Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Flegg, Henry (Jersey) (1878–1960)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Henry (Jersey) Flegg (1878-1960), football administrator and sewerage engineer, was born on 6 April 1878 at Bolton, Yorkshire, England, son of Henry Flegg, engine-man, and his wife Ann, née Willis. In 1884 the family came to Sydney where his father worked as a labourer for the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage. As a carrot-headed lad, Flegg was nicknamed 'Jersey' after the red-haired governor. He attended St John's and William Street schools, Darlinghurst. After his father's death in 1894 'Jersey' Flegg was in turn employed as labourer by the water board, beginning on 16 October. At his marriage, with Congregational forms, to a dressmaker, Margaret, late O'Mara, née Delohery, on 26 February 1908 he described himself as electrician. In 1910 he was appointed assistant inspector, sewerage maintenance, in 1930 general superintendent and engineer in 1936, because of his 'outstanding knowledge of and contribution to sewerage maintenance' (though he had no formal qualifications). He retired from the water board on 6 April 1946, and was awarded the Imperial Service Medal.

Spare-time energies Flegg devoted to football. A hard-working and strong-tackling Rugby Union forward, he had played for the Adelphi club in the 1890s, then for Sydney. In 1902 he represented the State against Queensland. When a players' revolt led to the foundation of the New South Wales Rugby Football League, in January 1908 he was elected secretary of the Eastern Suburbs club and founding delegate to the league, of which he was made a life-member. In the 1908 and 1909 seasons he captained an Easts team that included 'Dally' Messenger and Sid Pearce, then retired to become State selector, holding the position for a record nineteen years. He was also sometime metropolitan and Australian selector, and in 1922 managed the State team which toured New Zealand.

In 1925 Flegg became a vice-president of the league and member of its judicial committee. Sir Joynton Smith's elevation to position of patron in 1929, after Fred Flowers' death, led to Flegg's election as president. Joynton Smith's had been a nominal presidency, Flegg's was to be an active and guiding role for the next thirty-one years. The Depression reduced the league's gate receipts from £24,487 in 1928 to £15,500 in 1931 and for the next fifteen years revenue remained low. A man of 'inflexible determination … a rugged and likeable character, forthright in his utterances', Flegg managed the league's affairs shrewdly. In 1937-58 he was a director of the New South Wales Leagues' Club, and for seventeen of those years was chairman. As chairman of the Australian Board of Control from 1941 he was noted for exercising his casting vote without State favouritism.

Long a resident of Paddington, childless and from 1945 a widower, he later lived in the premises of the Leagues' Club, Phillip Street, which he had helped to build. He remained president of the State league and chairman of the Australian board until his death in hospital at North Sydney on 23 August 1960. After an Anglican service he was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £2228.

Select Bibliography

  • Arrow, 2 June 1906
  • Rugby League News, 5 June 1920, 27, 28 Aug 1960
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Aug 1960
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Flegg, Henry (Jersey) (1878–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/flegg-henry-jersey-6188/text10635, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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