Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Scarf, Edward Richard (1908–1980)

by Tom Sear

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Edward Richard Scarf (1908-1980), wrestler and butcher, was born on 3 November 1908 at Quirindi, New South Wales, fourth child of Lebanese-born parents Michael Eli Scarf, grocer, and his wife Amelia, née Zraysarty. His father's surname had originally been Alissis. Eddie was educated at the Marist Brothers' School, North Sydney, where he excelled at sport. Five ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall and 15 st. 8 lb. (99 kg) in weight, with large hands and a chest measurement of 45½ ins (116 cm), he was considered to be ideally equipped for wrestling.

In 1927 Scarf won the New South Wales amateur heavyweight wrestling championship. Although he retained it in 1928, and also won the State middleweight title and an Olympic Games test-tournament, he was not selected for the Olympics that year. In 1930 he took the New South Wales heavyweight championships in both wrestling and boxing. A string of wrestling titles—including the Australian heavyweight championship in 1929 and 1932—earned him a place in the national team for the 1932 Olympics, held at Los Angeles, United States of America. He won a bronze medal in the light-heavyweight freestyle event, Australia's first Olympic medal in wrestling: in an impressive and cheerful display, he was defeated in his final bout by the American Peter Mehringer.

Returning to Sydney, Scarf built up the family's butchery business at Narrabeen and consolidated his wrestling career. He won his third Australian heavyweight championship in 1935 and the New South Wales and national light-heavyweight titles in 1937 and 1938. Continuing to excel at boxing, he gained the State heavyweight championship in 1934 and 1938. His performances at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin aroused considerable excitement. In a tough and contentious wrestling tournament—during which several countries protested against decisions by the judges—a number of questionable decisions went against him and he finished sixth in the light-heavyweight division. He won the gold medal in that division at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney.

Turning professional, Scarf won a competition promoted by Stadiums Ltd to decide the Australian heavyweight wrestling championship in 1938. He drew large, animated crowds, especially on 11 November 1940 when he defeated 'Chief Little Wolf' (Ventura Tenario) on points and took home £100 from a side-wager on the match. A supporter had cried out, 'Cut him up, Butch!', as Scarf executed a new hold which looked as if he was 'trussing a side of beef in his butcher's shop'. The crowd 'cheered wildly' when he applied Little Wolf's signature hold, the 'Indian Death Lock', to the Chief himself. On 29 April 1941 Scarf enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and was employed as a storekeeper. He served (1943-45) with the Parachute Training Unit and was discharged from the R.A.A.F. on 7 February 1945.

At the Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Chatswood, on 30 July 1942 Scarf had married with Catholic rites Edna May Gale, a munitions worker. After the war, he briefly resumed wrestling before concentrating on his business and opening shops at North Narrabeen, Dee Why and Palm Beach. Involved in community and charity work, he was a founding member of the Warringah Rotary Club, and president and first patron of the House With No Steps. He belonged to the Dee Why Surf Life-Saving Club and played golf like a 'ploughman'. In semi-retirement, he moved to Muswellbrook in 1969 and ran a feedlot. He died on 7 January 1980 at Camperdown and was buried in Mona Vale cemetery; his wife, and their daughter and two sons survived him. Noted sportsmen, among them Tommy Burns, Frank 'Bumper' Farrell and Jim Armstrong, attended his funeral.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Cameron, The Science of Wrestling (Syd, nd)
  • L. Ayoub, 100 Years of Australian Professional Wrestling (Syd, 1998)
  • Manly Daily, 12 Feb 2000
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Tom Sear, 'Scarf, Edward Richard (1908–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/scarf-edward-richard-11623/text20757, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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