Ernest Laurence

Ernest Laurence [1876-1963]
Mayor of Strathfield 1917-1918 & Alderman 1915-1918

Ernest Laurence [1876-1963] served as an Alderman on Strathfield Council from 1915-1920 and was elected Mayor of Strathfield in the years 1917-18. Ernest Laurence at age of ten, wrote to NSW Premier W B Dalley in 1885 offering contents of his moneybox to patriotic funds for Sudan Contingent and referring to himself as a ‘little boy from Manly’. This gesture was duly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7th March 1885 and attracted the attention of Livington Hopkins; a cartoonist recently arrived from America, working for The Bulletin magazine. Inspired by the reporting of Laurence’s gesture, Hopkins created an Australian symbol ‘The Little Boy from Manly’ in April 1885, which came to stand for a people who had not yet grown up and was ignorant of the ways of the world. The reproduction of this style of political cartooning was possible by the Hopkins himself, who brought to Australia the first photo-engraving equipment.

The ‘Little Boy from Manly’ appeared in cartoons for many years and seems to have disappeared during World War I, when Australia was judged to have come of age as a nation at Gallipolli [Bongionro: 2001]. As Vane Lindesay writes in The Inked-in Image [1979]:

“The Little Boy from Manly was probably a justifiable image before Federation, for, from its inception The Bulletin, it did most to make Australia believe she was growing up. But The Little Boy from Manly, like Peter Pan, never grew up. For some reason this symbol of Australia was perpetuated in The Bulletin’s political cartoons by other artists long after Federation and Nationhood”.

The Little Boy from Manly is also cited as an influence in the development of the comic Ginger Meggs by Jim Bancks.

Aside and perhaps despite his ‘fame’ as the ‘Boy from Manly’, Ernest Laurence followed his father’s profession and was admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1901. He married Isabelle Spiers Brown in 1902 and lived at ‘Dagworth’, 39 Homebush Rd from 1907-14. Laurence acquired land in Victoria St Strathfield and built in 1914 a large Arts & Crafts style mansion named ‘Bellevue’ [8-10 Victoria St]. Also known as ‘Win Bin’. Laurence served as Alderman on Strathfield Council from 1915-20 and as Mayor in 1917-18. Laurence died on 25th October 1963.

Laurence was the son of solicitor Charles Albert Laurence [1845-1925], who arrived in Sydney with his family in 1853 and was admitted to practice law in December 1867. Laurence went into partnership with [MC] Stephen & [SA] Stephen and later formed partnership with sons in Laurence & Laurence in early 1890’s. His specialist area of law was company law and retired in 1920. He was a member of the Law Institute [1855-1925], councillor [1886-1909], volunteer soldier and Alderman on Manly and Ashfield Councils. Laurence resided at ‘Birralee’ in Albert Rd in his later years and died on 21st August 1925. ‘Birralee’ has since been demolished.

Reference

Bongionro, Frank, ‘Conditions Precedent’ in Worker’s Online Issue No.115, 12 October 2001. Worker’s Online is published by the NSW Labor Council on www.workers.labor.net.au

Gibbney & Smith, A Biographical register 1788-1939: notes from name index of the Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol II L-Z, National Library of Australia, 1987.

‘Australian Political Cartooning’, Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts, 2003.

Sydney Morning Herald, 7 March 1895, page 14

Vane, Lindesay, The Inked-In Image, Hutchinson, Victoria, 1979.

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