Sport

Legacy of Clarence rowing champion remembered 125 years on

TODAY marks 125 years since the death of one of Australia's great rowers, Henry Searle.

Born in Grafton in 1866 and raised on Esk Island in the Clarence River estuary, Searle died on December 10 in 1889 of typhoid fever, aged just 23.

The hugely popular rower had arrived in Melbourne just three weeks earlier via ship from England, where he had defended his World Sculling Championship title against Canadian William O'Connor for a 500 pound purse.

"Thousands met the train that brought his body to Grafton," Lex Essex told The Daily Examiner this week.

LEFT: Lex Essex, next to the grave of Henry Searle, holds on to the Bill Beach NSW Station Championship he won for rowing in 1956. PHOTO: ADAM HOURIGAN
LEFT: Lex Essex, next to the grave of Henry Searle, holds on to the Bill Beach NSW Station Championship he won for rowing in 1956. PHOTO: ADAM HOURIGAN

 

The 86-year-old Maclean resident is a life member of Lower Clarence Rowing Club and former president of Northern Rivers Rowing Association.

"No one will ever really know how good Henry Searle was," Mr Essex said.

"In those days they raced three and one-eighth mile - about 5000 metres.

"A tremendous amount of money was blown by the Canadians that day he won that race on the Thames. Someone put up an umbrella to show the Canadian was leading when they passed under a bridge. Searle might've just been playing with him."

Essex is one of the last vestiges of the region's rich professional sculling history, which ended in 1963.

For generations the one-on-one stakes races had been extremely popular, as scullers would wager large amounts to race one another.

"If you thought you were good enough you could challenge a title holder and put up a stake," Mr Essex explained.

"They had six months to accept the challenge or hand over the title."

After winning a two-mile race on the Clarence River by 880 yards as an unknown 18-year-old, Searle soon took on and beat the best of the world.

He had the capacity to break opponents with sudden, repeated and sustained bursts. His races drew tens of thousands of spectators to the banks of the Clarence and Parramatta rivers. It is estimated 100,000 people witnessed his final race in London.

The Lower Clarence continued to have a strong presence in the sport, including a period of dominance in the 1950s.

"In 1953 we hosted a world championship," Mr Essex recalled.

"I held the world lightweight championship and state championship.

"Jimmy Skinner held the Australian Championship, he was a descendant of Searle.

"Evan Fisher was world champion. His grandmother was a sister of Searle."

Topics:  lower clarence rowing club, rowing




Spiritual Matters: Prayer's power a surprise for some

Ecumenical Prayers for Peace at St Patrick's Cathedral for victims of  MH 17 crash. Candles were lit on behalf of community leaders, each cnadle representing a different nationality.   Photo:  Bev Lacey / The Chronicle

To a modern society, it must seem like an admission of failure

Ghosts reignite finals charge against Panthers

Grafton Ghosts' captain Ben McLennan claws for meters against the Sawtell Panthers during the Grafton Ghosts and Coffs Harbour Comets Group 2 minor semi-final at Frank McGuren Field.

Ghosts dominant in 2016 home ground farewell game.

125th birthday draws crowd to Tucabia

Ex-Tucabia Public School students Betty Freeman, Marie and Jack Preston and Joyce Tarrant at the schools 125th birthday celebration on Saturday.

The old and young celebrate Tucabia's 125th birthday.

Latest deals and offers

MOVIE REVIEW: Life on the Road

Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith and Foregone Conclusion (Steve Clarke, Andy Burrows, Stuart Baxter Wilkinson, Michael Clarke) in a scene from David Brent: Life on the Road.

Ricky Gervais has brought David Brent back to life on the big screen

Jessica Alba wants tequila shots served at her funeral

Businesswoman and actor Jessica Alba

There won't be mourning at this funeral

Tom Hiddleston's Instagram account hacked

Actor Tom Hiddleston

Thor star the latest celebrity targetted by hackers

Charlize Theron's son dresses up as Frozen character

Actor Charlize Theron

Star's son spotted dressed a beloved Frozen character

BOOKS: Food for thought in Caroline Beecham's latest novel

Maggie's Kitchen by Caroline Beecham is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.

New novel reminds readers that bravery exists in many forms

TELEVISION: New show is a Survivor, for now

Jonathan LaPaglia hosts the TV series Australian Survivor.

WHAT happens when a new show with a big budget flops?

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

Investors eye Gladstone's $4m island with resort approval

UP FOR SALE: Turtle Island is on the market.

CHINESE and Sydney investors flag interest in Gladstone island.

Take a sneak peek at this $19m Whitsunday mansion

Mandalay House features a private helipad.

Mandalay is currently on the market with an asking price of $19m