I am dedicating this post to my dear Mum, Maree Corbett who passed away on July 18th at 6pm. Mum was never a member of Ballarat City Rowing Club but she was such a staunch supporter and contributor over 46 years. She also holds the record of having the greatest number of family members involved in the club. Six of her children have been members over the last 46 years and along with her son and daughter in-law, they have contributed to the club as rowers-winning between them over 350 races including Victorian and Australian Championships, World Masters Championships. They have contributed as committee members, coxswains and coaches. Two of her grandchildren have just begun rowing.
Mum’s practical support meant we could focus on our rowing. It meant many nights of keeping tea warm without the benefit of a microwave for one or two of us who finished training late. She always attended regattas in Ballarat and was our most loyal and constant supporter. In 1990 and 1991 she travelled to the World Championships in Tasmania, to cheer on her son, Tim Wise, who was the first Ballarat City rower to row for Australia. In 1991 she travelled with me to Vienna to watch the World Championships where Tim again represented Australia in the lightweight double scull. Wherever we went, whatever we did in our rowing, mum was always interested and supportive. While never a rower herself she excelled at most sports. She was a very good athlete and tennis player during her high school years, representing her school in athletics, tennis and netball.
Mum was also my chief research assistant when I was researching the history of the club for “Boys From The Rushbeds”. She would go to the local library and trawl through the original newspaper archives form the 1870’s,80’s,90’s and 1900’s taking note of interesting articles and dates. As I was at home with a young child, I would read through her notes and then she would go back to the library to get photocopies of the relevant articles. She found the newspaper report of the Annual General Meetings of the club from 1870-1929 so we could reconstruct the archive which was lost in a disastrous boatshed firein 1950. In that way we completed three years of research together and reconstructed the club’s history. Without her assistance I would not have completed the book. She deserves recognition and thanks for her contribution to the club. I hope in some small way this tribute gives that. Well rowed Mum.
The 1898 Annual report opened with:
It can truly be said, and we say it with much pride, that victory has smiled upon our club in every department of its operations during the past season, and the happy desire of all our true supporters has been realised to an extent beyond our most sanguine expectations.”
We finally came back to the winners circle this year with the crew of J.Murfett, J.Bentley, A.Harvey and W.Caldwell winning Maiden fours at both Upper Yarra and Ballarat Regattas. Coach of the crew was John McPhail who had transferred from Ballarat Rowing Club. The club also won the Maiden eight at Geelong Regatta with the crew of W.Cotter, Graham Coulter, W.Caldwell, T.Watson, A.Allender, A.A.O’Dea, J.Hamilton and Charles Suffren the stroke.
In the obituaries the ‘untimely’ death of vice-president Mr Andrew Pearce was recorded with regret that the club had again lost a ‘kind friend’. Mr. Cotter, former club treasurer, also departed Ballarat and a ‘smoke night’ was held to farewell him. At this evening the club presented him with an illuminated address in recognition of his services.
The Misses R. and L. Nicholl presented the club with a handsome mirror to be hung in the club’s dressing room. Obviously the gentlemen oarsmen of yore were far more particular about their appearance than their modern counterparts.
John McPhail was an interesting character.He lived in Ligar Street and was a “mate” of Adam Lindsay Gordon. It was apparently John who dared Adam Lindsay Gordon to jump the wall at Craig’s Hotel on his horse.The two friends were later instrumental in forming the Ballarat Hunt Club.John’s portrait used to hang in the Gordon cottage in the Botanic Gardens.
John was a jockey and then a bookmaker enabling him to live a very comfortable life. He was a member of Ballarat Rowing Club initially and his family have in their possession a silver biscuit barrel won at Geelong regatta in 1892.They also have the silver tray and monogrammed visiting cards that belonged to John and his wife Ella.He later joined Ballarat City and was a successful coach with his brother Oswald becoming a coxswain for many City crews.Ozzie later moved to Brighton, Melbourne and was the brakeman on the Big Dipper ride at Luna Park.The family also has a Eureka connection as they still have today the china teacup that grandmother McPhail was drinking from when the Eureka rebellion erupted. He died on April 27th 1950.