AustLit logo
NLA image of person
Harold Mercer Harold Mercer i(A11815 works by) (birth name: Harold Bailey) (a.k.a. Harold St Aubyn Mercer; Harold St Aubyn)
Also writes as: Spare Corp ; Hamer ; Exdig ; Harold Hardupp ; The Frequent Lover ; Hamfat ; Percy Pawnticket
Born: Established: 1882 Kelvin Grove, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane - North West, Brisbane, Queensland, ; Died: Ceased: 13 Jun 1952 Bondi, Bondi area, Sydney Eastern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Harold Mercer was born Harold Bailey ('more rightly Bayley'- as his self written obituary says), but his mother reverted to Mercer after divorcing in 1893. He came from a writing family - his grandmother wrote for the Westminster Gazette, and his grandfather wrote religious works.

As Harold St Aubyn, he was famed as the 'boy chess player', with his name being given to the Harold Mercer Cup for Junior Chess Champion of Australia begun in 1949. His 'boy reciter' fame and interest is perpetuated in the test for the Bulletin Awards for Australian Verse Speaking (14 and over) requiring a recitation of a work by early Bulletin contributors which includes Mercer.

His first published verse appeared in the Bulletin in 1897 at age fifteen, and his first short story was published in the Bulletin September 22, 1900. At seventeen, he won a half-share of the prize in a competition for an essay on the future of the Australian Commonwealth. Mercer also wrote topical lyrics for pantomimes and advertising verses whilst working in a solicitor's office. Leaving shortly after for an acting career, he lasted only three months before being appointed assistant manager of the company. By 1902 he was managing a company which toured New Zealand for two years.

In 1905 Mercer married, gave up theatre and freelance writing, and worked as a clerk, then as an accountant in Waterloo. An active unionist, he was involved in the formation of the Clerk's Union, which resulted in his being boycotted. Mercer then worked as a commercial traveller, was again boycotted and turned to auditing, all the while freelance writing. He got a job at the Sydney Morning Herald on the basis of his knowledge of labour affairs. Mercer was involved in organising twenty-eight new unions, including the Artists' and Writers' Union.

Serving as a corporal in the 1st Battalion in World War I with the AIF, Mercer was invalided from France to London. Returning to Australia, he worked as a publicity officer, sub-editor on the monthly Aussie, and Melbourne representative for the Bulletin, and published verse in All About Australians magazine.

He wrote prolificly for the Bulletin, and his freelance works included verse, short stories, paragraphs on all subjects, special articles, jokes, sermons and prayers, advertisements and technical articles.

Most Referenced Works

Known archival holdings

State Library of NSW (NSW)
Last amended 19 Nov 2013 13:52:28
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: