I get to meet some pretty interesting people. They’re not necessarily people I would come across in my circle of friends, my neighbourhood or my family. Many of them are no longer alive. Nevertheless I get to know them and that’s a great privilege and also extremely interesting.
Recently I had the pleasure of getting to know a man by the name of Cecil Parkee; a brother, an uncle, a great uncle, a friend to many and I think, most interestingly, an entertainer. Born in 1923, Cecil spent his adult life performing as a magician, a ventriloquist and an actor in his hometown, Sydney.
Cecil was very successful in his field and his talent was recognised by many. He was featured on “Australian Story”, he won “New Faces” in 1980; he also had many film and television credits as an actor. This meant that there were some great resources available offering a glimpse into his somewhat unconventional life and work.
His nephew Michael Wun was also a great source of knowledge and insight into Cecil’s life, as were the other nieces and nephews I spoke with at his wake. Cecil had no children of his own but he had no lack of loving family in his life and they were there to celebrate his life after his death.
Cecil’s family came to Australia from China as a part of the Gold Rush and he and his eight siblings were born in Sydney. As a child he had a speech impediment and it was after his therapist acknowledged he had no more techniques to help him that Cecil took up ventriloquism, a passion that would ultimately cure him.
A born performer, Cecil took every opportunity to entertain. At family gatherings, such as weddings, there was always an opportunity for a vanishing napkin or the appearance of a coin from behind an ear. He was ever ready with a trick, a slight of hand to delight his audience, especially if they hadn’t seen his performances before.
At his funeral, members of his family and his good friend Chris Daly spoke with great love; their stories full of Cecil’s antics and unique personality. A wonderful video of footage and photographs was presented, compiled and edited by his nephew Michael and at the end of the service, as the curtain closed there was a resounding and well-deserved standing ovation.
This link will take you to the service as recorded on the day:
This link will take you to the episode of Australian Story mentioned: