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australian rowers profiles and history

Jack Donald

Yarra Yarra Rowing Club (VIC)

Born 10/6/1919 passed away7/11/1989

1951/52 joined Yarra Yarra

Committee 1958/59 

Vice president 1969/60---73/74 & 1984/85—89/90 

President 1974/75—83/84 

Life member 1965/66 

Jack did not compete under Yarra colours.

He was also influential in recruiting many Yarra members to act as Boat Race Officials.

1963 New racing four named in his honour

1983 Jack’s racing scull donated to club

1985 Another four named in his honour

2008 Yet another four named in his honour

1984 Boat Naming

“From Yarra Yabbie no101984-3-20

Personalities one associates with Yarra over a very long period, which has been a strong point of the club.

Jack Donald our current president is an untiring worker, and together with Dick Coe (Joe’s son) heads a good working committee formed equally of young and older members.”

1980 AGM with Jack on the left with VRA President Bob Aitken presenting a premiership certificate to YYRC

Jack on the right at the Dimboola Regatta in 1980

“From the Yarra Yabbie no161985-9-20

New regulation four has arrived and is to be called J J Donald 2. The J J Donald 1 has been given to Beauport high School and will retain its name. Arrangements were organised by Jack through Cec Keys formally of Yea R.C. (now defunct), Cec started the B. H. S. R. C. and the old Bob Cottee pair was refurbished by Beaufort Tech. as a woodwork project.”

From the Yarra Yabbie no331989-12-20

“Vale Jack (John) Donald

Jack was born in 1919, educated at Wesley College and became a maintenance engineer.

Jack’s father was the great “Charlie Donald”, Ballarat rower and rowing coach extraordinaire at Wesley and MUBC, so Jack was destined to rowing.

Jack joined Albert Park Rowing Club as a coxswain and progressed to senior rowing and sculler. Joining Yarra in 1951, his first job was coaching a L/W pair of “Doc” Gillespie and Ron Mitchell, the first of many.

Jack joined the committee, then became Vice President, and was President for 9 years and then Life Membership.

Jack opposed women into the club as we had not facilities, we won that battle, but we lost the next one, and Jack was first to organise construction of the necessities with limited finance and conning a new member, Mike Grant (a chippie), and others, the patrician (a JD design) was next. Jack’s major accomplishment was the fire sprinkler system, put into practice in 1975 (after Richmond was destroyed) as a percentage of gross takings, it took 12 years to come to fruition, 1988-89 saw the start and finish of the job, 90% of which was done by Jack and the rest of us 10%.

Jack taught many coxswains to drive his vehicles and initiated many to the joys of camping at Yarrawonga, Wentworth, and Dimboola etc. He was an Australian and Victorian rowing official, V.R.A. committee member for many years and represented a country club on the V.R.A. 

A sad loss to Yarra, kindred clubs, Victorian rowing and many friends, his funeral was attended by many people from all facets of rowing and many friends. We knew Jack had gone when his hat disappeared.

R .I .P.

A service for the late Jack Donald was held at the clubhouse on Sunday 3rd December 1989.

The service was conducted by Mr. Graham Oldman, Civil Celebrant, and was attended by a large number of Jack’s friends and club mates, together with numerous representatives from kindred clubs.

Jack’s ashes were laid upon the water according to his wishes.”

Part of the presidents Christmas message:-

“As mentioned earlier in this edition of the “Yabbie” our club suffered a severe loss in the passing of our great clubman, Jack Donald.

In the last 38 years there was hardly a renovation or refurbishment project at Yarra where Jack was not actively involved in, and in many cases he was the major contributor to such projects. Jack will be sadly missed around the club, and also at many country regattas where he was a regular attender.

“From the annual report 1989/90.

“Jack Donald was a Founding member of the Officials Panel. (1963/64 VRA annual report) formed to examine and approve candidates to act as officials at rowing association regattas.

John (Jack) DonaldBorn 10 June 1919, Died 7 November 1989

Jack passed away on Melbourne Cup day last year after periods of illness which he fought with great determination for over three years. The only son of Charles and Florence Donald, Jack was also the nephew of James Donald; it was therefore natural that Jack should take up the sport of rowing, having  father and uncle recognized as two of Australia’s finest oarsmen in there time – not only that, but Jack’s mother was a foundation member of Albert Park Ladies rowing Club.

Jack transferred from Albert Park to Yarra Yarra in 1951 after a successful career as Senior Oarsman and Sculler; he immediately became involved in Club activities. Using his skill as a maintenance engineer he performed numerous tasks of renovation around the shed for nearly 40 years – these efforts culminated in his installation of the fire sprinkler system in 1988/89. That he was able to complete this work despite repeated bouts of illness is a tribute to his determination.

Jack was President of the Club for nine years as well as being a past Committee man and Vice President and Life Member, the latter voted by his fellow Club Members in recognition of his contribution to rowing in general and to the Club’s success in particular. In addition to his efforts for Yarra, Jack found time to be a VRA official and fact was a member of the original Officials Panel. He attended most country regattas and made a constant contribution to the maintenance of standards in rowing.

According to his wishes, Jack’s ashes were laid upon the water from an eight crewed by his Club mates, after which a Memorial Service was celebrated at the clubhouse on Sunday 3 December 1989, attended by friends, Club mates and numerous representatives of kindred clubs.”

Yarra Yabbie Edition 83 October 2023

Jim Skidmore 
November 2023

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