The sulphur-crested cockatoo is acknowledged as one of Australia’s most popular and iconic birds . . . and at Carlton it once commanded legendary status.

From the terraces at the old Robert Heatley Stand end, the feisty cockatoo known as “Cocky Marr” won universal recognition as his club’s unofficial mascot, and quite probably its greatest supporter.

The legend of Cocky Marr is believed to have been born at some point in the 1930s, possibly earlier, when his handler Robert St Marr - a Carlton subscriber from as far back as 1902 - somehow manoeuvred the cockatoo through the clicking turnstiles at the old ground.

Every second Saturday, Cocky Marr stood defiantly in the outer at Princes Park, greeting each Carlton goal with high-pitched squawks of “Go Blues” and wildly flapping wings.

As Cocky Marr’s celebrity grew, celebrated Melbourne newspaper cartoonists of the day like Sam Wells and Alex Gurney (who created the wartime comic strip ‘Bluey and Curley’) all cottoned on, and the cockatoo suddenly began to appear in print, invariably on a Monday after the latest Carlton encounter. He even bobbed up on navy blue supporters’ pennants.

An image even appeared in The Carlton Story, showing Cocky Marr, proudly perched on the left hand of St Marr - himself resplendent in his bowler hat, butterfly collar and tie.

As Robert St Marr was estranged from his wife and three children, surviving descendants never knew of the Carlton link in Cocky Marr’s double life.

“I know that we inherited the cocky from my grandmother. I remember the bird where I lived at Westall, between Springvale and Clayton, and that was around 1955,” St Marr’s grandson Bill Stocker said.

“I was only a kid of five or six, but I do remember the cockatoo. He was noisy and he did talk, although I can’t remember what he said. I know he was a bit of a Houdini, in that he often managed to find a way out of his cage. One thing I’ll never forget either is that he gnawed the wooden handle off my tricycle.

“In the end, my parents gave the cocky away because it squawked and squeaked, and was just so noisy. It also used to demolish the wire cage it was kept in.”

Cocky-Marr-by-Gurney-350-2.jpg An undated faded clipping, recently found amongst old documents at the Carlton ground, and carrying the headline NOISY CARLTON BARRACKER DIES, AGED 43, reads as follows;

A white cockatoo, but one of Carlton Football Club’s most enthusiastic barrackers for more than 30 years, “Cocky” Marr, died yesterday.

He was 43 years of age and owned by Mr. Bob St Marr, of Carnegie.

“Cocky” Marr rarely missed a Carlton match. He had been attending League matches long before many of the present-day Carlton players were born.

From his perch on his owner’s arm somewhere in the stand enclosure, “Cocky’s” shrill voice would go out over the ground.

Harry Vallence, former Carlton champion forward, was one of “Cocky’s” idols. His “Up there Soapy” call was famous.

When Cocky Marr quite literally fell of the perch, the mortal remains were taken to a taxidermist. The stuffed bird, fixed to a perch, then found its way back to the old Carlton ground, which for a lifetime of winter Saturdays was its undisputed domain.

The famous cockatoo got tucked away in a closet in a nook of the Robert Heatley Stand, to which Carlton footballers would always escape after Sunday morning trackwork. For years the bird sat silently in the darkness, and as the dust surely settled on its plumes the legend of Cocky Marr was sadly all but forgotten.

Bob Lowrie, a former Carlton trainer, runner, doorman and general rouseabout whose energies are these days directed towards the Spirit Of Carlton Past and Present group - is man enough to admit that he was there in 1976, “the year we turfed Cocky Marr out”.

“There was a little closet in a room alongside ‘Nick’s Nightclub’ where they used to put all the vacuum cleaners and a lot of the stuff they didn’t want,” Lowrie recalled. “One Sunday morning Jack Wrout walked into the room. The carpet there was buggered, the joint needed a paint and he said to me and Denis Turner: ‘We’re going to extend Nick’s Nightclub - clean the room up and anything taking up space in that closet, throw it out - get rid of it’ . . . and we said ‘Alright mate, not a problem’.

“There weren’t any cups or anything, but there was a lot of crap in there, and we started turfing it all out. Then we came across this stuffed old bird on a perch and nobody knew anything about it.

“I said to Denis, ‘Who put this dead bird in here?’ He’d seen better days I can tell you, and there was nothing on him to identify who he actually was.”

Lowrie remembered later popping the question of Cocky Marr to Carlton committeeman Jack Carney, a member of the Blues’ 1938 premiership outfit.

“I said to Jack, ‘Do you know anything about the bird that was in that room?’ and he said ‘I don’t know anything about any bird’,” Lowrie said.

“Anyway about a fortnight later, Jack came back to me and said ‘That wouldn’t have been Cocky Marr you threw out last week was it?’ and I said ‘Who the hell is Cocky Marr?’.”

Lowrie said that Carney then related the story of the legendary winged creature. “Jack told me that the bloke would stand with the cockatoo right behind the goals at the Heatley Stand end. He told me that whenever a Carlton player kicked a goal the bird would flap his wings all over the joint, and when an opposition player kicked a goal he’d just sit there on the bloke’s shoulder,” Lowrie said.

“Jack reckoned Cocky Marr was a foul-mouthed bastard too, and you can just imagine what the outer was like in those days. I’m damned if I know how the bloke got the bird into the ground.

“I said to Jack ‘You better get a life. This can’t be the bird’. Jack replied ‘That’s exactly who it is’, and once I realised who it was it was too late.”

One can only presume that Cocky Marr is no more - unless an opportunistic garbage scavenger salvaged him phoenix-like from the ashes. It’s a sad postscript, although Lowrie does see merit in the presence of Son of Cocky Marr at future Carlton home games - notwithstanding the small matter of occupational health and safety?

“Wouldn’t that be great,” Lowrie suggested. “I’m not sure about the MCG, but the only way ‘Collo’ would let him in to The Dome is if he was a sponsor”.

Carlton Mascots