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australian rowers profiles and history

Derek C Marley

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Born in England in the late 1920s and died in South Australia in 2019 aged 91.

Derek was not one of the elite stars of the sport but was one of those rowers who loved the sport and club life. His story demonstrated the importance of club life.

As a teenager, Derek survived the Blitz in London, and as a proud ten pound Pom, migrated to Australia and a later became a naturalised (or as he called it a ‘neutralised’) Australian. 

He joined Mercantile in 1951, immediately raced in a maiden four in late December 1951 at the Nagambie Regatta, part of the Christmas Regattas series. The crew included well known members such as Colin Lewis and was coached by gentleman David Stirling. Those attending the regattas included an interesting bunch of rowers, Wizza Granowski, Bob Aitken, David Chrichton, Thrasher Richardson, Spiv White and Bill Morrison, to name just a few. It would have been an exciting and interesting introduction to the Club. He raced unsuccessfully in a couple of other regattas later in the season.

In the 1952-53 season, Derek raced in a number of regattas, albeit unsuccessfully again. However the annual report wished Derek best wishes for future happiness on his marriage during the season.

It was in season 1953-54 that Derek's first win is recorded rowing bow in a maiden eight at the Barwon Regatta. The crew was coxed Neil Hewitt, future 1956 Olympic eight cox, coached by Herb Shears and included other noted club members such Gail Ansell and Chris de Guingand, both of who are still members.

It appears that married and work life took hold, as it does with most of us, and his active rowing career ended. 

His son Philip advised that he was good friends with Jimmy Sprigg and he and my mother lived with Jimmy for a few months just after they married.  Jimmy Sprigg was great life-long  friend to the family and was my godfather…. and I suspect the godfather to many other off-spring of Mercantile families.  Derek “immigrated” back to the UK in 1960 with new Aussie family in tow and didn’t return to Australia for several decades.  He didn’t just leave Mercs and Melbourne, he left the country! 

 Philip went onto to note that Derek talked most often with great affection of his time at Mercs in the 1950’s.  As an immigrant to Australia he often recalled how welcoming the club had been and of the great, life-long, friendships he made at Mercs.  It was clearly one of the happiest and most memorable times of his life. Philip added: On behalf of Derek and his family I want to pass onto yourself and the Members of the Mercantile Rowing Club our great appreciation for extending to Derek such a warm and welcoming club for Derek to join as a ‘new’ Australian and to remember him with great fondness and the wonderful time he enjoyed at the club.

Derek was an important thread in the fabric of Mercantile.

Andrew Guerin
October 2020

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