Scroll To Top
australian rowers profiles and history

Evelyn Gardiner

Sydney Women's Rowing Club (NSW) until 1986 then Black Mountain Rowing Club (ACT)

Evelyn was a highly successful and accomplished NSW and Australian level rower. She raced at the top of her field in Australia for over a decade. Her international career includes racing at the first World Championships for women in 1974 and racing in Trans Tasman competitions against New Zealand in 1973 and 1977.

Evelyn learned to row at Sydney Women's Rowing Club (SWRC) as a 15 year old. SWRC was within walking distance of Evelyn's home on Great North Road, and she wandered down to SWRC with her dog. She thought the idea of being on the water would be exciting and Abbotsford Point was very close. Ev recalls meeting Mrs Rita Goldie at the SWRC on a Saturday afternoon and her first row was in a tub pair. Ev still recalls that waiting a week till her next row was a very long time because she was so keen. Her first coach was Philomena Riley, and she was one of several influential coaches through her career.

She is proudly a member of the SWRC and quick to make the differentiation between SWRC and Sydney Rowing Club (SRC). There was obviously some historical disappointment over the slow pace of integration of women's rowing into Sydney Rowing Club.

Of interest to others outside Sydney, SWRC is situated on a separate block of land from SRC on Battersea Park. Subsequently SWRC transitioned to being Sydney Women's MLC Rowing Club and recently they have rebadged as Abbottsford Rowing Club to reflect their diverse membership. SWRC were originally sited at Kemp's boatshed Abbotsford Point, a boatshed used by some of the famous professional scullers.

In response to the questions of influential people in her rowing career, Ev reckons her most influential coach was Merv Perry of Mosman RC who coached many of her successful interstate crews. Merv picked her as a 17 year old in her first state crew that won in 1967. He also selected her as a 21 year old to stroke both the lightweight (Victoria Cup) and open (ULVA) women's crews that also won in 1971. This is a unique achievement for men or women with Evelyn and Judy Perry winning two interstate championships on a single days racing.

Victorious NSW Team
Back row: Judy Perry, Joan Lake, Kevin Hollingworth (Cox), Betty Spurling (Manager), Pat Cree, Evelyn Gardiner
Front row: Anne Ellison, Mervyn Perry (Coach), Kay Inkster

1974 NSW women's team in their fashionable travelling gear including platform shoes (except for team manager)
Left to right: Mert Lloyd (manager), Jill Callan, Lydia Miladinovic, Denise Probst, Janette Pendleton, Evelyn, Christine Higginbottom, Lisa Cottee and Pauline Bellmore

Her recollections of the 1974 World Championships are very interesting. The Championships were significant for Australia with the lightweight men winning their FISA Championship, and Australia competing in the first World Championships for women. The Australian crew of Lydia Miladinovic and Ev found the competition tough and of a different standard to that previously encountered at home. Ev was lucky that Lydia translated when the officials announced in French on the start that "we will wait for the wash". We sometimes forget that French was the official rowing language. With Lydia speaking French, things remained calm in the boat. As an observer today it was quite a different culture for our international crews. Crews paid their own way and the pair's coach was back in Australia because the fund raising was insufficient to pay for his trip. The crew had trained without a rudder and it would be a courageous coach that would recommend racing internationally in a rudderless pair, especially with a lightweight in the stroke seat. But it was different culture and an amateur environment at that time.

1974 Australian Women's Pair - stroke Evelyn and bow Lydia Miladinovic 

This crew was reunited in 1987 in a pair at one of the early Australian Masters Regattas in 1987 which they won.

Presentation of the Women's Pair at the 1987 Australian Masters Regatta
In the background, David Bagnall, Craig Muller and Robyn Grey-Gardner

Masters rowing proved to be another area of great interest and success for Evelyn. 

After her move to Canberra in 1986, Evelyn joined Black Mountain Rowing Club where she maintains her strong interest in the sport.

Evelyn's married name was Evelyn Adams (1971-77) which is how most rowers will know her. Post marriage Evelyn has adopted her maternal grandfather's surname, Sommer.

Rowing Record Summary

1967 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship bow – First

1969 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship stroke - First

1970 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship stroke - Second

1971 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship stroke - First

1971 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship stroke - First

1972 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship three seat - Second

1973 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship two seat – First

1973 - Trans Tasman Series

1974 – Interstate Women’s Lightweight Four Championship stroke – First

1974- World Championships Lucerne Women's pair - Eleventh  

1975 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship bow – Second

1976 – Interstate Women’s Four Championship stroke - Second

1977 – Interstate Women’s Sculling Championship - First

1977 - Trans Tasman Series

1978 – Interstate Women’s Sculling Championship - First

1978 – World Championships – Women’s Single Scull – Twelfth

1979 – Interstate Women’s Sculling Championship - Third

Andrew Guerin
December 2022

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management