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Amanuel Ernest (Manny) McCarthy (1902–1994)

by Julie McIntyre

This article was published:

Manny McCarthy, n.d.

Manny McCarthy, n.d.

photo supplied by NSW Hall of Champions

Amanuel (Emmanuel) Ernest McCarthy (1902–1994), axeman, was born on 15 April 1902 at Cedar Creek, Camden Haven, New South Wales, fifth of eight children of New South Wales-born parents William McCarthy, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Agnes, née Beecham. There is little record of Manny’s early years. According to an obituary, he started cutting railway sleepers for pocket money aged eleven, presumably after school and on weekends. At that time, rail-line construction from Sydney to Brisbane reached the heavily timbered Hastings Valley where he resided. Knowledge of timber and dexterity with axe and saw drew admiration as well as employment opportunities in this logging community and he began competing in agricultural shows. He first entered the Royal Easter Show in Sydney in 1921. Such events not only showcased excellence in skills of Australian rural economy and life, but in hard economic times the professional woodchopping circuit promised a good living.

Travelling extensively in search of work, McCarthy met Eileen Florence May Sutton (d. 1987) at Maxwell, in the New South Wales Riverina district. They married at Holy Trinity Church of England, Macksville, on 6 December 1924, the same year he won his first title at the Royal Easter Show. The couple settled in Sydney in 1925, where he worked as a tree lopper and timber contractor. In 1928 at Dandenong, Victoria, he set a new world record in the 18-inch (46 cm) underhand chop, cutting through the log in 52.4 seconds, an achievement that remained unbeaten for over sixty years.

Manny and Eileen McCarthy lived at Bondi, Sydney, from the 1940s. Over his lifetime he won twenty-seven world titles and hundreds of regional and metropolitan titles. Dark-haired and bronze-skinned in his youth, he became wiry and weather-beaten over seven decades of making the chips fly, earning legendary status for his precision and speed in competitive woodchopping. He did not retire from his Sydney tree-lopping business until he was seventy-nine years old and competed at the Royal Easter Show for the final time at eighty-nine years of age. Intending to chop on his ninetieth birthday in 1992, with a twenty-year-old axe, he was prevented by a bout of bronchitis. He credited his longevity to hard work and revelled in the accolades and ovations that accompanied success in competition. He died on 13 December 1994 at Carlton, Sydney, and was buried at the Botany General lawn cemetery, Matraville; his two daughters and his three sons survived him. Two of his sons, Jim and Jack, were also champion axemen. He is remembered in the New South Wales Hall of Champions and the Manny McCarthy Memorial 375 mm World Championship Underhand at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Andrews, Malcolm. ‘Keen Woodchopper Kept Young Blades in Check.’ Australian, 22 December 1994, 13
  • Beckett, Richard. Axemen: Stand By Your Logs! Sydney: Lansdowne Press, 1983
  • Signy, Helen. ‘A Show of Old and New Hands.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 8 April 1992, 19

Additional Resources

Citation details

Julie McIntyre, 'McCarthy, Amanuel Ernest (Manny) (1902–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018, accessed online 30 November 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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