Unboxing the Archive: Dr Keith Farrer’s Footy Socks

Dr Keith Farrer wrote to then Headmaster Gerard Cramer when he donated his football socks to the Carey Archives several years ago. Not a momentous donation it would seem, but these were no ordinary socks – these were the first Carey football socks, knitted during the Great Depression from 1929–39. They were lovingly created by Dr Farrer’s mother when her son Keith was Captain of the First XVIII Carey Football Team in 1933.

Carey football teams had always worn black socks but by 1933 the team had adopted the striped black, blue and gold ‘Farrer’ socks, as evident in the photo of the football team in the Carey Chronicle of that year. Whether or not Mrs Farrer knitted socks for the entire team we are not sure, but this 87-year-old pair of socks were subject to constant repair, as seen in the darning on the heel.

By 1932, more than a third of the Australian workforce were unemployed. Many were dependent on ‘susso’, a state-based sustenance payment that enabled families to buy only the bare minimum of food. Darning and mending were crafts borne out of necessity. ‘Making do’ by reusing and recycling were constants of daily life. There were no replacement socks at the corner store you had to ‘make do’ and so darn or knit the next pair of socks you needed – that is, if you could get the wool.

During the Great Depression, football was extremely popular and important in Melbourne – as it is to this day – and was a great distraction from the hardships of life. In 1933 the VFL Grand Final was held at the MCG on the 30 September, between Richmond and South Melbourne. The match was attended by 75,754 spectators and won by South Melbourne by a margin of 42 points.

Fast forward to 2019, with AFL number one and two draft picks, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, reining from Carey, and with Nicola Xenos also in 2019 and Mia Kendall this year to the AFLW teams.

It is doubtful that Dr Keith Farrer or his fellow team members in 1933 would have predicted that women would play Australian Rules Football in a national and very popular competition – let alone the disruption caused by the pandemic of COVID-19 that has seen the Grand Final played in Brisbane! Unthinkable!

At the beginning of the football season in 1933, the Carey Chronicle reported doubt at being able to form a team. Many of the senior boys had left school due to the Depression. Keith Farrer was elected captain and ‘carried out his difficult task most creditably. His ability and untiring energy in the full-back position and in the ruck were of immense value to the side.’

Perhaps the reason the socks survived 87 years and were donated to the Archives was that they meant a lot more to Dr Farrer than just another part of his uniform.

For references in this article, please contact the Carey Archives office.

Joanne Horsley, Archivist
Community Engagement