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australian rowers profiles and history

A Russell McLean

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Whilst Russell has not spent much of his life in Melbourne, he still regards Mercantile as his rowing club. He obviously had a great time at Mercantile and he readily recalls how the atmosphere and mood of the club were superb. He also loved being amongst some of the legends of the sport such as the Boykett brothers and Graeme McCall. 

He was an Adelaide born rower who was schooled in both South Australia and Victoria where he learnt his rowing. His base has been Sydney since his rowing career finished. His work life has caused him to travel a great deal and he has some very interesting stories of "places I have rowed". 

Whilst he has an enduring love of rowing, he has another sport, rugby. He has taken significant roles in his other sport including being a Vice-President of Welsh Rugby.

Back to rowing. He started rowing in 1954 in Adelaide at Scotch College. When his family moved to Geelong, he continued his rowing at Geelong College where he stroked the third eight in 1957. The crew won their heat against Xavier College but failed to win in the final. Despite being a good mile runner, rower and rugby were where his interests lay.

He immediately joined Corio Bay and rowed in their maiden eight. However when his family moved to Melbourne and he joined Mercantile and raced in their maiden eight and against his old Corio Bay crew.

He married his wife Cathy in 1959 and continued to row until 1964. His most successful race was a national championship lightweight eight win in the inaugural National Championships in 1962. He speaks highly of a great lightweight four at Mercantile in 1964 before he moved to Adelaide mid-season. He immediately became one of the South Australian team coaches with direct coaching responsibility for the 1964 SA lightweight four.


The National Championships Mercantile lightweight eight - Russell in the four seat

In 1965 he enlisted for the Army undertaking officer training. He joined the artillery regiment and stayed for 12 years finishing with the rank of Captain. He undertook service with NATO in Germany.

After the Army he held senior positions with Bayer finishing as Area Vice-President. His work with Bayer took him places all around the world including many dangerous hot spots, places where those on American passports were not allowed. He tells many interesting stories of these times. 

Back in Sydney he became the patron of the St Andrews College rowing club and a boat named in his honour still hangs in their chapel. He was also a President of the Union of Rowers in NSW.

Sadly his wife Cathy has passed away recently and Russell has not been of best of health. However this has not stopped him telling interesting stories of his full life. He also has not lost the taste of rum, the favoured drink of his artillery regiment, as your correspondent found out to his detriment at a recent National Championships!

...and he still calls Mercantile home.

Andrew Guerin
May 2020

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