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australian rowers profiles and history

Joseph C Dillon

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Died January 1915

Joseph C Dillon was an esteemed Vice-President of Mercantile for many years. He was publican, Melbourne City Council Councillor and President of the Licensed Victuallers Association.

In 1907 in his role as a senior Vice-President, he opened the two new annexes to the boathouse which doubled the accommodation on the ground floor.

In the 1914-15 annual report, the club advised:

We greatly regret to have to report the death of one of our Vice-Presidents, Councillor J C Dillon, who had been associated with the Club in that capacity for a great many years. For many seasons Councillor Dillon had presented trophies for a Club Eight-oared race which was known as the "Dillon" Eight, and he was a frequent visitor to the Boathouse.

The Bulletin of January 1915 reported his death in a light hearted manner:

Melbourne City Council lost “Joe” Dillon last week. “Joe” succeeded his father as the host of an ancient city pub, and was president of the Licensed Victuallers Association before his health failed. In the cant sense of the term he was a “sport,” inasmuch as he was chairman for some time of Melbourne’s principal betting club, and could play a better game of billiards than most of the members. Also he helped to start the Co-op Brewery, which strengthened his claim to the title; for a Joseph who sold beer both wholesale and retail couldn’t help being reckoned a sporting character.

The magazine also added information about his father and how Joseph became the publican of the Royal Oak Hotel:

Joseph C. Dillon, member of the Melbourne City Council, who died a few days ago, was son of  “Bob”  Dillon, who for a generation was a well-known figure about the Melbourne Law Courts when Stawell, Barry, Williams (two) and Higginbotham were on the Bench. Bob was a sheriff’s officer, but wholly unlike the sheriff’s officers one reads of in novels. Despite his job, he remained a “good fellow.” For a while his boss, as sheriff, was Colonel Rede; and the Irish bailiff was as big-hearted and big-minded a man as even the Colonel could be. If a poor, deserving devil wanted time Bob always somehow managed to get it, and sometimes he got advice too, as to how he’d get out of the scrape he was in. When Dillon retired from the sheriff’s office he became landlord of the Royal Oak Hotel, opposite the Melbourne Town Hall, and this place became a club for attorneys, attorneys’ clerks and lawyers’ clients, and (his son kept up the connection.  

Andrew Guerin
September 2021


  1. 1914-15 Mercantile Annual Report
  2. The Bulletin Sydney, N.S.W: John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880. Web. 26 September 2021 <>

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