It’s three quarters of a century since Harvey Dunn junior and his family vacated the Hawthorn-brick single-fronted cottage at 361 Pigdon Street, well within walking distance of the old Princes Park ground.

Harvey was barely a toddler then, and it was only recently that he finally took the sentimental journey back to the place where it all began way back in 1931.

“When Dad returned from the First World War, he played for Carlton. He was a butcher who lived at 361 Pigdon Street North Carlton, near Bowen Crescent, about a three-iron from the ground, and I was actually born in the front room of that house,” Harvey said.

“My family was in Carlton for the first 18 months of my life, but these were Depression days and, unlike today, there wasn’t much welfare … so families who couldn’t buy a house were faced with an opportunity to rent a property in Flemington, because things were pretty tough.”

While the Dunn family relocated to Flemington, father and son remained staunchly loyal to the Carlton Football Club. “As a young kid, I used to hear the roar of the crowd, and when I went to Flemington I still walked up past the zoo to go to the Carlton ground,” Harvey said.

Though he only turned out for the Blues in nine senior matches from 1951-54, Harvey Laurence Dunn will be forever remembered as the first League footballer acquired under the father/son rule.

Harvey Dunn in his Carlton gear

Harvey’s father, the late Harvey Louis Dunn, represented Carlton in 71 matches and kicked 139 goals from 1924-29. An acknowledged half-forward flanker who wore the No.16, he took out his club’s goalkicking honors with 35 goals from 1925.

League records indicate that Harvey junior was officially cleared to play for Carlton’s senior team in accordance with the newly-introduced father/son rule (50 games-plus) on May 11, 1951. Next was Melbourne’s Ronald Dale Barassi (March 15, 1953), South Melbourne’s Hugh McLaughlin and Bob Pratt junior (April 15, 1953), Carlton’s NW Huxtable (April 17, 1953), and Fitzroy’s James Chapman (March 31, 1954), whose fathers all represented their respective clubs with great distinction.

“Many years ago, there was an article in the paper that Ron Barassi was the first player recruited under the rule, but I was in fact the first. I also dispute the date my clearance came through,” Harvey said.

“When the under-19s were up and running, I was residentially bound to North because I lived in Flemington. I wanted to go to Carlton because of Dad, so I applied for a clearance from North, but they wouldn’t give me one. Instead, they asked me to train and I trained there for one night in 1949, but I didn’t want to go to North because I was Carlton-mad.

“My father knew there was a father-son ruling being considered at the League, so he advised that instead of me going to North in ’49 that I play for Box Hill, then in the Eastern District Football League.

“During that year, the League brought in the father-son rule, so in 1950 I transferred to Carlton and won the best and fairest in the thirds. I also played in the 1951 and ’53 reserve grade Grand Finals, and we won them both.

“When I first went there, Perc Bentley was coach of the seniors, Mick Price the reserves and Jim Francis the thirds. My Dad coached Box Hill in ’49 when I was there waiting for this clearance, and he later got an offer to coach the Carlton thirds, which he did from 1953-55. I know the thirds got beaten by a point in a Grand Final one year, and I also know that Dick Pratt was playing when Dad coached.”

In his formative years at Carlton, Harvey struck up what proved to be a lifelong friendship with Carlton full-back, the late George Ferry. As Harvey said: “We met up in the thirds. I was best man at George’s wedding, and I delivered the eulogy at his funeral service”.

Harvey donned the No.22 guernsey for Carlton, but his playing days at Princes Park were all-too-few. “I felt I was playing pretty good football as a rover and I was getting some good reports all the time, but I don’t think I was getting too many good wraps at selection,” he said.

“In 1954 I got an offer to return to Box Hill in the association for a few extra quid because I was getting on a bit. I won the best and fairest there in 1955, but after I married in ’59, I never played again.”

In the ensuing years, Dunn worked for Melbourne City Council and later managed Royal Park Golf Course. Now 77 and in retirement, Harvey still savours a friendly round of golf on the Mornington Peninsula.

Every so often, Harvey has made the pilgrimage back to the house in Pigdon Street, where he was born more than three quarters of a century ago. The single-fronted cottage with its cast-iron fence is built right on the street, but Harvey, until recently, hadn’t mustered the courage to make contact with the kindly owner, John McLaren, for old time’s sake.

“Many times I’ve been tempted to knock on the door, but the owner would probably think of me as a bit silly to look around. If ever I mustered the courage to knock, I’d make sure I brought my birth certificate with me, which states ‘born in 361 Pigdon Street, Carlton North’,” Harvey said.

Later, when McLaren heard of Harvey’s interest, he was only too happy to open the doors to 361 Pigdon Street, enabling Harvey to once again set foot in the front room of the house in which he was born all those years ago.

Harvey Dunn, Carlton's 'first son'

Harvey came armed with his old scrapbook, bursting with faded sepia clippings of his father’s career and, indeed, his own career with the Carlton Football Club. One item of interest was a letter penned to Harvey Dunn Senior by the-then Secretary and former Carlton champion Horrie Clover, dated May 22, 1925, which read:

“Dear Harvey,
I wish to inform you that you have been chosen in the team to meet Hawthorn tomorrow at Carlton and I take this opportunity of wishing you the very best of luck. I sincerely trust that you have a good day and prove yourself worthy of a place in the Carlton team.
I will supply you with a uniform tomorrow at the ground. Again, wishing you the best of luck.
I remain,
Yours faithfully”

As Harvey turned the pages of his glorious youth, his love for the only team old Carlton knows only intensified.

“I don’t get to many Carlton games now, but I still follow the Blues from afar. I went to the farewell match at Princes Park and am still a member of the Carlton Past Players,” Harvey said.

“It was really good that Carlton pushed that rule. It was the only way I could play for the team for whom Dad played and for whom I supported since I was a kid.”

At Carlton, the likes of Graeme Anderson, Peter Kerr, Scott Howell, Lance Whitnall, Jarred Waite and of course, Stephen Silvagni were each bound by the father/son rule, just as Harvey Laurence Dunn was almost 60 years ago.

The boy from Pigdon Street wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.