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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Darcy's is a story for the big screen
BY TRACEY EDSTEIN
It's thanks to his wife Allison's book group
that Roger Ley of Canberra embarked on a
semi-retirement project to write a film script
about acclaimed boxer Les Darcy, who
grew up in Maitland and died in Memphis,
Tennessee, aged only 21.
In the Lower Hunter there are numerous
memorials and references to James Leslie
(Les) Darcy. His tragic death in the United
States in 1917 has become the stuff of
legend, with local historian Cynthia Hunter
writing, "As with so many other young
Australians lost during the years of World
War One, Darcy's death represented
Each year the members of Allison Ley's
book group choose one "blokey" book
to read, and invite their husbands to
participate. In 2012 the book chosen was
Peter Fitzsimons The Ballad of Les Darcy.
Roger Ley had a longstanding interest in
film-making and when one of the members
remarked that "the life of Les Darcy would
make a good film script", Roger took up the
challenge and began researching.
He developed a particular interest in Les
Darcy's acknowledged mentor, Father
Joseph Coady (1877-1959). He was the
local priest during Les Darcy's youth, and
as Roger observes, "He would have been
confessor to the whole Darcy family, which
means he was also a major influence on
Les' mother, Margaret."
Roger contacted Diocese of Maitland-
Newcastle archivist Julie Craig to learn more
about Fr Coady. "He must have been an 'old
school' priest, dedicated to his flock, helping
the sick and the poor, the Darcy family
included. He was a boxer, so in keeping with
the times, if circumstances required it, he
wasn't averse to taking off his clerical collar
and practising his skills! Being sympathetic
to the Irish cause, he would have supported
Margaret Darcy's vehement objections to
Les' attempts to join up. He also helped Les
in several practical ways," said Roger.
Several months later, Roger happened upon
a story about Newcastle mates Tom Arthur
and Zac Garred and their plan to bring
the story of Les Darcy to the big screen.
The pair has bought the screen rights to
Fitzsimons' book and Zac is preparing to
portray Darcy. Roger contacted Tom and
Zac and was invited to the launch of their
Roger had earlier attended, at his family's
urging, Robert McKee's renowned 'Story'
seminar. "McKee's a former professor of
screenwriting at UCLA and author of the
screenwriter's 'bible', Story: Substance,
Structure, Style and the Principles of
Screenwriting. Roger offered to collaborate
with Zac and Tom in writing the script. He
had uncovered documentation that was
new to them so there was mutual benefit,
and little point in two Les Darcy scripts
being produced simultaneously.
Roger is enjoying stepping back from
an international career which involved
consultancies in places as varied as
Tanzania and Thaila
worked broadly in p
and consultancy in
and development. "
has been limited to
reports for various a
the opportunity to in
side," he said.
While it will be some
Ballad of Les Darcy
silver screen, there's
that it will have a rea
Les Darcy still live.
Please visit www.
learn more about the
Les Darcy story.
Roger Ley researching Les Darcy. Photo courtesy of The
Catholic Voice, Canberra.
and, Kuwait, Lesotho,
and the Solomons. He
"Until now, my writing
project proposals and
agencies, so I'm relishing
ndulge my more creative
e time before The
y reaches the
s little doubt
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