Clarence River Historical Society president Frank Mack with the restored skiff, once owned by the legendary Henry Searle.
Clarence River Historical Society president Frank Mack with the restored skiff, once owned by the legendary Henry Searle.

Remembering a rowing great

By Emma Cornford

During the 1880s, rowing was a sport in which winners were treated with reverance, much like the professional sports stars of today.

It was during this heyday of rowing that Clarence Valley rower Henry Searle made a name for himself, earning the nicknames 'The Invincible Oarsman' and 'The Clarence Comet'.

He became world champion in 1889 after winning a race against Canadian Edward Hanlan down the famous Thames in London.

But on his way back from London he became ill with typhoid and, just days after arriving in Melbourne, he died. He was only 23.

Last year the Clarence River Historical Society received a grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum to preserve the remnants of one of Mr Searle's skiffs, which had been donated to the Schaeffer House Museum.

Clarence River Historical Society president Frank Mack said the restoration project had taken around five months.

But the skiff finally returned last week and is now on display at Schaeffer House in Grafton along with other Searle memorabilia, including portraits and the Searle Trophy.

The trophy, an intricately designed silver inkstand, was presented to Mr Searle when he was in Manchester.

Mr Mack said the story of Mr Searle was an interesting one.

"Apparently he used to row his brothers and sisters to school when he was up here," he said.

"He was incredibly well known.

"When he died around 200,000 people lined the streets of Melbourne as the procession went past and then he came up by boat and was buried at Maclean."



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