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australian rowers profiles and history

F William Commons

Ballarat Rowing Club and Ballarat City Rowing Club (VIC)
and for a short time, Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

1905 Joined Ballarat Rowing Club selected in January 1905 for Maiden eight

1905 - Ballarat Regatta, Maiden eight

1905 - Barwon Regatta, Maiden eight - Second

1905 - Upper Yarra Regatta, Maiden eight - 3rd in heat

1906 - Ballarat Regatta Maiden eight, bow - 1st

1906 - Ballarat City Club Trial pairs, Robert and William Commons - 1st

1906 - BRA Novice Regatta, December 1906, Novice sculls - 3rd

1908 - Footscray Regatta, Maiden pair, Robert and William Commons - 1st

1908 - Upper Yarra Regatta, maiden pair, Robert and Willian Commons - 1st

1909 - BRA Novice Regatta, Novice sculls - Robert Commons 1st, William Commons 2nd.

1910 - Ballarat Regatta - Junior scull, William Commons

1910 - Ballarat Regatta - Maiden scull, William Commons

1912 - Ballarat Regatta, Senior pairs, Robert Commons and William Commons

1912 - Bairnsdale Regatta, Senior pairs, Robert Commons and William Commons

1912 - Barwon Regatta, Senior pairs, Robert Commons and William Commons

1912 - Colac Regatta, Senior pairs, Robert Commons and William Commons

1913 - Barwon Regatta, Senior pairs, Robert Commons and William Commons

1913 - Club fours

1914 - BRA Champion Sculls, William Commons 2nd, Mario Commons 3rd

Fredrick William Commons was born in 1887. His father was also Fredrick William Commons so his son was usually referred to as William or Will. William attended Pleasant Street Primary School and later Ballarat College. 

As the eldest son, he probably went into his father’s business after finishing school. He married Minnie Edith Horgan in 1915 and they had a son William Robert Weston Commons in 1917.

William started his rowing at Ballarat Rowing Club in 1905 and raced in a Maiden eight at Ballarat, Barwon and Upper Yarra without success. He was part of the club’s winning Maiden eight in March 1906 at Ballarat Regatta.

The next time he is mentioned is rowing for Ballarat City in a Maiden pair with his brother Robert. From here they went on to have great success as a pair. Apparently they were not technically the best pair around but they were fast and rowed with great “pluck and vigor.” They had their last race in the pair at Barwon Regatta 1913. After that Robert seems to have given away rowing. Robert enlisted for WW1 in 1916 and the brother and pair partner with whom he had shared so many successes was killed in France in May 1918.

Sadly William also died young aged just 33 in September 1920. Fredrick William Commons senior died in 1925 so the only surviving brother Mario, then took over running the family Monumental Mason business.

William’s obituary in the Star, October 20th 1920 read:


Mr. F. W. Commons jun., a former well-know oarsman and member of the Ballarat City Rowing Club, died at his home in Ballarat on Wednesday after an illness that had compelled him to remain in bed for the past 12 months. With his brother Robert, who was killed on active service, he held the pairs championship of the Ballarat City Club. He was a member of the Mercantile club for a few seasons, and visited South Australia with the club’s crew. He was 33 years of age and leaves a widow and a child.

This is an excerpt from The AQUATICS Rowing Notes by Outrigger in the Leader June 29th 1918

Kate Elliott
September 2021

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