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australian rowers profiles and history

James McDonald

Ponsonby Rowing Club (NZL) and Yarra Yarra Rowing Club (VIC)

The following summary of the rowing activities of James McDonald was found by Yarra Yarra Rowing Club historian Peter Gill in the New Zealand Observer, Issue 646 page 7, 16th May 1891.

James McDonald, an Auckland boy, and former member of the Ponsonby Rowing Club, has just returned from Melbourne, where he has been working at his trade. Since leaving Auckland he has kept up his rowing, and joined the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club, where he soon made a Name for himself as an oarsman. McDonald has quite a collection of gold medals representing fifteen victories and three seconds. In 1889, he formed one of a Maiden Eight which got second place. Was in winning Eight at Colac Regatta same year. On 18th Feb., 1890, won Maiden Fours and Junior Fours. At the Victorian Rowing Association Regatta in March, got second in Champion Eight. At South Melbourne Yacht Club in May 1889, carried off Maiden Sculls. Then in Club races was specially successful, winning Anderson's Sculls in January, Mullen's Pairs which he stroked. President's Fours in April, which he also stroked, and McGregor Pairs. Then in 1891 won the Junior Eight at Colac, and carried off the Junior Eight at the Warrnambool Regatta. Also won the Lorne Whisky Senior Eight on 18th March, and got home first in the Champion Eight on 18th April. Was also in the winning Eight in a Club race between South and North for a supper. McDonald has just come over for a trip, and is a most unassuming young fellow.


1891 Yarra Yarra Champion Eight of Victoria
Back row: F Galvin, A Enticott, E Horsburgh
Seated: J Yeomans, James McDonald, E R Ainley,
C W Horsburgh, Alex Chamley
In front: G Horsburgh

James McDonald continued his rowing success when he returned to Melbourne taking out the Champion Eights again in 1892 in a row over after a successful season, and then again in 1895.

He is however best known as a walker. He was the holder of the Australasian 50 mile walking record of 9 hours, 42 minutes 2 seconds which stood for many years. 

Peter Gill and Andrew Guerin
April 2022


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