1953 The remarkable Mr.Findlay

This year in the annual Report, Ted Edwards, Jack Lawrie and Teddy Jones all joined Otto Hauser as Life Members. Between them they had contributed about 130 years of service to the club. Otto and  Teddy were still coaching crews  and attending meetings and working as hard as ever for the club.The club still homeless, rowing out of St. Pat’s shed and meeting at the Angler’s Lodge. While the building site had been cleared the only slow progress had been the made in rebuilding. The fleet grew to seven boats and thirty-three oars after the purchase of a racing pair from Alan Sykes of Geelong and a tub scull form A.Lounder of Adelaide. Membership was still very good with over fifty members on the books and all of them involved in actively running the club. The Reconstruction account grew by about 200 pounds to close the year with a balance of 680 pounds. The Social Committee were able to contribute 500 pounds to the running costs of the club. Although the club must have kept a separate account for the building fund as the Weekly Times reported in October 1953 that City was the most financial club in the state with a credit balance of 14,118 pounds. This is roughly equivalent to $1,411,800 today!

The club was well represented at regattas throughout the season attending 13 with a total of fifty crews, probably our strongest performance to date. From that we secured only four wins thus finishing down from our fourth position last year on the Premiership table. The first win was at Albert Park Regatta with a Lightweight pair of Cliff McCahon and Ron Healey. They followed up this win in a Lightweight four at Yea Regatta combining with Ralph Murphy and J.Dean. Teddy Jones was cox and coach for both wins. The season finished with the annual trip to Mildura/Wentworth Regattas and the crew of W.Maher, W.Luke, Cliff McCahon and Ron Healey winning the lightweight four double. As the club had won this race twice before they got to keep the perpetual cup attached to it. Cliff McCahon presented the cup to the club in 2018. Inter club racing was again tried with a new format this year of combination fours. It seemed to be a more successful format and those participating enjoyed the series. The Novice Regatta was at the beginning of the season with the main race, the Novice fours, being fought out by City’s number one and two crews. The winners were W. Wilson, W. Luke, V. Leslie, C. Cartledge and B. Hickey as cox second also went to City with the crew of R. Campbell, G. Smith, W. Quayle, P. Kerr and B. Jones as Cox. This was the first time since the war that we had won this event and taken out the Novice Premiership. The club’s Open Day was celebrated, as it had been last year with afternoon tea and trophy presentations to the winning crew of R. Leister and W. Quayle by the president Mr. Findlay on St. Pat’s Point.

The Social committee was running the dances at the City Hall this year, the hardworking committee continuing to keep the club afloat quite literally! During the winter months the club held three games nights, which proved to be very enjoyable. Points were allocated for all the games and the first prize went to E. Jackson. Mrs. Ida Hauser kindly heated up pies and pasties for supper after the games concluded.

1.Francis E.Findlay 2.Frank Findlay and son Philip about 1960.3. Boatsheds from the air early 1950. 4. Article Weekly Times 21/10/1953.


Francis E. Findlay has the distinction of being the longest serving president of the club. He was at the helm for 22 years from 1949-1970 and led the club through some of the toughest and most interesting times. During his presidency he held the club together and was instrumental in rebuilding the club after the devastating fire of 1950. He was president of the Ballarat Rowing Association for the 1956 Olympic Games when rowing was held on Lake Wendouree. He again oversaw the hiring of the hall, which raised valuable funds for the club and kept the club on an even keel throughout the turbulent social change of the 1960’s. Frank (or Cobber as he was affectionately known) was of the ‘old school’ and had an autocratic style of leadership. His longevity as president was no doubt due in part to the enormous amount of time and effort he gave freely to the club. In hindsight he was what the club needed at the time. And while not all club members might have liked his authoritarian style it is probably what kept the club going.

Frank’s father went away in 1914 to fight for Australia as so many men did. Young Frank was just seven. His father fought at Gallipoli, in Egypt and in France. Sadly he never returned. He was killed one or two days before the Armistice. No one was sure when or where he fell so the army kept paying his wages to his young wife in Ballarat. When he was eventually confirmed dead, the army wrote to Mrs. Findlay demanding the return of the money. As she did not have a job and was already bankrupt, she and her brothers started a business from the family home. They baked pies and opened up the windows of 908 Doveton Street, and sold their pies to the mill workers from the Morley’s Mill across the road. Throughout Frank’s childhood this is how they managed to survive.

Frank was educated at  McArthur Street school and went on to do an apprenticeship at the Railway Workshops. It was here probably that the young Frank met City members like Otto Hauser and Stan Wilton. Frank was a fine robust young man and probably they suggested to him that maybe he should try rowing. Frank rowed in a number of crews with some success but obviously found the rowing club and camaraderie of rowing appealing as he stayed on.

Frank married in 1954 and in 1955 his only son Philip was born. Philip remembers as a child, up to about the age of 10, accompanying his father to the rowing shed. Often there would be a meeting in the office upstairs at the shed where Frank used his many connections to obtain things for the rowing club. Frank Findlay invented networking before it was even thought of! He was instrumental in obtaining a government loan to replace the boatshed as the club could not raise all the money to pay for it.Frank and Philip were inseparable. Frank used to go up to the boathouse on Saturday afternoons as the hall was usually hired for a dance or a wedding nearly every weekend. He would often not return home until 2 am staying to supervise and then lock up after the last guest had departed. Then Frank accompanied by Phil would go up again on Sunday morning about 9.30 to sweep out the upstairs hall.

Frank was also president of the Ballarat Rowing Association during this period for years and also president of the Sportsmans’ Association for years. In 1962 Frank was liaison officer for the Western Australia King’s Cup crew. He worked tirelessly for the King’s Cup, which was held that year for the first time on Lake Wendouree.

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