Frank White was a mystery man until the name of his famous and previously anonymous father was uncovered in October 2017. Virtually all we knew about Frank was that he was a Victorian student at Roseworthy Agricultural College and Norwood's best player in the premiership-deciding match against Port Adelaide in 1891. He and his Roseworthy mate, Bill Parkinson, were called up for what developed into an epic battle before Norwood came from behind to win by two goals.
A search of the Roseworthy archives revealed that the player we had as T. B. White was in fact Frank Brook White. He was 18 when he began his one year at Roseworthy and his parent or guardian was recorded as R. Chambers Norman. Armed with that information, our researcher Michael Coligan dug deep and found that Frank was the natural son of Sir Samuel James Way - South Australian Chief Justice for 40 years, Privy Councillor, Lieutenant-Governor and University of Adelaide Chancellor.
Young Sam Way established a family of five children with former chambermaid Susannah Mary Gooding during summer vacations in Tasmania. Frank, born in Hobart on 4 October 1872, was the second child of that liaison. His second name Brook was from Way's legal partner, James Brook. Susannah later married John White and the children took his surname. Way supported his secret family and two of his sons, Sir Alfred Edward Rowden White and Edwin Rowden White, became eminent doctors in peace and war. Way married the widow Katherine Blue on his 62nd birthday.
Frank White's guardian while at Roseworthy, Robert Chambers Norman, was superintendent and secretary of the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, for more than 30 years and before that secretary of the Adelaide Children's Hospital for five years up to 1886, when he was warmly farewelled by Chief Justice Samuel Way. Norman also was the guardian of Frank's brother James Samuel White, who was 22 when enrolled at Roseworthy in April 1893 and left in July the same year.
After three years as a key member of the champion Geelong Grammar School side, Frank White was named in but dropped out of the Norwood team which went down to Port, 9.3 to 4.6, in May 1891. He played at centre wing when Norwood beat Port 6.11 to 5.6 in June. He was named in a forward pocket as Port crushed Norwood 6.9 to 1.3 in July.
Norwood's defeat by the visiting Fitzroy side, 4.5 to 3.4, in a hard-fought match in August was partly attributable to the unavailability of several regular players . The South Australian Register said: "The absence of two of these especially - J. J. Woods and White - was an irreparable loss."
Norwood was the underdog as it went into the crunch match against Port, having convincingly lost two of its three encounters with the magentas during the season. Coming into the Norwood team were four men who missed the hammering by Port in July - 'Topsy' Waldron, George McKee, Bob Richards and rookie George Kirby. The Evening Journal said that even though White and Parkinson "had not played lately", it was generally considered Norwood was fielding its strongest possible side.
White, on a half-back flank, played a sterling role as Port pressed forward for much of the game. Norwood, however, finished strongly with the wind to clinch its 10th flag with a 5.4 to 3.4 victory before a crowd of 10,000 at Adelaide Oval on 5 September. In his end-of-season summary in The South Australian Chronicle, 'Onlooker' described White as "a clever little mark and a useful player".
White vanished from the scene after his moment of glory. Commenting on Norwood's slide backwards in 1892, The Adelaide Observer said: "With McGaffin, Clift, White and Richards severing their connection with the club, and Jackson only being able to take part in one or two matches, it might really be said that the greater part of the backbone of the team of the previous year had gone . . . "
White was only 29 when he died on 7th March 1902 at Mrs Madden's Private Hospital, Fitzroy South, Victoria.
* Our thanks to Sue Coppin and the University of Adelaide Archives for details gleaned from White's Roseworthy days.Picture from Geelong FC historian Bob Gartland via Geelong GS Archivist Geoff Laurenson.
P Robins Nov 2017