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australian rowers profiles and history

James G Howden

Yarra Yarra Rowing Club (VIC), Melbourne University Boat Club (VIC) and then Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

James Guthrie Howden 4 Sept 1934 – 10 October 1993

1956 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship four seat - First

1956 – Olympic Games – Men’s Eight four seat – Bronze

1959 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship two seat - Second

1960 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship two seat - Third

1962 – World Championships – Men’s Coxed Four stroke - Fifth

1976 – Olympic Games – Selector

1977 – World Championships – Selector

1978 – World Championships – Selector

1979 – World Championships – Selector

1980 – Olympic Games – Selector

Jim Howden grew up in Point Lonsdale where he attended Queenscliff High School and later Geelong College. He stroked the Geelong College second crew in 1950 to a second placing. In the following year he stroked the first crew but did not the final and in 1952 was in the six seat of the second placed first crew.

Jim did his most of his competitive rowing at MUBC and later joined Yarra Yarra with other noted rowers Tony Walker, Peter Gillon and Ian Bult. Jim was Captain of Yarra Yarra Rowing Club. Later he joined Mercantile Rowing Club as his children started rowing. Three of his children raced for the Club.

Above: A young James Howden seated second from right next to coach Bob Aitken whilst rowing in a intercollegiate Ormond College crew

The highlight of Jim’s rowing career was his bronze medal in the eight at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 after winning the King’s Cup in the same year.

Above: Race finish at the Olympic Games in 1956

Perhaps his greatest contribution to the sport was as Rowing Australia Chairman of Selectors at a crucial time in the sport, the introduction of a professional Head Coach in Reinhold Batschi. Jim was one of the initiators of this change and a great supporter of Reinhold when he arrived. This was a controversial and big change for the sport and could not be done without the support of people of the ilk of Jim Howden.

The sport changed dramatically for the better as a result of this decision.

Jim Howden was a lawyer who was appointed a County Court judge. In his obituary, County Court Chief Judge, Judge Waldron described Jim as “a man of great physical and personal charm” who earned high respect from all who came in contact with him.  “He had a genuine empathy with and understanding of the less fortunate in our society.”

15 months after his appointment to the County Court on 11 March 1986, he was diagnosed as having a malignant melanoma. He finally lost his battle with cancer six years later but continued to sit for most of this time. Judge Waldron noted that: “We, his fellow judges, marvelled at his heroic fighting spirit and his conscientious determination to continue to discharge his judicial duties.”

Jim and Elaine Howden had five children, three boys and two girls, most of whom rowed, and at Mercantile. Jim is buried at Point Lonsdale.

Andrew Guerin (using material from an obituary in The Age newspaper)
October 2018

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