April 2020 News

Above: Mercantile looking quiet

Provided by your faithful correspondent Trident.

Past news can be found at this link.

News covered this month:

  • ANZAC Day Commemoration 2020
  • Training COVID style
  • Updated time for 1924 Olympic documentary
  • 2020 ANZAC Rowing Challenge
  • Vale Tom Jack and Stan Bulmer
  • Latest on the lockdown – 21 April
  • Jess Morrison’s training advice in lockdown
  • Latest on lockdown – 19 April
  • Vacant Committee position
  • Boat and equipment update
  • 1924 Rowing Olympic Documentary
  • Interstate Indoor Rowing Regatta
  • Personal accident insurance
  • RV Safety plan
  • Extraordinary Australians – Jess Morrison
  • Senior high performance coach progress
  • All events are now cancelled.
  • World Junior-Under 23-Senior Championships – the event not yet cancelled
  • Interstate Championships late 2020?
  • Lock down in progress
  • Club financials
  • Sean and Bibi Colgan make a generous donation
  • Club Foundation progress report
  • From the vault – 1968 lightweight eight


ANZAC Day Commemoration 2020

Published 24th April 2020

Every year, the Club has an ANZAC Day service at the Clubhouse at which we hear about a member who served and we read the names, and acknowledge those members who lost their lives in the service of their country. These members will be remembered but not in the traditional way.

Those members who lost their lives in WWI were:

  • Cumberland, J. W.
  • Johnston , N.
  • Lingham, A. R.
  • Nation, N. C.
  • Robertson, G.
  • Robertson, R. J.

Those members who lost their lives in WWII were:

  • Barkley, E.H.
  • Barnfather, E. R.
  • Belltowers, W.
  • Black, P. A.
  • Braithwaite, K. A.
  • Brewin, Raymond T.
  • Cook, D. D.
  • Davies, G. A.
  • Fyffe, A.
  • Hastie, G. T.
  • Henty, W. M.
  • Johnson, E. F.
  • Lind, G. A.
  • Macrae, S. C.
  • Major, J. F.
  • Matheson, W.
  • McDonald, R. W.
  • Nethercote, C. R.
  • Orbuck, L. D.
  • Roper, L. W.
  • Scarlett, R. C.
  • Scholefield, R. B.
  • Smith, W. H. R.
  • St. John , H
  • White, F. N.

The following member lost his life in Vietnam:

Locke, G. R.

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

This year we remember WWI veteran John Wilson McDonald (known as Wilson) 8 April 1896-13 July 1961

Geoffrey Blainey in his book “A Shorter History of Australia”, wrote of the impact of WWI as follows.

Perhaps the most drastic effect of the war on Australia would never be enumerated [by soldiers lost]: it was the loss of all those talented people who would have become prime ministers and premiers, judges, divines, engineers, teachers, doctors, poets, inventors and farmers, the mayors of towns and leaders of trade unions, and the fathers of another generation of Australians. It was a war in which those with the gift of leadership, the spark of courage, and the willingness to make sacrifices often took the highest risks. A young nation could not afford to lose such men.

This year we highlight a member who survived WWI, albeit with significant injuries and humble beginnings, to become a significant member of society, and whose grandson Andrew and great-granddaughter Bridget, continued the family’s Mercantile rowing tradition.

It does not prove Geoffrey Blainey wrong, but highlights his comments. The talent of those gallant leaders who survived, did go on, despite the disabilities of war, to become pillars of our society.

This ANZAC Day, we acknowledge both the those who failed to return, and also those who served. Wilson McDonald’s courageous service is recognised today.

Wilson McDonald was born in Kilmore Victoria to John and Annie McDonald.

Schooled at Kilmore State School, he left at the age of 14 with his standard certificate.

He got a job at Harrisons Ramsay, importers at the age of 15 and moved to Melbourne. At the time of his enlistment at 19 years 9 months, he resided in Jolimont Terrace Jolimont. No doubt he started as an office boy or warehouseman and by the time of his enlistment had progressed to being a clerk. By the time of his retirement, he was Chairman of the local Board of the British company Harrison Crossfield.

He did not row at school and obviously took up rowing whilst in Melbourne. As a warehouseman, he qualified to join Mercantile which drew members from the merchants and warehousemen of Melbourne, particularly from Flinders Lane.

He also occupied himself by having completed 3 years as a cadet attaining the rank of second lieutenant and 2 ½ years in the citizen forces, now known as the Military Reserves, attaining the rank of lieutenant.

With the written consent of his parents, he enlisted for WWI in Melbourne on 25th January 1916.

Whilst he joined as a private, his past service was quickly recognised and he was promoted to Sargeant within a week of joining. Before departure overseas, he was promoted to second lieutenant and had undertaken range finding and other training.

He departed for France in November 1916 with the 37th Battalion. Despite suffering from various ailments, no doubt caught on the journey overseas, he was promoted in the field on 17th January 1917 to Lieutenant.

The life expectancy of front-line lieutenants in WWI on the western front in France was short. Fortunately, Wilson McDonald survived, but only after being seriously wounded and thereafter being unfit for duty. On 10th October 1917, he received gunshot wounds to the right shoulder, right knee and right buttock. The shoulder injury caused him life-long issues and requiring him to change from being a right-handed person to left. He had limited movement in the right-hand side of his body.

Clearly it also brought his rowing days to an end.

Prior to this unfortunate incident, Wilson McDonald proved himself an excellent soldier being awarded the Military Cross in the field by order dated 13th April 1917.

Wilson McDonald after receiving his Military Cross at Buckingham Palace, his injuries are evident.

The Commonwealth Gazette No 133 on 21st August 1917 states: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a raid on the enemy’s trenches. In spite of intense fire he made repeated attempts to enter the enemy’s trenches, and at last succeeded in forcing an entry at another point. He has previously done fine work.

The more detailed report states:

At Armentieres on the night of 26/27th February 1917, on the occasion of a raid by a composite Battalion of his Brigade on the enemy trenches, Lieut. McDonald was in charge of No 1 Assaulting Party of his Company. When he reached the enemy wire, leading his party, very strong opposition was met with artillery and machine gun fire, and the first party was almost decimated. Notwithstanding the hot fire sustained, Lieut. McDonald made repeated attempts to enter the enemy’s trenches; and at last succeeded in forcing an entry at another point, and leading his men into the enemy’s first line. On the occasion of a previous raid, he had successfully commanded one of the assaulting parties.

He returned to Australia on 10th January 1918.

Shortly after his return, he was sent by his employer to Calcutta. His fiancé Thelma Gertrude Pie travelled to India to be married on 30 September 1920. They had twin daughters Hazel and Ailsa in India but sadly both twins died there.

Because of the horror of losing the twins in India, Thelma travelled to Melbourne to give birth to a daughter Jill in safety, and subsequently brought her back to India, where Wilson was still working. Jill was raised there for a number of years before the family returned to Melbourne. Upon their return to Melbourne to settle, they were to have another daughter and a son, all of whom lived into adulthood.

Wilson died in Canada of heart problems in 1961. Thelma McDonald died in Melbourne in 1988, some 27 years after Wilson.

He lived a distinguished life.

Let us remember Wilson and all the other members who served their country in WWI.


Training COVID style

Published 24th April 2020

Twice a week, all out active athletes do erg sessions together with everyone from Olympians Jess Morrison and Gus Widdicombe to recruits. Interposing these Olympians next to others provides great guidance to the younger rowers. Sadly only 25 can be seen at one time.

Plenty of other sessions are being undertaken such as the following technique session of some of the under 21 squad supervised by Dylan Curnow and Phil Tran. Some of the background images are interesting!

Technique session supervised by Dylan and Phil


Updated time for 1924 Olympic documentary

Published 22nd April 2020

Please note that Channel 9 has moved the screening time to 12.00pm on Sunday May 10. Please see below for details.


2020 ANZAC Rowing Challenge

22nd April 2020

As reported today, Rowing Australia, Rowing NZ and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Eric Murray, today announced the 2020 Anzac Day Indoor Rowing Challenge. The event to take place from dawn to dusk on Saturday 25 April will see Australians and New Zealanders unite to record 2504 metres, as many times as possible, at home, on their indoor rowing machines.

The number, 2504, signifies the date of Anzac Day, 25.04.2020, with participants encouraged to log their metres online and donate to either RSL Australia’s ANZAC Appeal or the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time World Champion, New Zealand’s Eric Murray said, “What better way for our rowing communities to acknowledge this year’s Anzac Day, and respect our current lockdown restrictions, than to row at home in honour of all those that have served and continue to serve our countries.

“The ANZACs rowed into Gallipoli, on 25 April 1915, and this Anzac Day, Australians and New Zealanders will unite at home to row indoors and honour their memory.”

2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist, Australia’s Kim Brennan, echoed Murray’s sentiments, adding, “We’re calling on Australians and New Zealanders who have their indoor rowing machines at home to record 2504m as many times as possible and take a moment to remember those who came before us.

“While this year’s Anzac Day will be different to others, we know our communities will come together to recognise those who served and continue to serve the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces.”

On the support of New Zealand and Australian representative athletes, Rowing NZ Chief Executive Simon Peterson commented, ‘’As with all New Zealanders and Australians, our athletes are facing challenging times, and we are incredibly proud of their commitment to honour Anzac Day within our respective lockdown restrictions.

“Whist we are saddened normal commemorations are unable to take place this year, we are humbled to have the New Zealand and Australian rowing communities joining us in honouring our Defence Forces.”

Rowing Australia CEO Ian Robson added, “These are unprecedented times and we are looking forward to seeing many of those with indoor rowing machines from across our two countries contributing to the challenge and also to our respective charitable organisations.

“It is also fitting that, as we look to honour our military by rowing this weekend, the Australian War Memorial’s pre-recorded Anzac Day Last Post Ceremony will tell the story of South Australian rower, Private Thomas Anderson Whyte of the 10th Battalion AIF, who was killed during the landing at Gallipoli in 1915. As Arthur Blackburn wrote of Whyte, ‘it was largely due to the courage and endurance of Tom and his fellow-rowers in all the boats that everyone was landed with the minimum of loss.’ Rowing is intrinsically linked to the Anzacs and we’re honoured to play our part in recognising the importance of Anzac Day.”

Those who choose to take part in the event can log their metres between dawn and dusk on the below link, with the country who recorded the most 2504m per participant to be announced on Sunday 26 April.

Click here to enter your metres on 25 April 2020.


Vale Tom Jack and Stan Bulmer

Published 22nd April 2020

Many members will have been touched by the good work of Tom Jack from Queensland and some old members may recall Stan Bulmer of Yarra Yarra. Sadly both have passed away recently.

Your correspondent has written a tribute to Tom Jack which can be found on the Rowing Australia website and also at:


Latest on the lockdown – 21st April

Published 21 April 2020

Rowing Victoria has published the following updated advice.

Rowing Victoria have been informed that the Ministers Office and the Premiers office have supported the recent comments by the Victorian Chief Health Officer in relation to the use of paddle craft as a legitimate form of ‘exercise’.  

This is a great first step towards getting back on the water however we acknowledge that at present, the Victoria Chief Health Officer has also continued to advise that both indoor and outdoor recreational facilities must continue not to operate. The directive remains to stay home, not to travel for exercise and that exercise is to be for a limited time, not hours. Full list of restrictions can be found here.

Rowing Victoria is in regular contact with Waterways Managers across Victoria who have informed us that their waterways have remained closed to all recreational users until further advised. Members should also be aware of their need to comply with their Rowing Club’s Safety Management Plan and it is strongly advised that you also review the following statement in regards to personal accident insurance. [Bolding added by your correspondent.]


Jess Morrison’s training advice during lockdown

Published 20th April 2020

A great cartoon from #ExtraordinaryAustralian Ambassador and great Mercs member Jess Morrison to help you with Training in Isolation! Jess will be creating a template for all the community to utilise in the coming weeks to help you stay motivated!

From Jessica Morrison@jemorrison92. A little something to help with #training at the start of your week!

Thank Jess


Latest on lockdown – 19 April

Published 19th April 2020

Yesterday in the press, the Victorian Chief Health Officer has advised that rowing is now permitted as long as physical distancing is complied with and people do not travel large distances to do it.

We are advised that the Rowing Victoria advice is unchanged and other guidelines must be followed. Currently these include: the Yarra River is closed, you need to wear a personal flotation device while sculling, you need to live within 10 kms from the point of training and you can only be on for 45 minutes. Further no insurance cover is provided. Those rowing are taking a risk and breaking the law. RV will notify us of any positive changes.

Keep safe and stay home, this is still the message.


Vacant Committee Position

Published 19th April 2020

The Committee currently has a vacancy for an Honorary Assistant Secretary. The role is to assist the current Honorary Secretary with the large volume of work generated by the Club. This position is ideal for someone wanting to learn about club administration from an experienced sports administrator.

Please respond to for more information.


Boats and equipment update

Published 19th April 2020

The Club has embarked on a four-year equipment replacement program to:

  • ensure that our high-performance program has appropriate equipment to meet performance and recruitment goals
  • sufficient boats are retained for club and social rowers, and
  • reduce the fleet age,

whilst ensuring that the net costs do not exceed our annual equipment budget plus proceeds of equipment sales.

The net result of the program will be to increase boat usage, increase boat turnover, minimise fleet size and make available more boats to the social and masters rowers. To make this work, apart from designated high performance boats, boats will be able to be booked by all members.

The Club is currently undertaking a due diligence on a member management system which will include an equipment booking system for members.

For more information, please speak with a member of the Committee.


1924 Rowing Olympic Documentary

Published 15th April 2020

A rowing story on TV – it must be good – your correspondent is interviewed

Documentary makers Wayne Groom and Dr Carolyn Bilsborow have edited the original documentary for television, and Channel 9 has agreed to air it through their Australian networks at 12.00pm on Sunday 26th April 2020.

The story of the Murray Bridge Eight, that represented Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, is inspirational.  As the entire Australian rowing community observes social distancing in their homes, this is a wonderful opportunity to share one of rowing’s great stories.


Interstate Indoor Rowing Regatta

Published 15th April 2020

5 days to go to register your kilonetres

The 2020 Indoor Interstate Regatta is here! With no King’s and Queen’s Cup Interstate Regatta this year, why not see if your State/Territory can clock the most metres and be crowned champions? Log your distance for your home state, via the button below, to be crowned the indoor interstate champions of 2020.

Log your metres here

There are two divisions to judge winners:

  • Total distance
  • Total distance per participant


Personal accident insurance

Published 15th April 2020

All members are covered by personal accident insurance doing rowing activities sanctioned by Rowing Victoria or the Club. We have received the following advice from Rowing Australia who arrange the insurance.

Please note the Rowing Australia personal accident insurance covers members for all activities sanctioned by the state associations and clubs in respect of Rowing.  

In the event there are no sanctioned activities taking place, if a rowing club has closed for example, or in the case of a State/Territory government advising of no club-sanctioned training can take place, but members that are private boat-owners still wish to  train / take their boat out by themselves, unless it is a sanctioned club (or state) activity there is no cover under the personal accident policy.

There are a number of safety and risk management considerations to be taken into account by members and Aon Insurance can provide more detail on these if required.

Please note cover under the Aon-QBE club marine hull and individual rowing craft policies is in place regardless if members’ associated clubs are open or not.


Rowing Victoria Safety Plan

Published 15th April 2020

Rowing Victoria has negotiated a safety plan for rowers in Victoria which enables rowers to avoid the necessity to wear personal flotation devices whilst rowing. The plan involves Clubs having safety officers who make Club rules for access to the river tailored for individual rowers.

With the Club now in shut down, these procedures are no longer in place and any member sculling in their own boat is no longer covered by the PFD exemption.


Extraordinary Australians – Jess Morrison

Published 10th April 2020

I was speaking with a retired Major General of the Australian Army this week and asked him about why he is so passionate about soldiers and veterans well being. He responded in quite simple terms – when you see soldiers on operations, you can see the extraordinary achievements of ordinary Australians.

We too have extraordinary Australians in our sport whose stories require being told. Rowing Australia has identified 12 amazing athletes to share their extraordinary stories. One of them is our own Jessica Morrison.

Congratulations Jessica. We look forward to hearing more about your story from elite swimmer to elite rower.

Jessica in the bow at the 2019 World Championships

Rowing Australia advised that this series was set to include stories of volunteers, club coaches, school rowers, club rowers, parents, officials and our elite athletes, to name but a few. They wanted to illustrate the extraordinary contributions of our whole community to the sport of rowing, to tell the stories of those we may not normally celebrate and to showcase the inspirational journeys of our top athletes.


Senior high performance coach progress report

10th April 2020

The first round of interviews are nearing completion and a recommendation for a short list of candidates will be made to the Committee soon.

The Club has been fortunate to receive many quality candidates for our position and it is heartening to see how well many would readily fit into the role. An appointment is planned during April.


All events are now cancelled

Published 10th April 2020

Last night, FISA announced that all remaining events for 2020 are now cancelled. Their announcement is as follows:

Following the rapid expansion of the COVID-19 global pandemic during the past two weeks around the world and the recommendations of the World Health Organisation which led to the postponement of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the relevant World Rowing event organisers and FISA have been in constant communication. Based on these facts, the FISA Council and the organising committees recognise that the context has changed related to the spread of this global pandemic. Accordingly, the Council and the Organising Committees have decided that:

  1. The 2020 World Rowing Senior, Under 23 and Junior Championships regatta in Bled, SLO, is cancelled and will not be re-scheduled. The OC will be in touch with teams directly which have booked accommodation in the coming days.
  2. The 2020 World Rowing Masters Regatta in Linz-Ottensheim, AUT, is cancelled on the planned dates in September 2020, and will be staged as the 2021 World Rowing Masters Regatta from 1-5 September 2021 (WRMR Banyoles, ESP will move to 2025).
  3. The 2020 World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals and Coastal Championships regattas in Oeiras, POR, is cancelled on the planned dates in September/October 2020 and will be staged as the 2021 WRBSF and WRCC in October 2021 (exact dates to be confirmed).
  4. The 2020 World Rowing Tour in American Samoa is cancelled on the planned dates in April. More information will follow if re-scheduling in 2021 will be possible.

Now that the dates for the Tokyo2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have been confirmed for 2021, the Council is working on proposals for the 2021 World Rowing event season and the re-scheduling of the remaining Olympic and Paralympic qualification regattas.

Summary prepared by Greg Smith illustrates the impacts


World Junior-Under 23-Senior Championships – the event not yet cancelled

Published 7th April 2020

Advice came through today that the 2020 World University Championships that were due to be held in Zagreb, Croatia from 27 to 29 August 2020 have been cancelled in light of the currently COVID-19 pandemic.

The only event that has not yet been cancelled in the World Junior/Under 23/Senior Championships scheduled for Bled in Slovenia from 16 to 23 August 2020. The Organising Committee is still working towards this event and tentative Australian trials are scheduled for July. This may be the only international rowing event this year!

Your President racing at Bled at the World Championships in 1989


Interstate Championships late 2020?

Published 7th April 2020

Rowing Australia today flagged the possibility of an Interstate Championships late in 2020? Where? When? How? etc are all unknown at this stage.


Lock down in progress

Published 5th April 2020

The Clubhouse is closed for the foreseeable future, the OIympics have been postponed to 2021 (but still called 2020), national training centres (NTCs) have closed and the Henley Royal Regatta abandoned. All the remaining elements of the 2019-20 season have now finished. We do not expect any other events currently planned to take place.

As our President noted in his recent newsletter, this has had a huge impact on our rowers. They were at the peak of their powers and prepared to race. Those at the NTCs and those training at the club have had their dreams for the season destroyed. For those already in the Olympic squad, do they continue for another year? Sadly some may call it day. For those wanting to perform well in their last year of under 21 or under 23, there is no choice but to try again next year in a higher category. Fortunately for most, their aims are beyond the current season. Your coaches have prepared programs for our rowers but if this closure goes on for a long time, they will have to be increasingly innovative.

Virtual regattas and virtual group training are becoming the new normal.

This period has allowed for boat repair work to be undertaken and for a clean up of the boating area.

It has also a good time to rationalise our fleet and update it. We have advertised for the sale of excess equipment and once we have enough sales, we will order new equipment.


Club financials

Published 5th April 2020

With all our operations closed down, the club financials are under strain. We will survive but we ask the following of our members.

  • Firstly that all members pay their outstanding subscriptions and entry fees immediately.
  • Secondly, that all members maintain their membership throughout the lock down. The Club needs your support and membership. We understand that some members will maintain their membership at a lower level during the lock down period.
  • Finally, please recruit more members to the Club. When we reopen, we want to rapidly ramp up. We will need to catch up on lost time way.

This is a time when your Club needs you more than ever before.


Sean & Bibi Colgan make a generous donation

Published 5th April 2020

Last week, the Club was again amazed by the generosity of Sean and Bibi Colgan with a substantial donation to the Foundation. Thank you Sean and Bibi.

Sean Colgan in Australia in 2018

The Trustees have again offered to match their generous donation which will further benefit the Foundation.


Club Foundation Report

Published 5th April 2020

The Club Foundation was established in 1980 to provide long term support for the Club and to safeguard its future. Over the years, it has grown and is now a meaningful amount despite being fully utilised to fund the renovations in 2012. As at the end of March 2020, the value of the Foundations’ investment were valued at $1.3mil.

Please go to the Foundation page to find out more out it.

The recent market crash has had an adverse impact on the investments of the Foundation. Fortunately, the Foundation has survived the crash remarkably well with the value of the investments falling far less that the market. As a stroke of luck, the trustees has a large amount in cash at the time of the fall and so is now available for investment at lower market prices.

The Club relies on member donations to grow and achieve its objectives. Donations can be made through the Australian Sports Foundation to obtain tax deductions for your contributions. Your consideration of making a donation is requested, particularly at this time of need.


From the vault – 1968 Lightweight Eight

Published 5th April 2020

The sad loss of Robert Connolly last month highlighted a crew in which he competed, the 1968 National Championship lightweight eight. This was the fourth National Championships, the event only being conducted every two years during that era.

This crew comprised Bow: E Morgan, 2: Peter Downey, 3: Rob Cummings, 4: Rob Connolly, 5: Tim Hogan, 6: Geoff Park, 7: Andrew MacDougal, Str: Peter (China) O’Brien, Cox: Cliff Restarick, Coach: John Burford and won the Championship in 6:05.2. They defeated their arch rival for that season Barwon Rowing Club by 5.5 seconds.

1968 Australian Championship lightweight eight

The crew was not always successful during the season. Barwon Rowing Club defeated them in both the lightweight four and eight at the State Championships although Peter Downey and Ron Griffiths combined to take out the Victorian Championship lightweight pair. The tide turned for this crew in mid February when the crew started to defeat Barwon.

The 1960s were a strong lightweight era for the Club. The Club had won the lightweight eights at the first and second National Championships in 1962 and 1964. Most of the lightweights involved of that era have remained strong supporters of the Club.


Past news can be found through the link.