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australian rowers profiles and history

James G Beaney, MLC



James George Beaney was benefactor, surgeon, Member of the Legislative Council in Victoria, medical writer and involved with both British and colonial militia.

Very little is known about his rowing contribution even though he was a Vice-President of the Victorian Rowing Association from 1883- 1888. The only known rowing connection was that he was a good friend of John Hood MLC, the father of Sir Joseph Hood, who was one of the founders of the Victorian Rowing Association. There is no record of him ever having rowed.

Given that the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Victorian Rowing Association at that time were generous donors to rowing, and he is known as a community benefactor, it is possible that his rowing connection was through benefaction.

Beaney lead an interesting but controversial life. His surgical skill was questioned on several occasions and was once charged with murder through undertaking an allegedly illegal operation. This may be because he took on operations that other did not dare. Bryan Gandevia, his biographer in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, wrote of his surgical style: The evidence of contemporary observers indicates that he was a bold surgeon, perhaps rash and rough at times, without the finesse and skill of Sir Thomas Fitzgerald and E. M. James, yet often successful when others less daring would have failed.

Regardless of his full and varied life, he remained generous to charitable and educational causes until his death. He therefore has a most interesting ABD biography.

Andrew Guerin
February 2024


Bryan Gandevia, 'Beaney, James George (1828–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 26 February 2024.

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