Remembering the Ugly Men who helped rebuild South Perth after WWI

Taken in 1918, this photograph shows members of the South Perth Ugly Men Association in front of a house they built in Arlington Avenue.
Taken in 1918, this photograph shows members of the South Perth Ugly Men Association in front of a house they built in Arlington Avenue.

THEY called themselves the Ugly Men and like our nation’s war veterans from the past 100 years, they too have very good reason to be remembered this Sunday.

The Ugly Men’s Association was, in many respects, a precursor to welfare and support organisations such as Legacy and Soldier On, providing assistance to our first returned servicemen.

South Perth Ugly Men’s Association members built houses for men who had returned from war and held activities to raise money for war widows.

A tiny house built for William Miller Kirk at 49 Arlington Avenue, South Perth, was immortalised in a 1918 photograph as their first job completed.

While the house has since been replaced, the photograph remains and will be part of a memorabilia display at Sunday’s South Perth Remembrance Day service.

The association’s name came from their role in a popular fundraising activity of the time, the so-called ugly man competitions.

“At fundraising functions, participants would purchase tickets, which would allow them to cast a vote for the ‘ugliest man’ in the South Perth district,” South Perth historian Bill Gleeson said.

South Perth RSL sub-branch president Justin Regan and Bill Gleeson with a print of The Ugly Men’s Association photograph. Picture: David Baylis.

“It was a show of solidarity with the wounded and disfigured men who referred to themselves as Stumpies and Wingies as a result of losing an arm or leg during World War I.”

“It was considered an honour to be the ugliest man in South Perth.”

REMEMBRANCE DAY – COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS SINCE ARMISTICE

  • Belmont: 10.30am at the Belmont War Memorial, then the Belmont Sub-Branch will be open for family activities from noon.
  • South Perth: 10.45am at South Perth memorial gardens, then free morning tea.
  • Victoria Park: 10.30am at Victoria Park memorial gardens, with a performance by Millen Primary students and local scout groups.