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australian rowers profiles and history

James L Hardie

Banks Rowing Club (VIC)

 21/10/1921 - 31/3/1999

James was a significant Banks Rowing Club and Victorian Rowing Association administrator and boat race official. He was elected a life member of both organisations. As an aside, he was a life member of four organisations during his lifetime, such was his considerable and valuable volunteering.

Despite a long association with the sport, his rowing achievements were mainly later in life and were not on the water.

James was a banker and encouraged to come down to Banks Rowing Club in 1938 to race in the Inter-Bank Regatta. His son Geoff recalls: Bank Officers were invited to try rowing, compete for their respective Banks at this regatta and join Banks RC to further their rowing careers. Jim raced and joined up at Banks. 

His budding rowing career was interrupted by WWII with war service from 1942-45. Jim served in the 39th Battalion on the PNG northern beaches and the Kokoda Track. Both battle zones were some of the toughest in the Pacific arena and were key battles in turning around the Japanese.

Jim rejoined Banks post war but did not rise above the novice class. The arrival of family in 1946, and then a transfer in 1950 with the Commercial Bank of Australia to Red Cliffs near Mildura, further limited his involvement in our sport.

Whilst in Red Cliffs, 1950-1956 Jim was very active with the Red Cliffs Lawn Tennis Club. He was granted Life Membership of this Club for his volunteer greenkeeping role. Many workday lunch times were spent mowing and watering the court lawns. Without a family car for transport, he only occasionally visited Mildura Rowing Club. Geoff recalls that in 1955, his father took him to the Mildura Easter Regatta when he was first introduced to the "Men in Pink", Banks Rowing Club.

On his return to Melbourne in March 1956 Jim immediately rejoined Banks RC, attempted unsuccessfully a competitive rowing comeback, and then set about performing a continuous run until 1995 of administrative roles with Banks - Vice-President, Captain, Vice-Captain, Secretary and Treasurer. Had Banks not had a tradition of granting the role of President to the head of one of the banks based in Melbourne, he would have undoubtedly taken that role as well. For his service to Banks, he was granted Life Membership.

Alongside his Banks Rowing Club involvement he served as Secretary/Treasurer of the 39th Battalion Association for many years and was instrumental in the initial establishment of the Kokoda Track memorials at the 1000 steps in the Ferntree Gully National Park. For this work he was granted life membership of that Association.

Finally, he was the VRA Treasurer from 1978 to 1989, taking over from his great friend and Banks colleague, Noel F Wilkinson AM. Wilkie, as he was affectionately known, was a unique fundraiser for Banks, the VRA, and the Australian Olympic Committee appeal. No one was safe at a regatta when Wilkie was on patrol and no sum was too small to receive. Jim worked in a volunteer capacity with Wilkie at the Olympic Appeal office for many years after his working career from 1982. 

Jim also served as a Victorian and Australian boat race official for many years. 

His family also continued the rowing tradition with both his son Geoff and grandson Stewart also rowing. 

Jim was a great contributor to the sport who enjoyed the activity and friendships it brought.

Andrew Guerin
February 2024


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