Charles Esmond Parkinson
- 91Wallaby Number
Born on 3 October 1886 in the country town of Colinton, Esmond Parkinson was the son of H W Parkinson, Resident Engineer, Macrossan Bridge, Charters Towers. He entered the Brisbane Grammar School (“BGS”) in 1898 from Townsville Grammar School. He stayed until 1901 when he left to attend the Maryborough Grammar School before returning to BGS in 1902. Parkinson was keen on rugby and played centre for the First XV in 1903 and was captain of the First XV in 1904 and 1905, although he left the School at midwinter in 1905.
In Criticisms of the Team featured in the School Magazine of 1905, the Editor wrote of Parkinson: Thorough master of his position at centre three-quarter. Runs strongly, and kicks well. His defence is sure, and his tackling excellent. His interest and unfailing energy have rendered him exceedingly popular, and now that he has left the School the best wishes of the team go with him. After leaving BGS, Parkinson became a Railway Engineering Cadet, looking to follow in his father’s footsteps. Wishing to continue playing rugby, he looked naturally to the Past Grammars’ Rugby Club.
After an unsuccessful season in 1904, the Past Grammars’ Rugby Club was re-formed the following year along its original lines so that it was open to past Grammar School pupils only, without outsiders. This then was the club that Parkinson joined on leaving BGS. There, he played centre with Frank Cleeve in a fairly undistinguished side. Cleeve was a clever centre who represented Queensland in 1907. Parkinson quickly came to notice and he was selected in the Brisbane team to meet Country as centre partner to George Watson. Brisbane easily accounted for Country 48-0. Doug McLean had moved to Roma and was to have captained Country but he withdrew and was selected for Queensland sight unseen, which upset many supporters.
Parkinson impressed in the game and he made his debut for Queensland against New South Wales in a fiery match in Brisbane. When the visitors kicked off, Parkinson fumbled the ball and the spectators mistakenly howled for McLean’s blood. After this bad start, the youngster found it hard to settle as Queensland tumbled to defeat by 11 points to 9. At fullback, Phil Carmichael scored all of his side’s points with two penalty goals and a goal from a mark. Parkinson found himself dropped for the next encounter for Ernie Christensen but he returned for the southern tour after McLean could not obtain leave from work and the other winger, Roy Brown, was transferred to Western Australia. In Sydney, Parkinson was placed on the wing for both interstate matches and in the midweek game against Sydney Metropolitan.
In 1907, Parkinson emerged bigger and stronger. He showed up well at centre in a State trial match when he outplayed George Watson. However, the State selectors saw him as a winger and he played there in both Sydney interstate matches and the midweek game against the New South Wales Second XV, while Watson played centre with Barney Gallagher. When the All Blacks arrived, there was a vacancy for a winger in the first Test in Sydney when Dally Messenger was unable to play. If a Queenslander was to be selected as his replacement, the feeling was that it should be Parkinson.
However, Watson was a shadow back reserve and he was named as Messenger’s replacement. Playing out of position, Watson had an unhappy game as did Phil Carmichael ,and both were dropped for the second Test match. Both Parkinson and Watson were in the Queensland team that met New Zealand at the ‘Gabba. Billy Richards, a Test veteran who had recently returned from South Africa, preceded the Queensland team onto the field to great applause. The All Blacks comprehensively outplayed Queensland 23-3, but there was one bright spot for the home side. Parkinson gathered the loose ball near his goal line and set off upfield. However, the linesman’s flag was raised and several players stopped, waiting for the whistle. Parkinson continued on, chased by Wallace, who forced the winger to pass to the supporting ‘Butcher’ Oxlade. When Wallace moved onto Oxlade, the Queensland captain passed back to Parkinson, who touched down with the linesman’s flag still aloft. Referee Campbell awarded the try. In the return match, Queensland did rather better in the end after trailing 17-0 – thanks to injuries to two of the All Blacks – to go down 17-11.
Parkinson impressed in both attack and defence in this match. In the first half, he cut down Frank Fryer as he flew for the line to save a certain try. In the second stanza, Parkinson made strong break deep into the New Zealand half before playing back to his forwards, who drove over for a late try. This effort won Parkinson a position on the right wing for the second Test match at the ‘Gabba, with Dally Messenger also making his Test debut on the other wing. The Australian pack was dominated by no fewer than six forwards from Queensland, thanks to the casting vote exercised by ‘Poley’ Evans, the Queensland member of the two-man Australian selection committee. This gave the home side a lightweight pack that was steamrolled by the huge All Black forwards.
Through lack of possession, there were few chances for the Australian backs and Parkinson saw little of the action. With the rubber lost, Jimmy McMahon gave his casting vote to the entire New South Wales team, which meant that Parkinson, along with the other Queenslanders, was omitted. In 1908, Parkinson set his sights on making the team being organised by the New South Wales Rugby Union to tour the British Isles and North America. Once again, he turned out for Past Grammars and was on the right wing for the Brisbane team soundly beaten 16-3 by a combined Country team led by Tom Richards.
Parkinson played well enough in Queensland’s four interstate matches against New South Wales to earn selection in the touring team for Britain. In Brisbane, he scored a valuable try in the second interstate match when the teams played a 9-all draw. Due to injuries in Sydney, Parkinson demonstrated his versatility by playing in the centre. Being fortunate enough to obtain leave from his cadetship, Parkinson joined the team in Sydney on 8 August 1908 to watch New South Wales play the visiting Anglo-Welsh team on the Sydney Cricket Ground mudheap, after which the players drank the health of their visitors before departing to the wharf to join the Omrahfor the voyage to England.
Organised by the New South Wales Rugby Union, the touring team wore their sky blue jerseys and were known as the Wallabies on tour, while their rugby league compatriots, who toured Britain at the same time, were known as the Kangaroos. Because ‘Boxer’ Russell and Danny Carroll were the incumbent New South Wales wingers, they were played in the first four tour matches and Parkinson was reduced to a spectator’s role until the fifth match of the tour against Penygraig when he replaced Russell on the right wing. The ball seemed to follow Carroll’s wing and Parkinson had few opportunities.
His next outing came several games later against Northumberland and Cumberland but then injuries forced him out of contention until after the England international at the end of the tour. Parkinson played in the last game in England against Bristol and Clifton, when he ran well with limited opportunities. The Wallabies crossed the Atlantic to North America and crossed the United States to San Francisco on the overland Limited Express. Parkinson received his chance against All-California and showed good form in the outing to be retained for the match against Vancouver. Here he ran brilliantly to score three tries with powerful surges and jinking runs. In the final tour match against Victoria in Canada, Parkinson scored a first half try in the Wallaby win by 26-3.
Although plagued by injury in Britain, Parkinson showed his true ability with several classy displays in America and Canada. On his return to Australia, Parkinson retired from the game to concentrate on his engineering career, in which he became as successful as he had been at rugby. Following in his father’s footsteps in engineering, Parkinson became Queensland Chairman of the Institute of Engineers and was head of various public authorities such as the Water Supply and Irrigation Department.