From The West Australian, 17 May 1918
Ernest F. Parker – An Appreciation
“Ernest F. Parker – killed in action.” Thus did the sporting community hear yesterday that one, who had afforded many of us such pleasure on numerous occasions and demanded our highest esteem and regard, had earned a soldier’s grave. What greater ending had any man? Yet how sorrowful the news makes us. Sorrowful because one had only to know Ernest to find out what a sterling man he was. Unspoiled by continual success, retiring in disposition, yet jovial on occasion, a thorough sportsman and a good trier, it was little wonder that he was a most popular figure in cricket, tennis and golfing circles.
Born on November 5, 1883, Parker was in his 34th year. His early education was obtained at the Perth High School and he completed his studies at Saint Peter’s College, Adelaide. Articled to the firm of Parker and Parker, of which his father is still a member, Ernest passed his law examinations and was admitted to the Western Australian Bar. From the time of his admittance up to the time of his enlisting with the Australian Imperial Forces, he was associated with the firm. Upon enlisting, Parker was attached to the artillery section of the forces, and at the time of his death was serving as a bombardier in his battery.
Just as ‘Bobby’ Selk may be regarded as the peer amongst bowlers of this state, so could Ernest lay claim to have been the greatest exponent of the batsman’s art that we have had. Frail in figure, it was amazing where the power behind his strokes came from. He was truly a wizard with the bat and without a doubt was one of the greatest players Australia has had. Lack of opportunity alone barred his way into an Australian Eleven, for all who have seen him play freely admit that a season or so in regular first-class company would have put him amongst the most celebrated batsmen of all time.
His batting would be difficult to explain. His attack was always his defence, and he was scoring from the first ball sent down. He made every orthodox stroke possible with the same ease and decision of the master, whilst the power to dispose of certain balls in an unorthodox manner just gave him the “wizard touch”. The ball flew from his bat always with terrific pace born of perfect timing. His scoring was always hard to stop, so many shots did he possess. If he had a weakness as a batsman, it was a tendency to nervousness when first going in, and a penchant for over-indulging the pull stroke, which often brought about his downfall, but which nevertheless brought him in hundreds of runs.
He may also, perhaps, have lacked the power of doing big things on damaged wickets, but even on these he was a power to be reckoned with. All kinds of bowling came alike to him and he paid scant courtesy to any trundler. Bowlers feared him, and well they might, for he was always on the attack. In the field he was always brilliant. I can picture him now at cover in a big match, alert and quick. He gathered the ball in splendidly off the ground, and had a swift, accurate return to the wicket whilst his hands were very safe indeed for anything in the air. Opportunity did little for his bowling, yet on occasions he has sent along some fair overs.
Probably Parker did more to make our inter-state games worth watching than any other man, so entrancing were his methods. With him at the wickets there was never a dull moment, and spectators would settle themselves to a cricket feast. Up to a few years ago he was always the wizard, but failing eyesight toned down his play immensely, and he had eventually to give the game up, much to his own disappointment.
His play always struck the members of any visiting team, and many were the laudatory comments made. Perhaps the opinion of J.J. Lyons will hear bear reproduction, for it but covers the comments of many other good judges: “Ernest Parker is my fancy, and a great cricketer he is. I cannot imagine that there are many better batsmen in Australia at present than he is. What pleased me most of all was the number of strokes he has – one a beautiful hook, a feature of which is the easy and graceful way he has of bringing it off. Then he has a lovely square-cut past point, which travels to the boundary like a shot. I like, also, the way he jumps at a slow volley. Altogether I place him in the first eight batsmen in Australia. He is also a beautiful field.”
To go fully into Ernest Parker’s performances would take up more space than can be given here, but a few of them will, no doubt, prove interesting. I saw almost all of Ernest’s best cricket, but one performance is as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday. It was for the High School XI against Guildford, on the old ground alongside the Anglican Church. I fancy it was the first time Ernest had worn long pants, and he was a frail little chap of about fourteen summers. He went in first, and was opposed by “giants,” comparatively speaking, and on a hard wicket. Yet he battled like a magician, and strung together as fine a century as one would wish to see.
For his school he made many fine showings, and later in Adelaide in the annual “Saints versus Princers” contest he did many fine things in most approved style. He was always at the top of the tree in local pennant games, and helped East Perth and Wanderers to record many of their best wins. The finest thing I saw him do in pennants was on the far wicket at the W.A.C.A. Oval. East Perth had lost, I fancy, three wickets very cheaply before East Fremantle, for whom E.F. Palmer was bowling, when Ernest arrived at the creases. He went off at a great rate and, unravelling a galaxy of strokes, smote the bowling all over the field, to the tune of over 200. He was out before time, so one can imagine the rate of scoring.
Another fine effort was on the same wicket for East Perth against North Perth, when E. Bishop, Raynor and Grogan were tuned up to the number of 249, made in three hours; whilst yet another fine effort, more in quality than in size, was one of 70 odd when things were going very badly for his side, in a game against “Bobby” Selk at Fremantle Oval.
Amongst his many fine innings for the state team against visiting teams, three stand out in my memory.A century he made against South Australia was a gem, and an innings against New South Wales on the W.A.C.A. Ground was full of direct merit. In this latter effort he scored 69 in 40 minutes against the attack of Hoskins, Macartney, Barnes and Frank Johnson, without giving the semblance of a chance; and he made the bowling, good though it was, the simplest stuff imaginable. The third effort of which I speak was against South Australia on the Fremantle Oval. A fast bowler named Hansen opened for the visitors, and Ernest despatched five of the first six balls to the boundary, and every one by a perfect shot.
Ernest received an invitation to play for the Rest of Australia against the Australia Eleven in Sydney and Melbourne, and performed very creditably. At Sydney the game was spoiled by a wet wicket, but at Melbourne he showed his skill in a great innings against Cotter and Co. He opened the innings for the Rest with Mayne, and was first out with the scoreboard showing under 100 runs, of which Ernest’s contribution was 77. I asked that grand old cricket scribe, Tommy Horan, when in Melbourne some little time ago, whether he remembered the effort, and the old fellow just said: “Yes, yes – the very champagne of batting.”
In the sporting arena Ernest’s great powers did not stop with cricket, for he was also the champion tennis player of the state, and his game was always delightful to watch. Quick, wristy and always looking for a winner, he made his play most charming. He won many championships here, and in exhibition games against Norman Brooks, Anthony Wilding, Alfred Jones, Harry Parker and others, showed some wonderfully good tennis. After giving up cricket Ernest Parker took to golf, and was fast coming to the front in that game. At school he was a fair footballer and runner, until a “knee” stopped his further indulging in those branches of sport.
The greatest sympathy will be extended to Ernest’s parents, Mr George Parker and Mrs Parker [née Marion Ada Clifton], of Adelaide Terrace, Perth, who always took the liveliest interest in their son’s doings. Mr George Parker is one of the fathers of cricket in this state, and a gentleman who has worked hard for all that would help the game along.
From virtual war memorial.org:
From the book Fallen Saints: When war was declared the following year  Ernest Parker was twice rejected through poor eyesight; he persisted and was finally accepted on 27 October 1916. At the beginning of November he was posted to Blackboy Hill, Western Australia, and was transferred to Maribyrnong, Victoria, in March. There he joined the 12th quota of reinforcements for the 10th Field Artillery Brigade and sailed from Melbourne with that quota aboard the HMAT Ascanius on 11 May 1917.
He was hospitalised for five days during the voyage due to seasickness and no doubt he was pleased when he disembarked at Devonport, England, on 20 July. Following two months training at Larkhill on the Salisbury Plain, he sailed from Southampton on 19 September and two days later marched into the 1st Divisional Artillery at Rouelles. There he was taken on the strength of the 1st Division Ammunition Column, and on 10 October 1917 was posted to No. 2 Section until being posted to the 5th Battery, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, on 6 November.
In January 1918, after returning from two weeks Paris leave, he attended a three-day course at the Divisional Pigeon School. At the completion of the basic course he was detached to the Divisional Signal School where he underwent further communications training before rejoining his unit in the field on 4 April 1918.
Gunner Ernest Parker, 102nd Howitzer Battery, 2nd Brigade Australian Field Artillery, was killed in action on 2 May 1918; he was 34 years of age. In his will he asked that his Alcock Tennis Champion Cup be given to the Western Australian Lawn Tennis Association to ensure competition for it continued after the war.
When interviewed at the end of August 1918, Gunner Nelson Bowen said Ernest Parker wore glasses, came from Western Australia and had been an interstate tennis and cricket player. He said that, on 2 May 1918, they were in action at Croix Rouge when Parker was killed by shell fire which landed right outside the office. “I buried his body at a cemetery about one kilometre from where the railway from Caestre to Borre crosses the road to Croix Rouge.”
In September 1918, Driver Herbert Arthur said that, on 2 May 1918, while they were at Caestre, Ernest Parker and Gunner Robert Fenton Irvine were killed by the same shell and were later buried in separate graves at La Brearde. “Crosses are erected. I have seen graves and saw them killed.”
After the war, when filling out the particulars form for the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll, Ernest Parker’s father, George, included two press clippings covering his son’s outstanding tennis and cricket career. He noted that his only son had been twice rejected for service on account of poor vision and that, although he wore glasses full time, he continued to play first class tennis but was forced to retire from cricket.
Ernest had obviously played a lot of football, for in his notes his father reports that his son had “football knee,” which necessitated him wearing an elastic kneecap and that he had twice seen him carried off the tennis court with a dislocated knee. Mr Parker stated that he, like many of his friends, was of the opinion that his son should not have been accepted for active service, particularly as he was an only son.
“His letters to me showed, that although he liked the work on the guns when in action, he found the other work most trying and beyond his physical strength, and it was a constant struggle to carry on. He was killed by a stray shell while his battery was out of action. Taking all the circumstances into consideration he was, I think, one of the heroes of the war.” – George Parker
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