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australian rowers profiles and history

Sir N Bernard Freeman, DSO

Barwon Rowing Club (VIC)

1st September 1896 - 26 November 1982

Sir Bernard was educated at Xavier College Melbourne but was not a member of any of their first crews. 

This was probably because he left school at 16 to work for a firm of cider makers, and later became a sales representative for a manufacturer of ladies’ clothing. Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 February 1916, he sailed for Britain, where he was commissioned in the Australian Flying Corps and promoted to lieutenant. He joined No.3 Squadron in Belgium in December 1918. His AIF appointment terminated in Melbourne in July 1919. 

Although short and stocky, he was in youth a skilful footballer, cricketer and rower.

After the war, he briefly resumed his former occupation as a salesman before travelling to the United States of America with a friend.

Then started a part of his life which was transformational. Joel Greenberg in his biography of Sir Bernard: "Adolph Zukor, head of Paramount Pictures Corporation, engaged Freeman and in 1920 sent him to represent the firm at Albany, New York, where he obtained a grounding in film publicity, distribution and sales. In 1924 Marcus and Arthur Loew of the newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer company persuaded Freeman to leave Paramount and become their firm’s first managing director for Australia and New Zealand. ..... With drive, acumen and vision he created a major Australian business entity from almost nothing and successfully guided its operations for forty-six years."

After his retirement, he did great work for several charities. 


1913 - Ballarat Regatta, Men's Maiden Four, three seat - First

1915 - Ballarat Regatta, Men's Junior Four, three seat - First

1915 - Geelong and Barwon Regatta, Men's Junior Four, three seat - First


  1. The Victorian Oarsman by John Lang, Massina & Co 1919
  2. Joel Greenberg, 'Freeman, Sir Nathaniel Bernard (1896–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2007, accessed online 7 August 2021.

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