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australian rowers profiles and history

Philippe Batters

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Phil readily admits that he has not troubled the judges too often but has thoroughly enjoyed his rowing and club membership. He quips that his greatest contribution to rowing was keeping out of the boat!

This self deprecating approach hides how much he has contributed to the sport and the Club. He was a long standing Mercantile Committee man and President, auctioneer at so many club functions, Melbourne Amateur Regatta Committee member and Scotch Mercantile committee member. His work was recognised with life membership of the Club. 

In addition to his major contributions mentioned above, he has added enthusiasm and vibrancy to Club as the following interview illustrates. We have used his own words almost entirely in this interview to illustrate these qualities.

Professionally Phil has been a principal of a real estate agency for most of his life. He established his own real estate agency before he merged it with another firm which in turn has merged with another. He remains a consultant to that business despite being well over the retirement age. His interest and historical knowledge of Melbourne's South Yarra and Toorak areas is profound.

A press clipping kept by the author which explains his interest in the area of South Yarra

So how did this rowing interest begin? 

"I was standing in the tuck shop queue at Brighton Grammar in about 1962/63 when David Boykett accosted me mid vanilla slice and said "Batters, report to the boatshed". Being an obedient lad I complied and started at Mercs in that wonderful era when BGS didn’t have a separate area within the club.

"As I rose through the ranks I was coached by Jamie Pearce who was assisted by John Bostock. We muddled along through the 3rd eight and then 2nd eight and finally I was selected in the 6 seat of the first crew coached by Simon Newcomb. Our early triumph was winning the school section of The Head of the Yarra, and that trophy remains a favourite."

Brighton Grammar was not a powerhouse of the sport in those years and at the Head of the River, they finished second in the Losers Final. He was the biggest rower at the regatta being 194cm tall and 90.7 kilos. 

"John Burford and Jimmy Sprigg called and met with my father and me and said they wanted me at Mercs, so I duly arrived. I raced in maiden pairs, fours and finally got selected in the six seat of a hot maiden V111 with Peter 'China' O’Brien, Greg Johnston and a number of good oarsmen no longer around or deceased. I had a few junior eight outings but always seemed to be temporary berths! I won a couple of time trials.

"During this time I was coached by Peter Gibbs and then Tony Cordell in the eight.

"We went to the Christmas Regattas at Nagambie, Yarrawonga and Rutherglen and won all three. At that time, if you won all three the club shouted the crew nine gallon keg of beer which six of us guzzled in the old gym. The cox was too young to imbibe and two of the crew were Xavier boys who had signed the pledge not to drink until they were 21. I then finished the season in the maidens.

"Sadly I had a job then and the boss told me off for leaving at 5.30 to go to the sheds. He said I had to choose between work and rowing, work won.

"Then I disappeared for about three years to Europe.

"On my return I started in real estate seven days a week and that stuffed me completely.

"Then marriage and children.

"When I was about forty, I started socially rowing, famously with Warwick Anderson in the Laurie Moll. Also with Bill McHarg and Bill Carew in a Thursday night four.

"That expanded to a group of old and sloppies wanting to recapture past glories of the middle school fourth four and all of a sudden we had an eight and more. I christened this crew The Inibri-eights and we had a stack of fun.

"We accidently had success racing with this crew at Henley in about 1991 winning our division of the Veterans.

"I competed in the social racing organised by Paul McGann and Noel Donaldson called "The Corporate Cup" during its lifetime.

"Then I got very busy again so it was back to Warwick and me rowing in the Laurie Moll for fun.

"Over the years I took over running Barrels Bash from David Yunghanns and Barry Gross and we raised quite a bit of money.

"I was on the Committee for many years and had seven very enjoyable years as President .

"I love rowing and Mercantile and it is such a delight for me to see the achievements of our members."

Three Mercantile Presidents in 2005, from the left: Andrew Guerin, Phil Batters and David Boykett

Andrew Guerin
August 2021


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