesting event followed on the heels of the contest between Sinclair and  (William) Sparkes, and contrary to all expectations, turned out one of the spiciest affairs that has found a record amongst colonial P.R. annals. A fight for a purse is generally synonymous, with a few innocent rounds, and “cut it;” but the case was altered here for the parties concerned could not have contested for a prize of five hundred with more earnestness, than for the insignificant five or six pounds, which was all that could be mustered amongst the sporting fraturnity who graced the four-and-twenty feet arena with their presence on Wednesday last.  It was at first proposed to match Port Phillip Edwards against Isaac Sparkes, just to test the quality of the stranger; but as this did not appear to suit the book of the Cook’s River Bloomer, Tom King stepped forward to accommodate him: and as he bore about him evident marks of seediness, both in toggery (clothes) and condition, he was accepted without much hesitation, and those who had spun their half crowns and shillings into the golgotha, (a place of suffering or sacrifice) were glad to perceive that they were likely to get a little sport for their money. …

Although this fight was brought to a sudden close by a foul blow, yet it is the opinion of disinterested judges that Scroggins would have worn out Sparkes and won the event under any circumstances. The Bloomer does not possess any good fighting qualities; his hits are by no means punishing, as his right hand after half-an-hour’s contest was never closed; his wrestling qualities are of the worst description, and during the protracted period of the struggle he did not succeed in throwing his adversary a single burster. Scroggins’ science is by no means first rate, but he is quick on his pins; his darts are rapid and against an  opponent of his own weight will, in all probability turn out dangerous. No two things can be entertained about his gameness; he fought up-hill throughout and never flinched from punishment even when most distressed. He is a fair upstanding boxer with a good nob and wiry frame, linked with a constitution that can stand much wear and tear.  ……

With respect to Isaac Sparkes, it is unnecessary to add another word, except that he does not profess to be a fighting man, and that the foul blows which lost him the battle were given more from an anxiety to win, and a want of the control over himself so essential to a pugilist, than from any intention to terminate the contest by unfair means.

In August, publication of a biography of William Sparkes.


The subject of our present theme is one who pursued for a long time an almost unimpeded career of success, but against whom luck has turned of late…. This man is WILLIAM SPARKES. He was born in …. 1820 at the Cook’s River, at a place called Sparkes’ Camp, or Folly, as some wiseacres are wont to christen it, and evidently of a fighting family, as his five brothers are all celebrated for deeds of arms, although, with the exception of Tom and Isaac they never entered an orthodox ring. William or Bill ….. began his pugilistic career at the early age of fifteen, at which period he encountered Harvey for £20 a side, at the celebrated WEEDON-ian Gardens on the Parramatta Road. (Thomas Weedon, licensee of the ‘Cherry Gardens’, Parramatta Rd, now Petersham) But after fighting 10 rounds the trapps interferred, and robbed Bill of the laurels which he was about to gain, by placing him and his opponent in the watchhouse… A couple of fights for love, in which Bill proved a winner, encouraged him to try his luck in 1835 with Joe the Nailor, for £5 a side at Cook’s River; and after a hard fight of 20 rounds, which occupied 29 minutes, the Nailer was hit too hard on the head … Bill was declared the winner, which the more creditable to him as the one was but a loose trained lad and the other by a strong, well-set man. Not long afterwards Barney Byrnes fought him for £20 a side. Bill was getting all the best of the fight when he was accused of having administered a foul blow and the money was handed over to Byrnes…. The confidence of Bill’s friends was not shaken in the least by this untoward event, and they backed him in 1836 against Bill Hall for £25 a side. This was determined in favour of Sparkes, who polished this man off in 25 rounds, which occupied 33 minutes.  

Shortly after this, Bill conceived that the marine breezes would brace him up to fresh efforts … he left his Cook’s River DAM and mother earth to plough the briny for New Zealand….. in 1838 … he determined to … locate himself amongst the …. tattoo-mugged race. Having tumbled over one Davie Gibson, who fancied himself a little, Bill managed to scramble up a match for £50 a side, in which he came off victorious, having severely punished his man in 7 rounds and ten minutes time, almost without a scratch. He then returned to Sydney and was pitted against Bill Matthews for £10 a side, a “six foot-er and 13 stunner,” to use his own expression, whom he sent to grass to come no more, in 3 rounds which occupied 7 minutes in fighting. Bill Hall again shied up his castor for £10 a side “made a WORST FIST of it than before,” as he fell before his conquerer in 10 minutes, during which 7 rounds were fought. In 1839 he fought Bill Douglas, another Boomer, for £5 a side: this fight he won in 8 minutes – 7 rounds.  

These feats brought our hero down to the year 1843, when he was matched to fight Agnew for £50 a side. The event came off at George’s River, or rather it did NOT, for some paultry bubble was raised upon the occcasion; Agnew refused to fight any more and fifty shillings were handed over to Bill to induce him to consent to the stake being drawn. Bill next encountered Joe Shaw, a  12 stone man, of six feet standing. Fifteen rounds were fought, and twenty minutes had expired when a cry was raised that Bill had struck his opponent a foul blow as he was falling. This affair was canvassed and given against Sparkes who complained bitterly of the decision, but, at the same time remained “mum,” as the Stakeholder …. did not hold a “licence” for attending prize fights, and his chances of renewal might have been lessened by making his name too “public.” In 1845 he got the best of Joe Marshall for £25 a side, in 10 minutes, during which 7 rounds were fought. He was then matched against Charley Wootten for £20 a side. The fight came off at Mudbank, when 64 rounds were fought which occupied one hour and twenty-five minutes. In this fight Sparkes was bare footed and experienced great difficulty in polishing Wootten off, as the latter fell in almost every round to avoid punishment. Bill Davis, the pride of the muffle-handlers was next opposed to Sparkes for £100 a side in the same year. The fight lasted through 63 rounds which occupied precisely the same number of minutes, when Sparkes was declared the winner.  This was an up-hill fight from the third round, when Sparkes broke his right hand between the knuckle and the wrist, and was afterwards unable to use it through the fight. In 1846 he hustled Tom Corderoy, the Brewer of Parramatta, out of £100 in seven rounds which lasted nine minutes, and retired literally without a scratch.  

Sparkes’ love of travel again came over him, and …. he embarked for England …. in the latter end of 1846….. he fought Langham of Leicestershire for £50 aside in 1847, and succumbed to him after a game fight of 67 rounds in 63 minutes, having broken his arm in the 62nd round. As a testimony of his pluck and good conduct the Richmond P.R. patrons presented him with a small silver cup which, in September 1847, he had the pleasure of exhibiting in person, to his Sydney friends who greeted his return with cordiality amounting almost to enthusiasm. Since that period he was matched against Green the Vandemonian for £20 a side, but the money was drawn in order to make a heavier match with Paddy Sinclair, who had arrived from Port Phillip expressly to fight him… he has our hearty good wishes for his success, whether it be in the quiet walks of domestic life, the stirring warfare of the P.R., or the bustling course of the foot race. As a proof that he has never really forfeited the confidence of his friends he can now be backed to run any man in the Colony one quarter of a mile from £50 up to £100 a side.  

September 23rd 1848, Cook’s River was again in the news.

An exhibition …. took place at Cook’s River yesterday, between two aspirants for fistic honours, named Kenny and Lawson. the belligerents were both of the “petite” order, Kenny weighing very little over eight stone, and his opponent about ten pounds heavier. Although the fight was for a small sum, it had created considerable excitement among the pugilistic fraternity…. Some trifling interruption occurred on the part of the police, who acted in the most praiseworthy manner, using their utmost endeavour to prevent a breach of the peace, and only succumbing when there was scarcely a possibility of their being successful in the attempt. ….. The fight lasted about forty five minutes, during which time thirty three rounds were fought, all in favour of Kenny, who took the lead and kept it throughout, scarcely receiving a blow…. 

Another contest took place on the ground for a purse, between two rough subjects of the brickmaker order, who were wise enough to earn their money as easily as possible, by shaking hands after six rounds.

Reporting this event in more detail


This “little event” which has, during the last month, excited no small degree of interest in the milling circles, was brought to an amicable and satisfactory settlement on Monday last, in a snug corner, sacred to the mysteries of Fistiana, conveniently situated within half a dozen miles of the metropolis.

Time …. flew apace, and within the half hour we were safely deposited at the door of Gannon’s snuggery, before which a line of vehicles was drawn up, in the order usually observable in a train of baggage waggons on a forced march, viz,“here there and everywhere.” Alighting we were ushered by the courteous host into his “best,” to the right, and orders for an unlimited supply of mulled port having been forthwith issued, we meanwhile proceeded to the boudoir of one of the principals in the approaching tourney. Kenny was reclining between the blankets, attended by his faithful squire Bill Sparkes, and impatiently awaiting the summons to the field. He spoke with confidence as to the issue, and his condition certainly warranted the favourable expectations entertained by his friends; while Lawson in a chamber adjoining, was at the same time holding a levee, and expressing equal ardour for the strife.

The articles stipulating that the men should enter the ring between the hours of 10 and 12…. suddenly the appalling cry of “traps in sight,” occasioned a temporary pause, followed by an embarrasing silence and a gradual desertion of the hero’s tent by volunteers, to enquire into the accuracy of the rumour. Yes…. a formidable phalanx of Innes’s Brigade, under the command of Inspector Smith, evidently on the laudable errand of spoiling sport. A consultation of upwards of an hour, resulted, however, in a unanimous resolve to “take the field,” and the line of procession being quickly formed, the men were forthwith escorted to the tilting ground, the rear-guard, consisting of the trap detachment and a brace of metropolitan pie-men with their smoking wares.

On approaching the hempen-bound amphitheatre, we found commander Smith, and Co. in possesion, prepared to challenge all comers, and apparently jealous of the prior pretensions of the bruisers, and eager for a practical demonstration in their own persons of the “noble art.” Nothing daunted, however, the cabbage trees soared aloft, followed by the combatants ….. The interchange of a few polite personalities, and an exchange of cards between the traps and the “young uns,” being followed by a graceful retreat of the former to the most eligible spot for witnessing the denouement, skins were promptly cast, and … the word was given for THE FIGHT.

Both men showed evident signs of careful training, particularly Kenny who was as fine as a star. It struck us that Lawson was a little too fat, an opinion which was subsequently verified by his flesh swelling far too much for a finely trained man, however severely punished. Lawson manifestly had the advantage in length, height and weight, but these were supposed by the majority of the spectators to be more than counterbalanced by the superior science and quickness of his antagonist. ………

Round 33 – Lawson again reeled up to the scratch, Kenny seeing his condition very generously refused to lift his hand to him; Lawson’s seconds then threw up the sponge, and Kenny was declared the winner after a forty-five minutes contest.

PROCEEDINGS OF THE POLICE…… On his return to town, sixteen informations for a breach of peace, were laid by Smith against parties indiscriminately, who whether by accident or design happened to come within the range of the Inspector’s gluttonous optics, not even excluding OURSELVES, who to the best of our humble endeavours, attended solely for the purpose of “putting down” the mill. For the concluding act in this out-and- out FARCE, we refer our readers to our Police Columns.

Another newspaper “named and shamed” but the magistrate appeared to think there was little to be ashamed of.

THE STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.- Yesterday, there were summoned before the Police Court, William Nash, Michael Gannon, James Chambers, William Sparkes, Thomas Sparkes, John Barnett,—– Kenny, David Taylor, Joseph Napoleon Dillon, George  Ferrers Pickering, Daniel Donovan, ——– Lawson, Robert Gannon, Charles Nichols, Joseph Hilton, and John Thomas Gannon, charged with a breach of the peace. Of the several parties all answered their names except Nash, Robert Gannon, and Lawson. The case had its origin in a prize fight occuring in the vicinity of Cook’s River, on Monday morning last, and the information of Inspector Smith, after acerring that he had with some few of the police force endeavoured to prevent it, he and the constables were hustled out of the ring. About 300 persons were present, and amongst them he recognised the several parties summoned. They were aiding and abetting in the fight, and Donovan was the stakeholder. ….

The Mayor then dismissed the case against the parties present, but ordered warrants to issue against William Nash, Robert Dillon (Gannon?), and John Lawson. Subsequently Nash hurried into Court, submitted he was not aware the case would have been called on so soon, and from his plaintive plea and tone, Mr. Holden, who was then sitting, directed the apprehension warrant not to issue. As neither Lawson nor Robert Dillon adopted Nash’s course, the writ of course issues against them.

Lawson’s plea –

John Lawson … one of the sixteen summoned to appear before the Police Court on Friday, for aiding and abetting in the breach of the peace, caused by the late prize fight, at Cook’s River, and in consequence of whose non-attendance a warrant was directed to issue, was yesterday brought before the Police Court. The defendant excused himself for not answering the summons, by stating his absence from town when it was left at his residence, and this excuse being allowed, he was discharged. Lawson was one of the pugilists, and is a mere lad, and his personal appearance betokened his being the loser of the fight.   

Family addition, October1848.

BIRTH. – On Saturday last, at the residence of Mrs. Stone, in Pitt-street, Mrs. William Sparkes of a daughter, who, in time to come we trust will be the mother of another illustrious pugilistic race of the Cook’s River breed, the truest and best in the Colony.

In spite of the valiant efforts of the police force, and the absence of any sentence from the Magistry, by December activity had resumed at Cook’s River.

Pugilistic.-An encounter for £10 aside, took place at Cook’s River yesterday, between Jack Kenney and William Smith….This was anything but the slashing fight that the prowess of the two men had given promise of, both being apparently fearful of each other. The fight lasted three and a half hours, during which time only nine rounds were fought; the first round taking one hour and fifteen minutes. Neither of the men were much punished, and Smith was declared the loser by going down without a blow. Another encounter between Hillyard and Stirling afterwards came of on the same ground, in satisfaction of an old score, and after a good battle of an hour’s duration, Stirling was compelled to cry peccavi (acknowledge guilt).

The Cooks River area’s popularity as a venue continued:-

Chronology of the Ring for 1848.

GREENWOOD BILL (alias the Lancashire Hero) beat Jim Hunter alias Dusky the  Otaheitian Swell at Mudbank for 10L., 46 minutes.  August 28.

KENNY beat Lawson at Cook’s River for 12L. 33 rounds, 45 minutes.  Sept. 18.

KENNY beat Smith the tailor at Cook’s River for 10L., 9 rounds, 4 hours.  Dec. 27.  

KING, THOMAS (alias Ruddy) – beat Isaac Sparkes for a purse at White Gum Hollow, 94 rounds, 1hour 35 minutes.  July 5.

SINCLAIR, PATRICK (alias the Enfield General) – beat Bill Sparkes, alias Johnny Heki,  at George’s River for 100L.  aside, 7 rounds, 8 minutes.  May 4.   

SINCLAIR, PATRICK (alias the Enfield General) beat William Sparkes alias Johnny Heki, at White Gum Flat, for 100L. to 80L., 16 rounds, 17 minutes.  July 5.

March 1849 –

Prize Fight.- A prize fight for £50 a- side, between two men, named Green, a Vandemonium, and a second of the name of William Sparkes, was arranged to have come of yesterday. It seems however, that on the arrival of the pugilists and the intending witnesses of the exhibition at the spot selected, a place called Gum-tree Flat, situated near Cook’s River, some eight or nine members of the police force were found there. After a vast quantity of growling and murmuring at the interference, a dispersion ensued. Only one of the pugilists is reported to have come on to the ground, and he therefore claims the stakes, as he was ready to fight in spite of fifty police, whilst his adversary is stated to have been close at hand, but declined under the circumstances making himself in any way conspicious.- Herald, March 21.

A detailed description of what took place –

Stoppage of the Mill between Bill Sparks and Green.  

The excitement produced …. by this match was of the most stirring character, and hundreds of pounds were staked upon the event;  it may therefore be readily conceived that the fight being stopped on Tuesday last was a bitter disappointment ….The toss for choice of ground was won at the last deposit by Sparks, but the greatest secrecy was reserved as to the whereabouts of the ring until Monday morning. On that day the men were weighed according to agreement, and the backers of Green were informed of the spot chosen for settling the event. Both expressed themselves confident of winning, Green uproariously so……Throughout the whole of Monday the sporting houses, Douglas’ particularly (Thomas Douglas, ‘Toogoods Hotel’, Pitt St) were thronged with anxious enquirers; and the office having been given in the direction of Cook’s River, without stating how far beyond; dragsmen, pradsmen, and toddlers began to move some hours before the dawn of Tuesday, determined to keep themselves fresh by spending the intervening time under hospitable roof of that worthy old sportsman, Gannon, where they booked themselves to find good entertainment: …..several hundred had mustered round the old sportsman’s domicile all anxious, eager, and comfident of a first-rate mill and no interruption; but, as the sun began to shed … light upon the scene, the dreadful sight…..of eight blues, headed by that ring-hater Inspector Smith, met the gaze of the horror-stricken multitude.”…… The ring was pitched within three or four miles of the spot where the legal busybodies stood,….the men were housed within a few yards of them; and to evade the vigilance of the sharp Inspector and his myrmidons was deemed a matter of impossibility. The backer of Sparks endeavoured to throw them off, by dashing away at a breakneck pace, and doubling them on their way to the ring; but the Blues were too downey to be caught napping: and soon made their appearance at the ropes….  another ruse was adopted, and a second ring was pitched two miles further off.  Nothing, however, could put the constables off their scent; and after lingering about till long after midday, the mass of the metropolitans wended their weary way home, thoroughly disgusted with the unfortunate issue of affairs.  ……  

By July 1850, Bill Sparkes and Jack Kenny had other ideas on seeking their fortune.

SPARRING IN CALIFORNIA.-The Australian milling coves who left Sydney for California are getting on in good style at their sparring exhibitions, held at “The United States Tavern,” Portsmouth Square, in San Francisco. Bill Sparkes, Bungareaubbee Jack, Jack Kenny, and Teddy Sadler, carried on a roaring trade, and had ample opportunities of pitting their science against the American boxers. Both Yankee Sullivan, alias the Ginger, and his antagonist John White, were there: and the latter upon several occasions set to with Sparkes…….The prices of admission charged were from one to two dollars a-head.

By September 1849, the efforts of the law forced contests to be held further from the city. A report in early 1850 identifies George’s River as the area but is not more specific.

Following forty seven rounds in which George Young beat Joe Bidders –

A PURSE was gathered which was contended for in the same Ring by

Peter Brenan, the Cook’s River Ginger, and Alec White, the  Little Dubbo.  

Peter was attended by Bill Sparkes and a stranger; Jack Thompson and a countryman did the attentive for Alec. On showing in their buff, the disparity between the men was extraordinary. Peter looked as stiff and big as a gum tree log, and Alec as slim and delicate as an Italian greyhound. But there was something about the latter which inspired the greatest confidence in his friends, and induced them to believe he would bring Peter down to his own weight.  By way of a change three-quarter minutes time was substituted for the usual half-minute.  

Round 1 – ,,,, the men did not lose a single moment, but went to work with determination of cutting the job out very expeditiously. Severe exchanges took place between them, the Ginger napping on the body, and Alec more on the head; he received a right-handed hit on the cheek-bone which left a fearful gash on it. In a scramble he went down.  

2 – Alec came up bleeding freely, but all alive; he feinted with his left, and slung his dexter mawley into the Ginger’s ribs: Cook’s River rushed into a close, in which he got cleanly and cleverly thrown.  

3 – Peter was careful and wide awake to the moves of his opponent. Alex tried his right hand at the body, and was countered on the eye; a few hits were exchanged, after which they closed, and Alec again threw his antagonist.  

4 – The men went at it again ….  giving each other hit for hit; the round was finished by Peter being sent down by a right handed hit on the jaw.

19 to 32 – The mugs of the men were beautifully painted, and both were piping. In fact they had out-fought themselves, and had done much more than enough for the money. A proposition was made to share the money equally; but this being rejected ….. The fight then proceeded for eight rounds, during which both received severe punishment, Brenan encountering some very heavy bursters. It was then agreed to “divide,” an arrangement which did not seeem to please either of the combatants, who were too game to countenance any proceeding which might seem to imply that they had had “enough.” 

For Peter Brenan this may have been the hardest money he had ever earned. In November 1851 we read –



On Saturday, Joseph —–, and M’Callum, his mate, turned up a nugget within thirty yards of the above named quartz ridge, weight 17 oz., On the same, the Cook’s River Ginger (Peter Brenan). and Darby Hendrick, his mate, came across a nugget 2lb. 8 oz. 1dwt., avoirdupois, besides about 4 ounces from their cradle...

By December –

The most important event of the week is the arrival in town by the government escort, on Thursday last, of Peter Brenan’s celebrated nugget from Loiusa Creek; this splendid piece of gold in the matrix weighs 27 pounds 9 ounces, and is unquestionably a very beautiful specimen. It has been placed in the hands of Mr. W.G. Cohen for sale, and will be submitted to public competition at his rooms this day at 12 o’clock.

In January of 1850 a summation of fights for the previous year shows Georges River as a favoured spot.

Chronology of the Ring for 1849.  

Bennett beat Chorner, in  11 rounds, for a purse, at Cook’s River, 20th March.  

Davis, Aby, (Heki, the Jew Boy) beat Crook’s River Paddy, at Cook’s River, for a purse, in 12 rounds, April 17.  Time 23 minutes. 

Green, Dick, (the Vandemonian) beat Bill Sparkes, for  L.100 to L.70, at George’s River, April 17, in 23 rounds.  Time, 27 minuters.  

Perry, the Black, beat George Hough, at Rocky Point, for  L.50 a-side, in 4 rounds, October 10.  Time, 4 min. 30 sec .

White, Alec., beat a Stranger from the Cow Pastures, for a purse, in 26 rounds, at George’s River, March 20;  fought at same spot with Peter Brenan, for a purse,  September 18, when,  after 40 rounds, the battle money was divided.

Young, Geo., beat Joe Bidders,  in a fight for L.25 a-side, at George’s River in 47 rounds, Sept. 18.  Time 2 hours 18 min.  

In July 1850 it was still thought possible to have contests at Cook’s River.

WARREN (John Warren) AND TRAPSTICKS (a stick used in playing trapball, a fore-runner of cricket, hence a slender leg) –  A match has been made between these two P.R. outsiders, which will come off on Monday morning, not one hundred miles from Cook’s River Dam. The time of entering the ring will afford every Sydney sporting man an opportunity of taking his breakfast before starting. Warren is known as the conquerer of the game Cook’s River Paddy, and Trapsticks has acquired considerable celebrity in the neighbourhood by the ease and skill with which he polished off several dangerous customers, the belligerents are pretty equal in weight – 9 st.  The affair will be a slashing one, and will amply repay the exertion of a drive out.  

A week later a report appeared.

Gallant Passage-at-Arns between Young Warren and Trapsticks.

“Lord! how bright today, 

Up before light today –  

Where is the fight today!

Down at ______

But this must remain a mystery, as the worthy gentlemen clad in blue garments, who look after the moral conduct of the inhabitants of Sydney, have a most decided aversion to the encouragement of Pugilism, and are always on the qui  vive (alert or lookout) to fish out every tittle of information which will give force to their attempt to repress that Art… The office of the whereabouts having been given to our intelligent boy, who is tolerably wide-awake to sporting events, he started on Monday morning, after he had lined his inside with matutina (morning) alias breakfast-table dainties, in the direction pointed out to him, namely, not a hundred miles from the Cook’s River Dam: a locality which has been the scene of many a gallant P.R. tournament. On reaching the Sporting Tavern there, he found a goodly assembly mustered, on the tiptoe of anxiety for the coming fray. Before time was called for a move, Mr. Quin, the tight-rope dancer (who had toured much of the Colony and had tight rope walked across the Yarra in Melbourne in 1849) exhibited some of his extraordinary evolutions on the cord, and the contributions of the spectators was the best assurance to him that his talent in that particular line was fully appreciated. This piece of amusement was wound up by a call to the Ring, which was pitched on a lovely bit of turf by the side of the river…. But scarcely had the train got up the steam, and were in motion, than they were up with an alarming fit “blue devils” by the sight of three policemen, who came fully determined to prevent the fight. Neither persuasion nor anything else could alter their resolve, and ample testimony can be borne of the tenacity with which they stuck to their purpose. They obeyed the orders from Head Quarters as far as they could, and every credit is due to them for their perseverance, notwithstanding the numerous difficulties they had to encounter both by land and sea.  

The knowing ones adopted the ruse of taking a water excursion to Mud Bank, and for this purpose they engaged all the boats which were visible; but scarcely had they freighted these with adventurous navigators…  and congratulated themselves on having escaped their enemies, when their exhilaration was stopped seeing the policemen embark in a skiff which had been most accountably overlooked in the bustle. “No go,” was again the cry. The voyage to Mudbank and back was performed without a hope of seeing the affair brought to a termination. But the lads of the village were bent on it, and while their foes were kept in tow, a Ring was formed in a convenient paddock, the men were quietly removed to the ground, and the contest was begun and ended without further interruption.  


On peeling, those men showed the marks of careful training. Warren, though more slightly built than his antagonist had the advantage in reach, which was particularly perceptible through the combat. The frame of Trapsticks is of the square build, and he exhibited the appearance of a wiry, hardy customer, and an antagonist not to be grinned at, as he was represented to possess wrestling qualities, and in fighting very superior to those of Warren. The odds, slightly in favor of the latter were greedily taken up by the Cook’s River chaps, who looked upon Trapsticks as a nonpariel (having no equal). After going through all the friendly ceremony, including the last grasp of hands, the seconds retired to their respective corners and the fight commenced.  

ROUND 1  –  Warren’s attitude was very superior to that of his antagonist; he kept his hands well up, and his body carefully poised on his pins; Trapsticks, on the contrary, appeared extremely awkward, and was evidently a novice.  ….. a struggle ensued in which Trapsticks managed to get his man down.  

2 – …. first blood was claimed for Warren, the crimson fluid being seen to issue from his antagonist mug; a rush, a rally; mutual exchanges. Trapsticks slipped and fell.  

24 –  Warren lost no time in putting the polish on poor Trapsticks, who endeavoured in vain to stop him: he napped severe pepper and in a close was thrown heavily on his shoulder, which was reported to have been put out. On time being called, his seconds threw the sponge for him, and Warren was hailed the conquerer after a gallant contest which lasted thirty-one minutes.  

Georges River was the preferred option in April 1851.

The Gallant Pugilistic Contest between Jack Bailey and Tom Sparkes, the Australian Sprig of Myrtle, for One Hundred Pounds a-side.

The interest excited from the commencement to the finish of this fistic struggle has seldom been equalled, and never surpassed, in this Colony. Men of all ranks, from the capital down to the base of the pillar of society, plunged into its details with intense avidity, despite the croaking anathemas of pseudo-saints and whining of white-chokers (a clerical collar)……  although the police were upon the road, yet they were only in a position to prevent the contest from taking place in the District of Sydney; but, as this was never intended, the arrangements for the day were not inharmoniously disturbed.

Throughout Monday the Douglass’ Sporting Caravanserai (an eastern Inn) was thronged with anxious enquirers as to the whereabouts; and at night the outsiders assembled in hundreds, …..It began to be noised abroad that Jack had shown tremendous give and take qualities in several previous conflicts, and that the Sprig of Myrtle, …. had not come up to the stipulated weight (11st 5lbs) by some pounds, while Jack was 11st 11lbs, and in good fighting trim. Be these the facts or not, it was evident that the Sprig was not quite so great a favorite as formerly.

George’s River having been telegraphed as the scene of the action, the miscellaneous lot dispersed; some to court “the downy”(sleep) for a few hours, and others to keep it up all night, as the best means of being ready for an early start. The rumbling of wheels and trampling of steeds were heard throughout the city two hours before day-break, and when bright Sol first shot forth his beams….  the Cook’s River road presented a motley scene…… 

As the morning advanced, this lot came along full of pluck and hilarity. ….

Having pulled up for a snack and a wash-down at the Raal Ould Hibernian (Irish) Sportsman, Mick Gannon’s,(‘Union Inn’ at what is now Tempe) the proceedings of the morning were communicated, to the effect, that the Sprig, who trained in the vicinity of Cook’s River, was handy to the ground, that Bailey (who did his work at Captain Edwards’, Middle Harbour) was in advance….and everything was progressing most favourably.

On again dashed the adventurous, and despite the drawback of a most tarnation (damned), varminty( troublesome) road, all reached the (Georges) River in due time, and crossed in safety to the convincing ground,…. Horse-Rock Point, (Sylvania at Tom Ugly’s Bridge) lying between Cumming’s Point (Taren Point) and Frog’s Hollow (Rockdale), was the spot selected fot the occasion, and it could not have been better chosen; the soil was sandy, and close by the river side; a circumstance which allowed the saline breezes to extend their invigorating influences to the belligerents, and somewhat neutralize the effects of the intense heat of an Australian sun.

A strong outer ring of posts and sapplings to prevent incursions of the crowd, the whole arrangements of which were left to the care of Bill Sparkes. Two hours before the commencement of hostilities hundreds had collected on the ground, and every tree in the vicinity of the “roped square” was crowded with human trunks, and the infant fry squatted like monkeys upon, apparently, very insecure perches…..Shortly after ten o’clock the Sprig made his appearance, and skimmed his cabbage-tree into the ring; he was hailed with deafening shouts which made the welkin (heavens) resound: he was attended by his brother Bill, and his countryman Bungaree. A lapse of several minutes occurred before Bailey condescended to show, but when he did, under the direction of Dan Donovan and Mavis, he received a hearty welcome, to which he bowed “quite politely, quite politely,” as the old song says. After getting within reach of each other the men shook hands with great cordiality. The umpires and referee were soon chosen, the ceremony of peeling was completed, and at twenty-five minutes to eleven the men were conducted to the scratch, and the seconds retired to their respective corners. At this moment nothing but level betting was heard of and very little was done at that. The men looked well and confident; but it seemed that Tom had a slight advantage in conditions; he was as fine as a star, while Jack appeared too fleshy; those who knew him, however, declared that he usually looked so, and his flesh was firm as a rock. Tom was rather the taller of the two; Jack showed the finest muscular proportions; his upper build was formidable and sturdy; but his pins, though clean, were a trifle too light too carry him through a long a wearing fight. the colours being tied to the stakes, the blue and pink stripe for the gallant Australian and the old-fashioned bird’s-eye blue for the Stranger, they commenced the FIGHT.

Round 1- The position of both men was artistical; each covered his points, was well on his guard, and ready to give or receive. ………..

8 – Both millers had been receivers general, and yet the account was not settled. The Sprig, however, had evidently out-fought himself, and was much distressed, while Jack had recovered his second wind, and was getting as fresh as a daisy. 

9 – Tom weak as a kitten; his antagonist strong as a bullock; mutual exchanges, in favor of Jack, who threw the Sprig over the lower rope, and walked to his corner. 

10 – Bailey did not lose a moment; he hit out right and left, and bored the Sprig down. 

11 – The “tie up” was clearly at hand; Tom’s strength was ebbing fast, and he was powerless to prevent the heavy lunges of his sturdy opponent. Two or three hits were exchanged between the men: Jack planted his left on the ribs; Tom in making a hit, spun round, and, when on the turn, Jack delivered a tremendous spank on the nasal organ with his right, which sent poor Tom to grass, his head  also came against a stake to make the visitation more pleasant, and he was taken up in a senseless state. He was deaf to the call of time; the sponge was thrown up for him, and Bailey was declared the winner of the Battle, which lasted eighteen minutes and a half. Jack immediately went over and took his fallen antagonist by the hand in the most friendly manner, …..Tom continues insensible for more than a quarter of an hour, when he became sufficiently recovered to be removed from the ground.


The fight as long as it lasted, was creditable to both men, and was one of the busiest and most determined witnessed for some time. The punishment up to the last few rounds was pretty much on par, but in these the Sprig had … the worst of it.

August of the same year.


The Short but Merry Mill between Joe Rogers and Jack Kenny, the Eel, for Forty pounds a-side.

This important and interesting battle between two little known good ones was decided on Tuesday. In order to accommodate the prejudice of pseudo-saints and vociferous psalm-singers, we scrupulously forbore publishing any information which might “disturb the harmony of the meeting;” however, as the affair is all over, no such padlock is placed upon our lips. ……

On the night of Monday it was declared that the money was all down; the combatants sound in wind and limb, and both in the vicinity of the convincing ground; the direction to which was “George’s River”. There was no mistaking a locality which has long been so famous for “deeds of fists,” and we travelled homewards through a pelting rain fully determined to be up with the dawn and face the perils of the road. And these, as it turned out, were by no means trifling,





were the sounds which greeted our ears on Tuesday morning as our venerable eight-day clock struck five. We must confess that never came upon us so strong a disinclination to quit the “downy” as then; but “business before pleasure” being our motto, we threw off the snoozing fit, put our dexter pedal supporter on the carpet, and were wide awake in a moment. A cup of strong Mocha, impregnated with the contents of two lovely specimens of the egg genus; and fortified by a slight dash of alcohol, made us fit for anything. We took to the “water” like a duck, and in a jiffy found ourselves under the hospitable roof of Mick Gannon, the raal ould sportsman. Here everything was prepared for our reception in the usual friendly way, and our host ready to convey all the information he could as to the doings of the day. It was but little .. we could glean; the rain had literally thrown “a damp” on everything,……

Bell’s Life in Sydney recorded.

Chronology of the Ring for 1851…..

Rogers Joe, beat Jack Kenny for £40 aside: 5 rounds, 12 1/2 minutes, near Cook’s River Dam, August 26.

In September of 1851, sport was to be had at Kingsgove.

The Passage at Arms between Joe Rogers and Jack Kenny, at Fifty Pounds aside.

The issue of the fight between these bantams on Tuesday, the 26th ultimo (the previous month), was so unsatisfactory that …. another opportunity was afforded them of meeting to decide the knotty point. The friends of Jack came boldly up with their half hundred, and the well-wishers of Joe posted the two ponies (a pony being £25) with unmistakable pleasure. Articles were duly signed and sealed and the day of nomination was fixed for Monday last, it being very properly conceived that the Royal Indigoes (violet blue, the police force) would have so much to do in the City that it would prevent them interfering …… As neither of the lads on the former occasion weighed anything like nine stone two pounds, they were allowed to fight catch (unrestricted) weight. Rogers bumped down eight stone and a half while Kenny scarcely turned eight stone four pounds; at scaling, both however, were in first-rate condition, and the backers of each equally confident on the event.

On Saturday night we received information that our horses heads were to point southerly, and, on Monday, at seven A.M., we found ourselves exchanging a friendly word or two with the representative of Mr. Charles Obie, of the Sydney Toll-Bar (Parramatta Rd, Broadway). That intelligent “locum tenens,” after lightening our pockets of sixpence, informed us that “both men was ahead, and if ve vent to the Sugar Vorks (at Canterbury) most likely ve might see ‘em.” We thanked the communicative finger-post and drove on.

After passing the hostlerie of Mr. Cherry Gardens, Thomas Weedon, we were gratified by the vision of Cornelius Prout, Esq. (owner of  ‘Belle Ombre’, Canterbury, and collector of tolls at Prout’s Bridge over Cooks River.) ……  He graciously nodded to us, for which we beg leave to thank him. On we travelled till we reached the pleasant homestead of Mr. Samuel Taylor (licensee of) “The Rising Sun.”(hotel). Here every accomodation was afforded: and the worthy land-lady, with a face decked in smiles, and a tongue steeped in honey, actually forestalled our wants and guessed our wishes. Breakfast was before us like magic, and such a mututinal provision has seldom been equalled: we confess to having done it all due honour.“Don’t forget to call as you come back,” said the pleasant hostess.“Madam,” replied we, with drawing-room politeness, and placing our hand upon our heart,“there are events we can never forget-this meeting is one of them.”

To add to our good fortune, we received the welcome intelligence that both the belligerents were in the immediate vicinity; the ring was pitched within two miles of the spot, and not the slightest fear of interuption was anticipated…. Bets were made briskly at even money, and many hundreds were staked on the event. In fact, it was a really exhilirating sight: the PR. of Australia had risen like a phoenix from its ashes. 

At nine o’clock we found ourselves on a sweet little bit of turf on the Kingsgrove estate, which had been roped in most legitimately… for the glorious fistic tournament. two umpires and a referee were selected without any unnecessary delay, and in half an hour afterwards Kenny skimmed his castor into the convincing ground. He was greeted with lots of cheers: Joe followed him quickly, and his appearance was hailed with equal satisfaction. the Stranger and Belson were in close attendance upon him: Sparks and Teddy Saddler did the attentive for Kenny. The toss for corners and every preliminary arrangement having been gone through, the lads doffed the “camesa” (long loose shirt) shook hands, and commenced.


Round 1- On facing each other, both looked serious and thoughtful, but confident: after a minutes cautious sparring Kenny popped out his left hand, but it fell short: he tried it again, and caught Rogers on the cheek; after a little feinting and dodging he administered a similar dose. Rogers let loose his right, from which Jack jumped away. Jack tried his left again…

31-Rogers received three stinging hits on his damaged physog, which sent him all abroad; Kenny tried the game again, when Joe countered well on the body; Kenny staggered, but recovered himself, and prepared to renew the fight; Rogers followed his antagonist to the ropes, making some wild and random attempts, when Kenny fell…..The umpires were appealed to by the seconds, and the referee was then called upon to decide. This he did by declaring Kenny had gone down without a blow and therefore lost the fight. A scene of the utmost confusion then ensued; the referee was assailed with a torrent of abuse, and the honesty of his decision impugned, on the plea of his having some bets upon Rogers winning the battle. He managed to get away from the scene of action without being roughly handled; and after his departure several striking incidents took place between the partisans of the two belligerents. The contest lasted fifty-five minutes.

In May 1852, the comparative isolation of Georges River proved an attraction.


The Fight between George Young (The Birmingham Slasher) and Henry Stapleton (The Nottingham Unknown) for £50.

The preliminaries of deposit making, &c., for this encounter were conducted with an earnestness of intention, on both sides, which promised satisfaction to the admirers of the “noble science,” and the time appointed for the fray, Tuesday morning last, was anxiously looked forward to for a realization of their hopes. Young “conditionized” himself in the salubrious neighbour hood of Maitland, while the Stranger patronizes in turn the South Head and Cook’s River, where, under efficient supervision, he attained the high-water mark of training. On going to scale on the morning previous to the fight, according to the battle-contract, Stapleton, much to the surprise of himself and friends, was found to be 11st. 2  lbs, over weight. Vigorous remedies were immediately had recourse to, and by their aid, and severe sweating in the Domain grounds, he was brought down to the stipulated 10st. 4lbs. On the eventful morning the aspiring twain (two), escorted by their respective “suites,” took the road for the scene of action determined upon – the spot which witnessed the pretty struggle between Tom Sparkes and the Strangler- known as the Horse Rock, in the vicinity of George’s River. The attendance of spectators was unusually limited, not above a hundred at the outside being present. At half after 10 the castors of the belligerents gyrated over the heads of the by-standers into the convincing ring, and were speedily followed by their owners …  To give a detailed report of a “scrimmage” (we may not give it a more dignified term,) which occupied one hour and fifteen minutes, and the result of which, from the very first blow, was no longer a matter of speculation, would be taxing both our space and patience beyond their strength. Suffice it to say, that after the first round, 2 to1 was freely offered upon Young, who certainly took his leisure in administering the quantum sufficit (sufficient extent) of punishment to his glutton antagonist, and who, after scoring “first blood,” won the event without a knock-down blow. The Unknown has irretrievably established his reputation as a non-pugilist. He knows neither how to handle his fives (bunch of fives-hand or fist) nor to get away; in fact, any drayman or coal-heaver would have made a more creditable exhibition. The Slasher himself cannot be considered to have added a leaf to his chaplet (wreath) of laurels. He is beginning to wear, and his old vocation will stand him in good stead but a little longer.

In September of that year the ever vigilant police were well informed.

Fight Prevented.- it having been ascertained by the police authorities that a fight had been settled to come of on Wednesday morning near Rose’s public-house, Cook’s River (George Rose, licensee of the ‘Pultney Hotel’, now the site of the Stella Inn (Tempe Hotel) between a man known to them as John King, alias the Barber, and one Rogers, Inspector McCook and constable Harris (who had a very succesful career as a constable in the Cook’s River area, formerly an illiterate convict) on the morning went to Rose’s, and there found the Barber. Having captured their man, and explained their business with him, he protested he had no intention of fighting Rogers, and subsequently offered £5, and then £10, by way of largess for his release. He was brought before Messrs. McLerie and Chambers, and ordered to enter into recognizances to keep the peace  for six months, or in default of sureties to be imprisoned until the next Quarter Sessions. The Barber’s statement that he had no intention of fighting, was not taken for gospel, inasmuch as in consequence of his apprehension no fight took place.

Herald, 24.

TheChronology of the Ring” for 1852 shows just how much was at stake, had this bout eventuated.

King John, with Joe Rogers, £200 aside, police interference; King apprehended for being about to commit a breach of the peace; Cook’s River Road, 22nd September-ended in a draw.

For the rest of the year there was a fight at Canterbury, one at Horse Rock Point Georges River and three on the goldfields.

In 1853, at the White Horse Inn, Newtown, a contestant who had more talent with the needle and shears, tried his hand at something different.The White Horse, (licensee Michael Race), was at the corner of King and White Horse Sts. Newtown.

PUGILISM.-In order to wind up the sports at Newtown on Tuesday, a purse of  nine pounds was collected for competition. When it was heralded that Harry, the Cook’s River Tailor, would fight anything for the amount, of his weight, or half a-stone over. An “unknown lad” who happened to be standing by accepted the challenge, and chucked his castor into the Ring, he looked about eight stone four pounds, and a very quiet, silly customer. Harry, the Schneider (German for Tailor), was booked to win to a certainty; but there always are buts in imaginary certainties- the unknown did such execution in seven rounds that the unfortunate knight of the thimble and shears was compelled to say he was better dressed than ever he was before in his life. The unknown, only a handful, hits sharp, quick, and often, and is good-tempered, points not to be sneezed at in pugilistic affairs.

In May of 1853 liberated women entered the fray.


On Tuesday a “tol-lol-erable tribe” of the lark-tisers ride a mustered together in a joint corporate body, for the purpose of enjoying a milling match. The motley groupe was composed of all sorts and sizes, from those bipeds who inhabit along the non-easy acclivities of the mountainous Rocks, down among the fertile grass growing vales of Cook’s River. This exhibition of prowess was expected to exceed most of the modern gymnastic sports, and accordingly attracted its meed of patronage. The “buffers” were neither of the masculine nor neuter gender, but between both – they were consequently that gentler class of mortals, called women – neither maids nor widows……

By 9 a.m. the pugnacious duet commenced – Mistress Eleanor (romantic name) backed by her lord and husband, first threw down the gauntlet and approximated towards her antagonist in a most terrific posture….. Mrs Ann, who, for brevity sake may be called Mrs. A. not at all apparently daunted by her opponent’s postures, advanced to the “scratch” in a kind of jog trot, and close at her heels followed little Joey, some call him “knowing Joey 

(Cou;d this be Joseph Hilton, or Joe the Basket maker? His celebrated wife was Elizabeth, was she using an alias?) 

1/2 minute time was the cry. 

1st round –  a regular set to; much caution on both sides. By a feint Mrs. E. planted a tremendous crushing hit upon her opponent’s snuff-box, the claret flowed copiously, but had no other ostensible effect. Mrs. A, retrograding a little, returned the compliment with a slap a-la-Randal upon Mrs. E’s bread-basket- in a close both went down much exhausted. 

2nd round – Both came to the “scratch” pipingly, cautious fighting, a crushing hit contacted with Mrs. A’s earings, which was smartly repaid on the other’s peepers, which menaced the safety of her top-lights-both closed, fibbing away like true amazons. There was now a hard struggle for the fall, when both went down. Mrs. E. had the best of this round. 

3rd round – both much exhausted, Mrs. A. planted “a pretty posey” on the lamp of her antagonist; bravo, bravo’ was the cry from some – the lass from the land of potatoes was not to be daunted for nothing, but went to work in a true “Donnelly style,”(celebrated British pugilist) which had so desirable an effect on the other, that the latter embraced her mother earth, after a round of close fighting. 

From the 4th to the 10th round ‘twas all pulley hanley work ….. both seemed determined to make a finish. 

11th and last round, Mrs A shewing fight, cautiously bestowed a “gentle” hit on the “smelling bottle” of her antagonist, when a close taking place both went down. The Hibernian lady continued to use her “murphy (potato) squeezers” with some effect, but time being called, the mill was declared over. It would be difficult to decide which was best, as the scales of victory did not incline for either. The stakes were given up without opposition. 

Not one hundred miles from Canterbury, might have been the description of the venue for a contest in December of 1853.

SLASHING MILL between Joe Teale, the Windsor Nugget, and Tom Sparkes, the Sprig of Myrtle, for Fifty Pounds a-side.

This event ought to have been determined on the 15th November last, in the vicinity of the Windsor Road, but owing to the interference of the police, the seat of war was compelled to be shifted to another locality, at a future period… 

The Windsor folks, however, showed a little sulkiness about the stoppage, and it was some time before they would condescend to hear of any terms….  at length they listened to reason, and agreed to fight in the locality of Cook’s River, Sparkes allowing Teale ten pounds for expenses…..Tuesday, the 6th of December, was appointed for the passage of arms.

The utmost secrecy was preserved throughout, and the men continued their training on the quiet, Sparkes taking his airings at Cook’s River, and Teale inhaling the corn stalky air of Cornwallis (N.W. of Windsor) At length the eventful day arrived, and on Tuesday morning we found ourselves shortly after cock-crow, bowling away along the Parramatta Road, at the comfortably lusting (vigorous) pace of ten miles an hour. Our little mare seemed to be aware that she was again on the road to the mill…. It was not long ere we reached the hamlet of Canterbury, where a group of small houses look up with a species of awe and wonder at the tall chimney of the Sugar works, which condescendingly looks down upon them.

(By way of parethesis – we are shortly to be favoured with a Bishop of Bathurst, and a Bishop of Goulburn, let us be shown a good reason why we should not be graced by an Archbishop of Canterbury. There is a capital see from the top of the Sugar works.)

As we passed the friendly domicile of Hartshorn, (Barnabas Hartshorn, general dealer) his rosy mug gave me a “pleasant morning to you,” whilst his esput… in the direction of the onward road, conveyed the information to us that it was “all right.”

 We pulled up at the celebrated (Prouts) bridge .….. Here we deposited our silver sixpence, and really didn’t grudge it. The lady into whose palm it fell, smiled so courteously, that we wished it were a sovereign for her sake, this was the last gleam of sunshine we had.

For two or three hours we were compelled to be elevated and depressed, on one of the most horrible roads that can be possibly conceived; it was an admixture of stone quarry and bog. At last we reached a slab hut, round which were congregated some dozen raddled steeds, with dismounted riders, and a solitary drag, which showed manifold symptoms of the perils of the way. It belonged to our friend Phil, who unlocked his hospitable stores for us in a moment……we examined the contents of his prog (provisions) basket, and ….his cellar very closely indeed. Thus having refreshed our inner man, we proceeded towards the ring, which was formed about a quarter of a mile from the spot in a place where

The axe of the settler had scarcely been heard

And policeman’s foot never had strayed.

Here we found everything in correct order, and affairs progressing admirably.    

It had been agreed … that the fight should come off early …. and a few minutes before 8 o’clock , a.m., the men entered the ring; Teale’s shallow was skimmed in first, and the Nugget’s reception convinced him that he was amongst friends. The cabbage-tree of the Sprig swiftly followed that of the antagonist, and on Tom entering the arena, he was most cordially greeted. The preliminaries were arranged without any delay; Umpires and referees were selected in a minute, and at eight o’clock precisely, the men doffed the rag and prepared for the fray. Sparkes was looked after by his brother Bill, and George Rowley, the Smethwick youth, whilst Frank Norris and Harry Teale, did the friendly for Joe. The men, it must here be remarked, were weighed on Monday, and found to be under the stipulated weight of 10 stone 2lbs. give or take 2lbs. The betting before the commencement of the fight, was 2 to 1 upon Sparkes, and a good deal of money was invested at these odds. time being called, the men faced each other at the scratch; Sparkes seemed to us to be too much pulled down, and to have lost the power of struggling through a long and wearing contest; Teale, on the contrary, looked like a sturdy little Hercules, whose powers of endurance were equal to his pluck.

The style of the Sprig’s fighting in this contest created much surprise amongst his friends and admirers – it savored more of the novice than the scientific man, and was a manifest retrogression from his previous efforts…….

Sparkes was much punished about the head and body; his right hand, we are told, was broken in the third round, by coming in contact with his antagonist’s head; be it so or not, it is evident that from its swollen state during the principal part of the battle, he could not make any effective use of it. He has stated his intention of retiring from the Ring; his judgment is a wise one; and if he have lost some of his laurels by this event, he can solace himself with the reflection that he had previously gained sufficient under which to shelter himself with honor. 

Undetered by his defeat, a week later the Sprig sent out a challenge.

To the Editors of Bell’s Life in Sydney.


Nothing daunted at the result of my late fight with Teale, I beg to state that I am again anxious to meet him in the roped arena, and will fight him a fair stand up fight, at any time within three months from that date, at ten stone two pounds, give or take two pounds, for Fifty or One Hundred Pounds a-side. My money can be had, and all preliminaries arranged on giving me  twenty-four hours notice.


                Cook’s River.

N.B. This challenge will remain open for one month, and if not accepted, I shall consider Teale is satisfied of my superiority, and his inability to meet me in the Ring. Win or lose, I am determined to bid adieu to the RING FOR EVER. 

At the end of December Sparks upped the stakes.

To the Editors of Bell’s Life in Sydney.

Gentlemen.- In reference to Teale’s acceptance of what he is pleased to call my “plucky challenge,” I beg to state that as my sole desire is to have a fair stand-up fight, and no bubble, I will not consent to meet him in the District of Windsor, where I am convinced, from what he himself well knows, that the fight, as on a former occasion, would be disturbed, not having the money to spare, having already been put to considerable expense and inconvenience in travelling from Cook’s River to Sydney appointments made by Teale, I am compelled to decline either tossing for choice of ground, or paying him £25 to come to Sydney. I will, however, fight him as mentioned in my former challenge, for Two Hundred Pounds a-side, once within three months from the present time. If this does not suit him, let him at once declare that he does not mean fighting.

              THOMAS SPARKS, Cook’s River.

It is not until Boxing day, 1856, that the gentlemen of Cook’s River appear again in the columns of the sporting press.

Whether it was due to the valiant efforts of the constabulary, where this bout took place, even its approximate locality, remain a mystery even after the event.


Merry Mill between Synott and Saunders for £50 a-side.  

This fight came off yesterday to the satisfaction of all present. Money was freely offered on Saunders at 5 and 6 to 4;  but all things very distant as they thought there would be no fight – the Cook’s River gents enquiring for Synott who only shortly before the time appointed … made his appearance in a cab. Some of our old friends and faces made themselves useful in keeping the ring clear.  

Both men looked remarkably well considering the short space of time they had to prepare themselves for the event … Saunders made his first entree with great applause, shortly followed by his antagonist Synott, with a salvo of cheers from his friends. Some time elapsed before a referee could be appointed, but that difficulty was soon overcome. Even money on either man, and at about half-past 12 they peeled for THE FIGHT.

Round 1 – Great sparring on both sides for some time, when Saunders gave and accepted some heavy blows and Synott fell.  

18 – Both appeared very stale, but Synott the stronger, and he delivered on the chump of Saunders, which knocked him out of time, and his second threw up the sponge.  

This spirited mill lasted one hour and 17 minutes, and both men proved themselves made of the right stuff.

At the end of February, came the answer from the Teale brothers to Tom Sparks’ December challenge

Windsor, 16th Feb. 1857.

Gentlemen,- Perceiving in the last number of your valuable journal a paragraph entitled”The Revival of the Ring,” in which Bill and Tom Sparkes have challenged the two Teales, we at once decline that challenge, having retired from the Ring; but although we decline, being the principal actors in the drama, we should still like to see the P.R. go ahead., but we think it has but a poor chance if no better men than B. and T. Sparkes can come forward to support it. My reason for giving them this character is this. In the last affair between Joseph Teale and Tom Sparkes, any person that witnessed the contest must be convinced that Tom Sparkes can neither depend upon his pluck, science, or bottom (staying power) to bring him through, having been completely deficient in those essential points on that occasion, but in our opinion there was two he never possessed,- pluck or bottom- or he would never have thrown himself down 50 times out of 53, so much for the once-renowned “Sprig of Myrtle.”

As for W. Sparkes, we believe all honorable patrons of the Ring know him too well to expect anything in the shape of fair fighting from him. If they do not know him we would at once refer them to the time his Potrait was turned upside down in a well-known sporting house, kept by a very sporting gentleman, who  held the name of F. O’Donnell (Hugh F. O’Donnell, licensee of the Australian Hotel). We sigh for the palmy days of Hough, Reid, and Bailey, when pluck, science, and bottom, were preferred  to the now cowardly practice of points and trickery. Trusting that you will give this a place in your valuable Journal, and at the same time trusting you will pardon us for encroaching on your valuable column, we beg leave to subscribe ourselves,


              Yours respectfully,



This wasn’t the end of the vitriole.

To the Editors of Bell’s Life in Sydney.  Cook’s River, 27th Feb 1857.

Gentlemen.-In answer to the letter which appeared in your Sporting Journal of Saturday last, from Henry Teale, respecting my challenge, I suppose he has got all the bile off his stomach by throwing up all the trash it contained. If he thinks that such writing will get him from accepting my challenge he is very much mistaken, for I care as much about his writings as I do about him. I now challenge Henry Teale to fight him, catch weight, for any sum that we may agree upon. Should he not accept this challenge I hope he will have the sense to close his mouth, for I do not wish to fight in papers with any man.

                           I am, Gentleman,

                               Your’s obediently.

                                   WM. SPARKES. 

William Sparkes couldn’t interest the Teale brothers, but by February 1858 we have Sparkes verses Paddy Sinclair, the Enfield General. William had fought and lost twice to Sinclair ten years previously, suggesting that he is the Sparkes involved. Just where at Homebush the contest was supposed to take place is not clear. Homebush was more famed for its racecourse at the time. Cutts, licensee of the Homebush Inn, was known to have a yard in which three hundred could be accommodated for gaming.


SPARKES AND SINCLAIR.- These redoubtable heroes, each of whom would appear to shirk from the settlement of their differences, had after the necessary persuasion of friends, managed to meet on Tuesday last: the greatest secrecy enjoined on all sides as to the appointed battle ground, in consequence of the men being under heavy bonds to keep the peace. Accordingly at an early hour on Tuesday  morning, the select few in possession of the route proceeded towards Homebush, where an apology for a ring had been constructed, of dimensions, quite incompatible with the articles. Into this at 6 a.m. the Enfield General shied his castor, and after a suspense of about an hour and a half the Cook’s River champion entered an appearance; by some enigmatical mischance, which we think one or other of the men could explain (and we are not prepared to say which) the police were on the ground, and Sparkes positively, and of course judiciously, declined to risk the forfeiture of his bail bonds by fighting. Sinclair, however, expressed his readiness to risk the hazard of the die and on Sparkes resolute refusal claimed the stakes, £50 to each man, and so evaporated  the “bottle of smoke”.

In April, Joseph Hilton, or Joe the basket maker showed he was, unlike the Teale brothers, not the retiring type.


On Monday last Cook’s River was enlivened  by the impromptu meeting of Old Joe the Basket-Maker, and Tipperary Tom, for love and a belly-ful, to settle a grievance of ancient date, which had at length ripened into such goodly fruit as to be worth the gathering. A ring being duly fixed, at 11 a.m. Old Joe shied his castor over the ropes, which was quickly followed by Tom’s cabbage-tree, and the entrance of the men; the old one esquired by W. Sparkes and Ned Bitten; while Jack Saunders and Peter Brenan (The Cook’s River Ginger, who in 1851 had made his fortune on the gold fields) did the needful for Tom. Notwithstanding the great discrepancy in the ages of the combatants, Joe being 61 years of age, while Tom is said to be only 25, some pretty brisk business was done at 5 to 4 on the veteran.

ROUND THE 1ST AND LAST. Both men active on their pins, and full of confidence: Tipperary came up smiling, but the old one, nothing daunted, stood as firm as a rock. Suddenly Tom led off sharp with his right, but was neatly stopped, and caught a severe visitation on his dexter peeper. After a little sparring Tom again tried his right, getting home slightly on Joe’s left ribs, but at the same time napping a stinger on his left ear. The Old ‘Un at length succeeded in getting Tom’s nob (head) into chancery (a hopeless predicament), and was pegging away with a will, when he slipped and fell on his knees, in which position Tom struck him. A claim of “foul” was put in, and entertained by the referee, and the veteran was declared the winner. Joe says he will give any man a turn, of his weight and age, for £50.

May 1860, Tom Sparkes, “The Sprig of Myrtle,” is still out to prove himself.


HAVING heard that Peter Brennan and Saunders wish to fight me, I am prepared to make a match with either or both of them for from £5 to £100. Money ready at any time and place they may appoint. If they mean fighting and not bouncing, let them make a match.

                                                    THOMAS SPARKS, Cook’s River.

In March of 1861, Tom Sparkes found an opponent, but not a fight. One sporting journalist exercised all his literary skills when no contest ensued.

SULLIVAN AND SPARKES -The difference of opinion between these two men should have been decided on Tuesday, but owing to untoward circumstances ….. no fight took place ….. we left Sydney at a very “small hour” on that disagreeable Tuesday morning, comfortably lolling inside a weather tight carriage, and whirled along by four good nags, the only four-in-hand, by the way, that morning on the road. The other side of Botany Bay having been fixed as the trysting-place, to Botany we ordered ourselves to be conveyed; and at Puckeridge’s (John Puckeridge, grocer, Bay St. Botany) we found ourselves in good time, where a boat had been engaged to convey us to the scene of action. Meanwhile the “knowing ones” and those peculiarly “clever” in such matters, had made Cook’s River their point of embarkation, with what result we shall presently tell. Arrived at Puckeridge’s, we discovered to our particular horror that boats were not available capable of facing the heavy sea and strong head wind with which we must contend before reaching the spot indicated: and for a couple of hours at least we were “kicking our heals,” without much prospect of seeing a mill. “Sullivan” we knew was at Beaumont’s (Joseph Bank’s Hotel) in much the same pickle as ourselves; while, as far as we could learn, “Sparkes” had arrived overnight at within a short distance of the ground. After sundry consultations we at length chartered a cutter, (whose owner, by the way, had been applied to early in the morning by Sullivan’s backers, without success), and a party, over twenty, including Sullivan and his backers, the stakeholder, and of course a few of the “right sort,” at length started for the scene of action. Didn’t she pitch? and didn’t the salt spray  come over us? as tack after tack was made, with the smallest possible appreciable lessening of the distance between us and the haven of our hopes. Some of the scenes on board were ludicrous in the extreme, albeit we were ourselves in no very great humour to take fun out of them: some of our shipmates were jolly enough, while othersome looked the picture of misery: and it needed not the ducking of one, or the utter prostration of another, to make all agree that in future they were not to be “had at the same game.” However at length we got in sight of the place we so much wished to reach. We saw the steamer Victoria arrive with her living freight of “sick Sydneyites” and witnessed, with not a little spice of envy, their safe debarkation: but still we seemed as far as ever from the shore. In this dilemma we ran up a signal of distress, as also a flag denoting that we had Sullivan on board, upon which the steamer came off and we were towed in. Now indeed we indulged in the liveliest hopes. We had arrived at our point after much difficulty …. and at last we should have a fight. Not so however was it ordered: for just as Sullivan was landing from our boat, Sparkes left the shore and proceeded home with his friends, claiming the stakes as we supposed, because his opponent was not in the ring by 12 o’clock. Sullivan and his party were of course much annoyed, and at once gave the stakeholder verbal notice not to give up the money. We were annoyed not a little, but we consoled ourselves for our misfortune by half-an-hour’s excellent feeding, on a large rock of “Botany Oysters;” in which amusement we were joined by some admirers and backers of Sparkes, all of whom said they would sooner he had been beaten than that he should have left the ground in the way he did. At about half-past one we turned for home and after a pleasant sail to the Waterworks,(Sydney Waterworks,Botany) and a good jolting afterwards, arrived safely at our several domiciles about four o’clock…

All this time we have been forgetting our friends who went by Cook’s River. They never arrived at their destination, for having vainly endeavoured to make head-way, against the weather in Botany Bay, they had to give in, and turn their boats heads for home. 

What became of our gallant dozen. .. from Captain McLerie’s (John McLerie, Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police) “heavies,” to put a stop to the fight, we know not. We suppose Cook’s River to have been the extent of their journeying; and we hope they were among the occupants of some one of the boats which left that locality and had to put back. It is a great pity they don’t stay at home and be of some use; the sight of a “Peeler,” when really wanted, would do us a great deal of good.

Whatever the result may be, we think it a pity Tom Sparkes should have left the ground, when his adversary was so close at hand, even if he had not chosen to fight afterwards. Between ten and twelve was undoubtedly the time agreed on, therefore Tom acted upon the strict letter of the articles. We don’t think he would have left the ground as he did, of his own accord, but he must have had some advice given him. As matters stand we suppose he will never get more than his own money back, unless, indeed, they agree to fight another day. This is a strong case in favor of having a referee appointed before the day, as is now almost always done in England. had there been a referee on Tuesday, he would  either have decided in favor of Sparkes at 12 o’clock, or he would not have allowed him to leave the ring…

On Monday evening Sullivan was arrested in Sydney, and, being brought before “the Beaks” at the C.P.O on the following morning, was bound over to keep  the peace until the Quarter Sessions, himself in eighty pounds and two sureties of forty each. So stands at present this grand national fight. Of what has been done since Tuesday, or what is likely to be done, we prefer to say nothing. The most it is likely to come to is a “draw,” unless the men fight, which each says he is anxious to do; but, as the “blue bottles” are on the alert we shall keep it as “dark” as possible, for fear of being “flyblown.”

There was an air of pessimism amongst the sporting fraternity in April –

There seems to be a fatality attached to everything connected with the Ring in New South Wales; and we much fear that the bringing off a fight has become a matter of such difficulty as to prevent even the most inveterate admirers of the art of self-defence from attempting the Herculean task. We are not in a position to speak with much certainty, but we imagine that the affair pugilistique between Sparkes and Sullivan will not come to much more than the one alluded to above.

Surprisingly a few days later Sullivan and Sparkes met, but not in the Cook’s River area.

PRIZE FIGHT.- The long-contemplated prize-fight between the two men, Sparkes and Sullivan, which has on more than one occasion been interrupted by the exertions of the constabulary, was brought to a conclusion yesterday, in a secluded spot in the vicinity of Blacktown – the principals and their friends having, with some trouble, managed to keep the matter secret until within a few hours of the encounter. We learn that the spectators who made it a point of being present at the disgusting scene, appeared chagrined at the shortness of the struggle; the battle, as it is termed, lasting but little more than half an hour. Seven rounds were fought. Sullivan, who received scarcely any injury, being declared the victor at close.

A sporting journal summed it up.

But little remains to be said. Sullivan fully maintained his character as an accomplished bruiser; and Sparkes has furnished an additional instance of the absurdity of old married men attempting to come up to the deed of their youth-in such cases youth must be served…

Subsequent to his fight with Sparkes, Sullivan fought in Bathurst in 1862, and the following year went as far afield as Hobart for a purse of £150. He was  licensee of the Sportsman’s Arms, Pitt-street Sydney.

Pugilism in the Cook’s River area seeems to have ended “not with a bang but a whimper.” What contributed to this may have been the effectiveness of the law and the area’s comparitive closeness to the city of Sydney.

The next featured sport on Cook’s River is shooting in all its forms.