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Warren James Scarfe (1936–1964)

by Daryl Adair

This article was published:

Warren James Scarfe (1936-1964), cyclist, was born on 11 December 1936 at Newcastle, New South Wales, son of Australian-born parents Arthur Parsonage Scarfe, engineer, and his wife Eva Frances Macmillan, née Bryden. Educated at Hurstville South Public and Sydney Technical High schools, Warren began work as a cadet draftsman in the Postmaster-General's Department. He studied at night at Sydney Technical College, gaining a diploma in electrical engineering (1955) and the P.M.G. draftsman's certificate (1957). At St Mark's Church of England, Hurstville, on 1 October 1956 he married 18-year-old Margaret Jessie Goldsworthy, with whom he built a house in Tonitto Avenue, Peakhurst. The home remained their permanent residence and there they raised three children. Scarfe was a devoted breadwinner who did not squander his earnings: he made advance payments on the mortgage and built his own furniture. A much-loved husband and father, he balanced, with equanimity, his work, study, family commitments and passion for cycling.

Scarfe had joined the powerful St George Amateur Cycle Club as a junior and shown great promise. Blond haired and 6 ft (183 cm) tall, he was a lightly built rider and seemed naturally athletic, but he worked hard at maintaining fitness and honing his technique. He was adept at both road and track riding, and held four national records: a distance of 26 miles 655 yards (42 km) over one hour (1958), the 1000m time trial in 1 minute 9.7 seconds (1958), the 4000m individual pursuit in 5 minutes 2.3 seconds (1959) and the 4000m four-man team pursuit in 4 minutes 42.2 seconds (1960). He won two Australian titles, the 1000m time trial (1956) and the 4000m individual pursuit (1958). Scarfe represented Australia at the Olympic Games in Melbourne (1956), where he finished a creditable fourth in the 1000m individual pursuit. At the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Cardiff, Wales, he won the silver medal in the 1000m time trial. After suffering equipment failure, he was unplaced in the 4000m team pursuit at the Olympic Games in Rome (1960).

In his frugal manner, Scarfe had tried to cover legitimate expenses associated with representative competition and remained an amateur. In 1959 he was dropped from the New South Wales team to compete at the Australian Cycling Championships in Perth for failing to pay the required £5 towards his expenses (£100) by the due date. During the half-time break of a St George Rugby League match he provided a riding exhibition while bags were carried around the ground to collect money from spectators to support his Olympic campaign.

In 1961, riding through Newtown, Scarfe swerved to avoid a pedestrian, crashed heavily, and fractured his skull. For the next three years he devoted most of his time to coaching junior cyclists at the St George club, and to supporting his younger brother Ian, winner of the 1963 State amateur road cycling championship. Warren was lured back to racing, but fell while training at Wiley Park on 4 November 1964 and died of head injuries before reaching hospital. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and two sons, he was cremated.

The New South Wales Cycling Federation quickly set up a 'Warren Scarfe Appeal', which received enough money for Margaret to clear the mortgage on the house. Characteristically, Warren had already paid other bills in advance and stowed away Christmas presents for his children. His son David competed at the Olympic Games in Moscow (1980) and the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane (1982). The St George club stages the Warren Scarfe memorial race annually.

Select Bibliography

  • W. T. J. Uren (compiler), Australian Olympic Team at Melbourne (Melb, 1957)
  • F. Tierney (compiler), Australian Olympic Games Team, Rome, 1960 (Melb, 1960)
  • Australian Cyclist, Dec 1956, Jan, Feb 1957, May, June 1958, Mar 1959, Dec 1964, Jan 1965
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Aug 1956, 13 Jan, 12 May 1957, 14 Feb, 24 July 1958, 18 Feb 1960, 5 Nov 1964
  • Sun (Sydney), 10 Mar 1959
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 5 Nov 1964
  • private information.

Citation details

Daryl Adair, 'Scarfe, Warren James (1936–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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