Scroll To Top
australian rowers profiles and history

Graeme McCall

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Graeme Allister McCall – 30 December 1937  –  3 May 2016.

1959 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship four seat – Second

1960 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship four seat – Third

1961 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship six seat – First

1962 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship four seat – First

1962 – British Empire & Commonwealth Games – Men’s Eight six seat – Gold

1962 – World Championships – Men’s Eight six seat – Fifth

1964 – Interstate Men’s Eight Championship six seat – First

1964 – Olympic Games – Men’s Eight six seat – Eighth

1967 – Coach of Australian Crews ,tour of New Zealand

1989-91 – Councillor for Victoria on AARC

Above – 1962 Commonwealth Games men’s eight final – Graeme in six seat

Andrew Guerin October 2011


1964 Olympic Games - leaving for Japan - Graeme third from the right

The following is an extract from an obituary given by Andrew Guerin at the funeral of Graeme.

Graeme McCall was superb rower and a fabulous person.

Graeme started rowing at Scotch College where he raced in many good crews including in the six seat of the firsts at the 1955 Head of the River. Rowing behind him was Captain of Boats Michael Edgar, who recalls that Graeme was so strong, so applied and so thoroughly dedicated in his rowing, he was always going to succeed. He was also a terrific bloke to work with and he never heard Graeme say a cross word about anyone. With Michael in the five seat and Graeme in the six seat, they made a formidable engine room of that eight.

After leaving school, he joined Mercantile Rowing Club and raced with great success in various maiden, junior and senior crews under the coaching of Norm Cairnes and Bob Aitken.

He went onto represent Victoria in five King’s Cups, winning three of them. In 1962, Graeme represented Australia in the Commonwealth Games and won gold. The Late Jim Sprigg, long time Mercantile President, hailed Graeme and the other Mercantile members of that crew, as the Golden Mercantilians – the first Mercantile members to win a gold in international competition. He was the toast of the Club.

Graeme also had the honour of competing at the very first World Rowing Championships at Lucerne Switzerland in the same year making the final in the eights. In 1964 he went onto to race at the Tokyo Olympics in the engine room of the Australian eight.

Now let your imagination run wild for a second as the cox of many of these crews was one David Palfreymen, a young man rapidly growing out of his coxing career with a fashionable mop of hair, carefully treated with brylcream. Perhaps difficult to visualise today, but keep that brylcream thought.

David recalls Graeme as a monster of a man with enormous strength and rhythm, a superb mid boat rower. David observed that if Graeme had had the opportunities of current rowers, he would had far greater success than he did and would have been a household sporting name. However David’s greatest memory is of Graeme the man. A man of great fun who would cheekily ruffle David’s carefully treated hair with a great laugh.

Sadly Simon Newcomb could not attend today due to illness. His memories of Graeme were also of the fun and mischievous times at the Club and the deep friendships which Graeme formed. He added that Graeme was the kind of crew member you always wanted in a crew as you knew he would never give up.

Tony Walker observed – a marvelous rower, polished, powerful, flowing and smooth- a beautiful action. Tony recalls Graeme as a wonderful human being, a happy person with his distinctive deep laugh.

Bob Lachal added that he was an amazing competitor whose rowing was characterized by superb harmony and swing – poetry in motion. He was the James Tomkins of an earlier era. A big man with a big spirit.

Prominent Victorian and Australian rower Paul Guest wrote that he had the absolute pleasure to row behind Graeme in several major crews. One tough and unforgiving competitor and a great crew mate. Easy to follow with that big rounded finish. But Paul settled on two words to describe Graeme – power and stability. His immense power was used with great effect in racing, particularly with efforts during a race. His stability extended beyond the control he added to the boat. He provided the emotional stability to crews and his calming influence on race day settled many a boat. He was an oarsman well ahead of his time.

Given his wonderful qualities, he was a natural coach and was loved by his crews. He coached many crews including an Australian eight and pair in a Trans-Tasman series against New Zealand in 1967. Bob Lachal recalls this as the funniest tour he had ever been on.

However all good rowing matters had to come to an end with a family to raise and a business to run. He always maintained his astute eye for good rowing which was just as well as several of his children followed Graeme into rowing.

In particular, Felicity’s great success as an Australian rower brought him great pleasure and of course he was a proud father. In turn Felicity’s son Alex has already enjoyed great success at both Scotch College and Mercantile and has already represented Victoria. He is closely following in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Graeme returned to the sport as his work and family commitments reduced. He served with distinction on the Rowing Victoria Board and as the Victorian Councillor at Rowing Australia. In this work he was a humble person, never assuming to know more than others and consulting widely. His decisions were carefully considered and very sound.

Graeme demonstrated all the qualities we love about sport – the accomplishment of skill, strength, toughness and pushing limits, camaraderie and team work, integrity and competing fairly and most of all, having fun whilst doing it.

Despite talking about Graeme’s rowing past, I am drawn back to his great personal qualities – a happy man always seeing the good side, loyalty, friendship, strength of character, thoughtfulness with a great love of sport.

We will never forget his ready smile and who could forget his laughter?

Goodbye Graeme, you will always be in our memories.


Andrew Guerin – May 2016

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management