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australian rowers profiles and history

Jack I Blaikie

Ballarat City Rowing Club (VIC)

Jack Inglis Blaikie was born in Ballarat in 1893. His parents were Robert Laidlaw Blaikie and Annie Blaikie (maiden name Brown). He is recorded as having attended Ballarat Junior Technical School which is now Dana Street Primary School. He probably attended from about 1900 until about 1908. From about 1902 when he was approximately 8 or 9 years old, Jack competed regularly in recitation competitions at Ballarat’s Royal South Street Competitions and various other eisteddfods around the district as far afield as Geelong. In 1908 it was reported in the Star newspaper, “Master Jack Blaikie, whose capabilities as an elocutionist are very well known, gave a humorous recitation which evoked hearty laughter.” He was entertaining visiting students and teachers from Bendigo Continuation School who had journeyed to Ballarat to pay his school a return visit. Jack was obviously very creative and artistically inclined. He enjoyed entertaining people.

In 1911 Jack’s father Robert was reported as attending the Ballarat City Rowing Club’s fair which was to raise funds for a new boatshed. It is reasonable to assume that Blaikie’s connection with the club commenced about then possibly as a coxswain. In 1913 was attending the Ballarat Agricultural High School. He rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club at about that time and with the Agricultural High School boys-Ernest Morsehead, Murdoch Spencer and Reg Allen. In March 1913 at Ballarat Regatta the Agricultural High School No:1 crew of Reg Allen, Jack Blaikie, Murdoch Spencer and Ernest Morsehead with coxswain W. Gribble won by six or seven lengths from the No:2 crew of S. Ainsworth, R. Ferguson, H. Ferguson and John Foster Gear in second place. Melbourne High School were third. The same crew raced for the club at Barwon Regatta in 1913. In an outstanding effort, the schoolboys’ dead heated with the Hawthorn crew. The officials gave the two crews the option of dividing the prizes but the Hawthorn crew, thinking they could beat these schoolboys, said they wanted a re-row! Undeterred they raced Hawthorn again and beat them by ¾ of a length! 

The Age newspaper report on Monday, March 10th stated:

“…..the committee very generously offered to add 6 pounds to the prize money, if the crews were disposed to divide….. It was then very late, and the Ballarat City crew, which consists mainly of schoolboys, wished to divide, but the Hawthorn four, remembering it was rowing stronger….at the finish, insisted upon rowing the race again, and much to the surprise of every one of the few persons present at that late hour, Ballarat City won……”

Jack was also a cadet in the 71st Regiment based in Ballarat for three years and reached the rank of Corporal. In May 1913 he rowed in the 71st Regiment crew at the annual regatta of the Army Rowing Association, 3rd Victorian Military District held on the Yarra River, where his crew placed third. This was the race for the Army Challenge Cup. Most of the crew were Ballarat City members including C. Williams, G. H. Pollard, Trehearne , H. Conran and Cooper. The winning crew was the 35th Engineers, also a Ballarat based crew stroked by Lieutenant Eric Brind. By November Jack was in training for the 1913-14 season and competed in the club’s Trial fours and the scratch pairs. Most of these “boys” would enlist and serve in World War 1. 

He studied Manual Art teaching at the Ballarat School of Mines Technical Art School. He became a drawing instructor/teacher in 1915 moving to Orbost to teach. This was the end of his rowing career as there were no opportunities to row in Orbost. While there he became engaged to Ethel Lynn, from an old Orbost pioneering family however they did not marry.

Photograph of students at the Higher Elementary School at Orbost 1915. Jack Blaikie is in the second row from the front third from the left.

Jack was 23 years and single when enlisted on the 2nd of August 1916 in the 5th Battalion, 24th Reinforcement, Australian Imperial Force, with the rank of Private, Number 7206. He was described as being of fair complexion with grey eyes and auburn hair! He was a red head! In October 1916 he was selected to attend Duntroon Officer’s Training School from 26th October until 20th December. His Unit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A70 Ballarat on the 19th of February 1917. He spent time in hospital in May 1917 with bronchitis and proceeded overseas to France from South Hampton on the 9th of September 1917. He re-joined his unit the 17th machine Gun Company on 22nd of October 1917. 

By September 1918 he had transferred from 1st Wing H.Q. to 7th Training Squad of the Australian Flying Corps. On the 18th of October he was on command at No. 2 School of Military Aeron Oxford for training as Flying Officer Pilot and appointed Cadet on the 6th May 1918. He was listed as returned to Australia on the 28th of February 1919 ex 'Anchises' with his appointment terminated from the A.I.F. 3rd Military District. He disembarked in Melbourne on the 17th April 1919 and discharged on the 17th May 1919 as medically unfit. His rank on discharge was Second-Lieutenant of the Australian Flying Corp. His service is commemorated by Tree No.2837 in the Ballarat Avenue of Honour and he is listed on the Honour board of the Ballarat City Rowing Club, the Ballarat High School Honour board, the School of Mines Honour Board and is remembered by the Orbost and District Historical Society.

By 1923 he was in Nauru and his brother received his war medals. In December 1923 he married Dorothy Oldfield at the residency in Nauru. They were married by His Excellency General Griffith. Jack’s parent were listed as living at Upper Beaconsfield. By 1949 Jack and Dorothy were living in Glenferrie Road, Kew and he was a teacher. By 1954 they had moved to Frankston where he continued teaching. His last address was The Ridge, Mt. Eliza and he was retired. He died in May 1976 at Mt. Eliza and is buried at Springvale Cemetery.

[Note regarding the portrait of Blaikie - During the first and second world wars Helena Warren photographed many of the young men who were leaving the district to join the armed forces. She always made several copies of each photograph giving the best ones to the subject, but unable to discard the reject she put them all in an album. This was then donated to the Orbost and District Historical Society by Tom and June Rodwell, Max and June Herrmann (nee Warren) and Nancye Wallace (nee Warren).]

Kate Elliott
May 2022

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