Gang-gang: times past

Phil May's 1886 cartoon of Sir Henry (in hallmark top hat) duelling with political opponent Sir John Robertson.

Phil May's 1886 cartoon of Sir Henry (in hallmark top hat) duelling with political opponent Sir John Robertson. Photo: National Library of Australia

Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896) has been a little in the news in recent days because the prime lakeside part of Parkes Place, the bailiwick named after him, has just been controversially rechristened Queen Elizabeth Terrace. This has knotted some republican knickers. Indeed my own (you should see them!) are all sheepshanks and reef knots.

But, moving on, one hopes that Parkes will get some reverent limelight during Canberra's 2013 celebrations. Without the Federation, of which his admirers like to think him the Father, there would be no nation and hence no need for this federal capital city.

The tall and statuesque Parkes, especially late in his life when his hair and beard were like silver-white clouds, was a caricaturist's and an artist's dream. And of course as premier of NSW in turbulent times (between 1872 and 1889 he was premier four times) and as a mover and shaker of the cause of federation, he attracted a great deal of caricaturing and cartooning.

Here, from the National Library of Australia, is an 1886 Phil May cartoon of Sir Henry (in hallmark top hat) duelling with political opponent Sir John Robertson.