Bruce Coe and his study of Ernest Marks

Wednesday was a red letter day for me.

Bruce Coe submitted his PhD thesis for examination.

The title of his thesis is ES Marks and His Contribution to Australian Sport. Robin McConnell and I have worked with Bruce over the last two years and we have been  intrigued constantly by the unfolding story of a remarkable volunteer in the formation of Australian sport.

In an age when we lament the disappearance of volunteers and voluntary associations I think Ernest’s story makes for compelling reading.

Once the examination process has been completed I hope to work with Bruce to write more about Ernest.

Bruce’s Abstract is:

This thesis presents a chronological study of the life of Ernest Samuel Marks, a proudly Jewish man who was universally known as a champion of amateur sport in Australia, a highly efficient administrator in many sports and a long-serving alderman, and sometime Lord Mayor, in the City of Sydney, who, over half a century since his death, has been largely forgotten.
Ernest Marks was a man who found the time and energy to devote to his love of sport, to public service, to patriotic work and to charities, to history, to communications, to business and to his faith. He was a man who for sixty years was an exemplar for volunteerism through his multifarious unpaid activities within and without the world of sport.
His realms of influence included:

  • Amateur sporting clubs and associations in Sydney, New South Wales and Australia
  • Australian Olympic and Empire Games Movements, including the chairing of the
    organising committee of the 1938 Empire Games in Sydney, the first pageant of
    international sport to be hosted in this nation
  • International sport, through his links with a number of bodies including the International
    Olympic Committee
  • Municipal Council of Sydney where, for a quarter of a century, he was a highly respected
    alderman with a particular interest in the provision of playing facilities for children,
    especially the underprivileged
  • Patriotic activities during both World Wars
  • Manifold charities
  • Philanthropy
  • His Jewish community.

As an administrator, Ernest Marks contributed to the modernisation of sport in Australia from predominantly locally-based games to that where activities and competitions were well organised and this nation had become a significant player on the international sporting stage.

This thesis celebrates his story and, in the words of John Ritchie, a former General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, ‘rescue [s] and restore[s] a comparatively unknown person to his … rightful place’. I believe that by sharing the story of the life and times of Ernest Samuel Marks which hitherto had been forgotten, under-estimated, misrepresented, confused or ignored, this thesis has added to the body of knowledge of those who have contributed to Australian sport. In the process, I believe that I have also been able to underscore his profound sense of civic responsibility.

ES Marks' Portrait (Joseph Wolinski)

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