Charles Edwards was a talented man. He lived at the Purfleet Aboriginal mission station four kilometres south of Taree.2 Charlie was an outstanding sportsman playing both cricket and rugby league. He captained the Purfleet rugby league team, playing fullback and goal kicker. He and Bert Marr were the only Aboriginal players in the Brown’s Creek football team during the 1940s.3 He continued playing competitive sport late into his forties.
Charlie was also an entertainer. He could sing, dance, perform and play the gum leaf. The ‘Purfleet Entertainers’ performed all over the region under the permission of the station manager. In 1961, as part of NADOC4 celebrations, Aboriginal people were encouraged to make a tape recording of their voices and send them to Sydney for judging. Charlie won the talent quest and was flown to Martin Place, Sydney for the award ceremony. While there he sang ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ at the Lyceum Theatre which was televised across the state. The ovation he received indicated his talent and popularity.5
Perhaps one of the performances Charlie was most remembered for was his role in corroborees. Station manager J R Milne recalled ‘I will never forget Charlie Edwards in his role as ‘The Devil’ at a corroboree we once staged. He was so good that when he appeared out of the dark women fainted and dogs attacked him.’6
Charlie will be remembered for his good humour and amazing talent to thrill audiences.7
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Series 02: Alma Smith & Alva Atkins photographs of missions in New South Wales, 1909-1970. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
2 Patricia Davis-Hurst, Sunrise Station(Taree: Patricia Davis-Hurst & Ray Hurst, 1996), 16, 21.
3 John Ramsland, Custodians of the Soil(Taree: Greater Taree City Council, 2001), 136.
4 NADOC: National Aborigines’ Day Observance Committee, later became called NAIDOC: National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee.
5 Dawn, 10, Issue 11 (Nov 1961): 16; Dawn, 10, Issue 12 (Dec 1961): 24, http://www.aiatsis.gov.au
6 Dawn, 11, Issue 10 (Oct 1962): 2, 3, http://www.aiatsis.gov.au
7 Patricia Davis-Hurst, Sunrise Station(Taree: Patricia Davis-Hurst & Ray Hurst, 1996), 43, 48.
8 Dawn, 11, Issue 10 (Oct 1962): 2, 3, http://www.aiatsis.gov.au