Family and Footy Allegiances


By rights I should be a Lion’s follower. My grandfather was Keith Parlon, from whom I take my second name. He was a tailor in Best Street Fitzroy. A fine man with a strong sense of civic duty, he was Mayor of Fitzroy, Vice President of Fitzroy Football Club and a Justice of the Peace. Obviously the staunchest of Fitzroy supporters, he was fortunate enough to be Mayor when the Roy Boys won their last flag in 1944 and proudly decreed the premiership flag would fly from the Fitzroy Town Hall for the following week.

There is a wonderful anecdote that is told in the family about the time Pop (as we all knew him) was hosting a fundraiser for the FFC. The president of Collingwood was in attendance and made a bit of a show of presenting Pop and FFC with a cheque for a hundred pounds, a considerable amount of money in those days. Pop returned the cheque on the spot, stating we don’t need the help of Collingwood. I must admit I have been unable to fully verify the authenticity of this story but would love it to be true. Pop would take quite a bit of umbrage at Fitzroy receiving the “ill-gotten gains” of the Carringbush. These were the days of John Wren and Squizzy Taylor. From all I speak to and my own distant memories he was a man of unrelenting principle and abundantly honest in all his dealings.

My mother and her sisters obviously grew up in a very pro-Fitzroy environment. Mum’s passion for the Roys was enhanced by a dashing full back called Fred Hughson. Fred was captain of the Gorillas (as they were known) when they won the ‘44 flag against Richmond. He bravely chose to kick against the wind at the toss, allowing the Roy Boys to kick away in a wind-assisted last quarter. He played an important role in the game, nullifying the Tigers key player Jack “Captain Blood” Dyer. Interestingly enough amongst the best players that day was Keith Stackpole snr, the father of the great test cricketer. Mum can still recall the evening that Fred Hughson asked her to dance at a local ball; she was “speechless and floated around the floor”. It took a few years to realize that the whole thing had been pre-arranged by Pop. Mum can also vividly recall going to the football every Saturday without fail and seeing the likes of Hayden Bunton, Chicken Smallhorn and the Clay brothers ply their trade; when she could tear her eyes away from Fred that is!

On that great day in ’44, she remembers the Army had commandeered the MCG and the game was played at St Kilda. On top of this there was a tram strike and the family all travelled to Flinders St by train and then walked to St Kilda, saw the game and walked back. She can reminiscence about the family all sitting around the kitchen table with their feet soaking recovering from the walk and getting ready for the dance that evening.

Dad hailed from the small village of Metung and in asking some questions I was aghast to find out he had leanings toward Collingwood as a youth. But there was absolutely no doubt that if he was to woo one of the Parlon girls he had better remove any trace of black and white from his veins and take a healthy transfusion of maroon and blue. A lesser evil but still critical was his renouncement of Methodism to embrace Catholicism. After the demise of Fitzroy, Dad still followed football and had a soft spot for Richmond, this was mainly due to his friendship with Ray Dunn ( who had a holiday home in Metung. Ray was a larger than life character who was one of the power brokers at Richmond FC. Ray is remembered for one of the great quotes in footy; Jack Dyer as he approached one of the quarter time huddles after having belted one of the opposition players a few minutes earlier exclaimed “I think I may have killed him”. Ray who was a leading solicitor quipped “don’t worry Jack; we’ll get you off on manslaughter”.

Mum for many years refused to follow another team, particularly the relocated Lions; “that’s not our team!” But after watching the 2007 Grand Final she announced she would follow Geelong. She liked the way the players treated the children who presented them with their premiership medals and the fact that Bomber Thompson stood to one side and let the players have the dais and the moment. These things are important to a grandmother.

Shortly after the war the Bull newlyweds moved to Metung and commenced to build a family. You would think that with such an earnest Fitzroy background under Pop’s influence that the maroon and blue would be installed for a few generations at least. But surprisingly not one of the seven children followed that path.

The two eldest David and Peter chose to follow St Kilda. David has absolutely no recollection of why but brother Peter is certain that it was the fact that Allan Morrow and Bill Stephenson came from Sale. In those days Metung was a long way away from Melbourne and the VFL and the fact that two very good players came from a town 75km away and obviously as a result received a lot of local press was enough to sway them.

Third Son John took a similar path with support of the local hero, but this time it was much closer to home. Bruce Lake hailed from Metung and played for Essendon in the 1968 Grand Final. It was enough for John to choose the Bombers whom he followed for many years. John later was relocated to Sydney where he settled with his family and in order to fit into the Sydney lifestyle a few changes had to be made. The Sun Herald went out to be replaced by the Financial Review, Cappuccinos made way for Lattes and a membership with the Swans was in the offing, seen to be fitting for chat around the water cooler.

Number 4 son Michael was all about results, with three elder brothers ready to tease him. He went with the glamour team of the time. Geelong boasted a Brownlow medallist of the highest order with Alistair Lord in ’62 and a premiership in ’63, plus the glamour full forward of the day in Doug Wade, these soon put the good natured taunting on hold.

I at number 5 chose Geelong as well, Michael was pushing their case pretty hard, on top of this I can remember watching footy on a very old grainy black and white TV, and you had to stick a butter knife in the front of the set to make the reception clearer! It was all very confusing when North played the Pies or the Bombers and Tiger clashed, particularly on a wet day. I can just recall sitting watching a game on telly and noting that one team had a very distinct jumper that could not be confused with any other. I asked Mike what team that was and he told me in no uncertain terms it was the mighty Cats, and so the die was cast. How ironic I came to reside in Geelong.

Elizabeth the first girl was next and she was under pressure from all to support the Roys, Saints, Bombers or Cats. In light of all this she chose the Hawks to silence the other family members. They were pretty successful at the time and boasted a certain high flying blonde centre half back called Peter Knights that she assures me was only an added bonus.

Tim was the final child and he had a very analytical approach, he worked out which animals were higher up the food chain and it came down to a choice between Lions and Tigers. He chose the Tigers on the instigation of the afore mentioned Ray Dunn who took him into the Richmond rooms after a match. He can recall meeting Bob Heard and seeing Kevin Sheedy having a smoke. He was a Tiger for life.

So there it is, it always amazes me how a relatively insignificant decision based on a whim can shape your allegiance for life. Surprisingly none of the third generation chose to follow Pop’s Fitzroy.  In fact the only thing they all have in common football wise is a strong dislike of Collingwood, so maybe old Keith Parlon had more of an influence than I thought…….



  1. I love the story of your Pop returning John Wren’s cheque – brilliant!

    Such a fascinating period of Melbourne’s history.

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    What might have been had Pop accepted the cheque?

  3. …wasn’t the last time Fitzroy had been offered money from a dubious source.

  4. Adam Muyt says

    Nice bit of Royboy history – thanks Tony.

  5. Richard Naco says

    I love the whole ripping yarn, but especially the wayward kids.

    Stuff like this is the very heart and soul of our game.

  6. Alovesupreme says

    Our generation was obviously smarter than younger ones, Tony, as there was nary a clash jumper in sight when North met Collingwood or Essendon played Richmond on monochrome television, in the wet.
    How on earth did we manage?

  7. Dave Nadel says

    An interesting piece Tony but in the interests of historical accuracy – John Wren was never President of Collingwood (although he certainly gave lots of money to the club) In football, as in other things, Wren sought Power without Glory – see Frank Hardy. So if your Pop rejected a cheque from the President of Collingwood then it wasn’t John Wren’s cheque.

    Squizzy Taylor was not connected to the Magpies, or even the suburb of Collingwood. Taylor was firmly connected with the suburb of Fitzroy. He hung out in “the Narrows” – Little Napier Street, which was built over by the Housing Commission. I don’t know that he had any links with the footy club, doesn’t seem the type really, but he definitely was a Fitzroy resident for a fair amount of his life.

  8. Tony Bull says

    Dave. Thanks for your interest, I did do some research and two points that I wish to clarify that you have got a bit confused about. If you read article you will see I did not say that John Wren was president only implied he was associated with CFC which he most definitely was, I have no idea who the CFC president was and did not name him as he was not important to story.In fact I have not been able to 100% verify the authenticity of the story, which I point out in article. Squizzy Taylor is generally accepted to be an accomplise of Wren and as a result connested to the story and collingwood’s underworld liasons.

    From CFC archives'” Given the extent to which people of Irish Catholic descent lived in the Collingwood slums — the dodgy activities within which were controlled by John Wren and his network of Irish-Catholic thugs, including punks such as Squizzy Taylor — in the early years of the 20th century, it is not at all remarkable that they supported their local team Collingwood.”

  9. Dave Nadel says

    Tony, I know that you didn’t say that Wren was President, but Litza erroneously talked about “John Wren’s cheque.” Frank Hardy claims that Squizzy Taylor was associated with Wren, Hugh Buggy and James Griffin, who wrote very sympathetic biographies of Wren, claim that he wasn’t. Personally I am more inclined to believe Hardy but there isn’t sound evidence either way.

    I also know of no evidence to link Squizzy Taylor to Collingwood Football club, even as a barracker. He lived in St Kilda, Richmond and Fitzroy, mostly Fitzroy. He was connected with brothels in Fitzroy, both as a part owner, a provider of protection and a client. Despite the activities of Wren and his tote, Fitzroy had a much worse reputation for criminal activity in the early twentieth century than Collingwood. Collingwood was mainly known for poverty and slums, but the gangs hung out in the brothels and illegal clubs of Little Napier Street.

    None of this should be taken as a reflection on Fitzroy Football Club. However Wren’s proven criminality is mostly about gambling, which, after today’s news about Heath Shaw, might be seen as a perennial Collingwood problem.

  10. Tony Bull says

    Dave , I do not profess in any way to be an expert in the local culture of the time, and I stand corrected if inaccurate byany pedantic implication. I was simply narrating an ancedotal tale about my grandfather as told to me which I would like to believe has more than a semblance of truth in it. Any reference to Taylor was a reference to his supposed association with Wren who was connected to the CFC and supposedly of dubious business dealings. Please take the piece as it was written, in a whimsical vein about my family and football. I went to some lengths to make sure there were no inaccuracies and explained as much in the telling when there was doubt about certain points.

  11. John Sandy says

    Good one Tony, I love hearing stories of how people came to support a certain team. I can’t quite understand such a bag of mixed lollies like your family has ended up!

  12. Tony Bull says

    Thanks John, perhaps the disparity came from the size of the town, your brothers were very much your mates (and remain so). The state school one year I was there had 9 pupils total. So would not have been much joshing if we all followed the same team.

  13. Damien Clifford says

    Hi Tony, brought back some very fond, but well aged memories of beautiful Metung. Many of the names are very familiar!
    Used to holiday in Metung once or twice a year after my grandparents Charles (an Anzac) and Mary Keenan retired there in 1956. Ray Dunn certainly had a great influence, instigating the Metung Tigers (furnishing the local kids with Richmond jumpers). Surprising he couldn’t get the Lake boys to Richmond, but I guess that was the age of country zoning.
    I remember a lot of the local family names (excuse spelling) the Williams (caravan park), Humphries (local grocer/milk bar), the Lakes, Ernie Beale (local builder), Hibbins (Metung House, pre Slim Dusty), the Howletts (Sue featured in the Melbourne Sun several times via the Metung Tigers and her football skills), the Archibalds, property now part of the golf course and many others, including old Mr King who lived to around 99, grandson of Governor King , I think. I assume you are one of the Boat Yard Bulls?? Cheers

  14. Tony Bull says

    Hi Damien I am indeed one of the Boat yard Bulls. Your reply brought back some strong memories. I was just a bit too young for the Metung Tigers but can recall them. There is a photo somewhere, I will chase it up. Some of the names, Mum was a friend of Mary Keenan. I went to school with Darryl and Andrea Williams and spent a lot of time with Ernie Beales son Jimmy. We both played together for Nungurner and Swan Footy Clubs. The humphries owned the corner store (2c for a bag of lollies). I used to row across the lake and help Ken Howlett on his farm and often sailed on his boat Nautilus when Dad gave me a leave pass. I still occassionally see his daughter Jan, she lives in Port Fairy I think. There is a great story about his dad Roy who fished every day off the Jetty with little succes. One day they found him passed away on his seat there. When they hauled in his line it had a fish on it. Story goes the shock of finally catching something may have triggered his heart attack!

  15. Andrew Starkie says


    Do you know the Kleinitz clan of Nungurner and Metung? The parents’ names escape me at the moment (possibly Ray and Maureen), which is a shame. I’m close friends with Pauline, the second daughter, and back in the day spent a number of sensational weekends on the family farm. Pauline and I and a few others shared a typical uni sharehouse in Carlton in the early ’90s. As Mick Thomas says, I’m pleased to say she still talks to me. Pauline, husband Mark and their kids are currently living in Manila where Pauline is employed by WHO (I think). A great person from a great country clan.

    Her father may have spent a preseason at Collingwood.

    And I played with a Tony Bull for Old Collegians in Warrnambool back in the early ’90s. Not you, obviously.

  16. Saw Ray and Maureen at my fathers funeral last year. They are pretty close to my Mum through the Church down there. Very nice people.

  17. I also think Ray may have been involved with the Nungurner Football side whiich was an under 13 side. In Bomber colours.

  18. Levina Brown says

    Hi Tony,
    I came across you by googling your grandfather. My grandmother, Marie Parlon, and Keith were cousins. Mum and dad were cleaning out their shed and found Keith’s old box brown camera. He has his name and address inside the box. I don’t know how grandma ended up with it. I thought it might be something you would like to have. Please let me know if you would like it.

  19. Kerry Tarleton says

    Hi Tony,
    I too am elated to your Grandfather through his mother’s side of the family. I would love to talk to you about family history if you have time.

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