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Discovering SA's History- May 2008 Patricia Sumerling Bert Edwards

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					    Discovering SA’s History- May 2008

Patricia Sumerling
Bert Edwards, King of the West End
                                               Albert Augustine Edwards, better known as Bert, was one of the City of Ade-
                                               laide’s most colourful characters. He lived all his life in the city until his death
                                               in August 1963 at the age of 75, and when he died it was most definitely the
7.30pm Friday                                  end of an era.
2 May 2008
Burnside Community
                                               Reputedly an illegitimate son of Premier Charles Cameron Kingston, Bert rose
Centre,                                        from the humble status of bottle-oh to that of state politician. He led a colourful
Cnr Portrush Road                              and very controversial life, both in the public arena and in private and by the
and Greenhill Road,                            early 1920s he was referred to as ‘King of the West End’.
Burnside

                                               When Bert Edwards left school he became a dealer in second hand bottles and
                                               a seller of saveloys at the Victoria Park Racecourse. As a young man in 1910, he
                                               was nominated as chairman of the second team of the West Adelaide Football
                                               Club. While nurturing this part of his life, he was also actively involved in the
                                               Labor Party, being generally helpful to the cause.

                                               In 1912 he established ‘tea rooms’ in Compton Street over the road from the
                                               Central Market where he ran a much frequented gambling establishment.
                                               In 1914 when he became a councillor for the Grey Ward of the Adelaide City
                                               Council, this guaranteed him his first hotel licence, for the Duke of Bruns-
                                               wick in Gilbert Street. With his star rising, the elections held during the First
                                               World War in 1917 when so many men were away fighting in Europe, saw him
                                               elevated to parliament as the member for Adelaide where he stayed for almost
                                               14 years. This was the pinnacle of success for one born and bred as a city boy
                                               from the West End. Although his relationship with the Labor Party was mostly
                                               turbulent, he remained associated with it until his death.

                                               His enemies increased after the Labor Party took office in 1924 and when he
                                               became more involved, or some say ‘meddled’, in mostly matters of social wel-
                                               fare, he was heading for one mighty fall from grace. Ironically, having become
                                               involved in prison reform while a politician, he was soon to experience prison
                                               himself when in 1931 he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ and sentenced to
                                               five years at the Yatala Labor Prison. He and his supporters said he was ‘set up’.

                                               Released after two years, while the Great Depression was drastically affecting
                                               the lives of city residents, he soon resumed a ‘hands on approach’ by physically
                                               helping the poor, something he continued to do until his death in 1963. By this
                                               time he had returned to the liquor industry by taking on the lease for the Castle
                                               Hotel in Hindley Street, and later he won back his old council seat in 1948.

                                               His funeral was one of the largest ever held in the city. And as a nice touch, for
                                               his association with the police was often turbulent, the police force headed the
                                               cortege on motor bikes. Bert would have smiled at that.

                                               Patricia Sumerling, who is a Professional Historian, was awarded a grant from
                                               the History Trust of South Australia in late 2006 to undertake a biography of this
Caricature from The Bulletin 28 August 1928,   larger-than-life Adelaidean.
photo A768 Adelaide City Archives
                                                        , the Newsletter of the Historical Society of South Australia, March 2008 

				
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