18 May 2011

Uncle Les

My Uncle Les was married to Grandpa’s sister. Uncle Les died in 1977 whilst on holiday in Canada, and I was only 3 so I don’t remember much of him. However I do remember a story that he had a dog called Dopey who was particularly dim. I’ve often wondered whether they changed his name from something like “Rupert” when they discovered how dim he was. Dad thinks he was always called Dopey, so he must have just embodied his name particularly well. The story goes that whenever Uncle Les put on aviator goggles Dopey didn’t recognize him.

Uncle Les and Auntie Gen didn’t have kids. So going to visit Auntie Gen’s house meant a living room stuffed full of furniture (though with exciting exotic things like gramophones) and no toys to speak of. One particular contraption that Auntie Gen had though, which was Uncle Les’, was a small wooden coffin (about 10cm long maximum) which, as I recall, had a wind-up mechanism. When you wound it up the coffin would open and a small skeleton would sit up. Brilliant fun for small children!

Uncle Les was supposedly from New Zealand. I checked the New Zealand births, deaths and marriages records and could find no trace of him. All I knew of his parents were from his engagement notice in the paper, which gave his father as A.F. Davis, of Manly. Uncle Les’ middle name was Alfred, so I wondered if his father’s name was also Alfred. I didn’t have a NSW death record to check for Uncle Les (because he died in Canada), so I couldn’t confirm his dad’s name that way. In the end, I decided to see if there was a birth record for Uncle Les in NSW. Yep. He was born in Manly, in 1903, to Arthur F and Ida M Davis. So he clearly wasn’t from New Zealand! It turns out that his mother was born in Sydney, and his parents were married in Sydney. I haven’t yet been able to work out where his father was born. Perhaps it was New Zealand, though I haven’t found a birth record for him there either.

Supposedly Uncle Les was in the Imperial Forces and entertained the troops during the Second World War. I haven't managed to uncover any actual evidence of this yet, though we do have photos of him in a uniform.

Family legend says that Uncle Les’ dad rode a bicycle from Sydney to Melbourne when he was 80 years old - Grandma certainly remembers him as being very active. Surely something like that might score a write-up in the local newspaper... I searched the historical newspapers on Trove and found an article which stated that he had been involved in a motorcycle accident with a car and had sustained injuries which might have led to the amputation of his foot. At the time he was 76 and believed to be the oldest motorcyclist in NSW. Dad and I guess that he probably rode his motorbike to Melbourne rather than his bike, but I can only assume that his foot wasn't amputated!


  1. What about the clocks at Auntie Gen's? And do you know if the Wilsons have more information about Uncle Les's parents?

  2. Forgot about the clocks! I hadn't thought of asking the Wilsons.