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australian rowers profiles and history

Jacob Nicolaisen

Essendon Rowing Club (VIC)

Jacob 'Jack' Nicolaisen of Ascot Vale, was a prominent member of the Essendon Rowing Club in Melbourne serving as Vice-President, President and being awarded life membership of the Club in 1951.

Whilst prominent off the water, he does not appear to have raced at a Victorian Championship level. However, he was not without victories and raced at the senior level.

He was first recorded racing was in 1921 in a club fours race at the Club's Ladies Day. Sadly his crew lost in the heats. 

Jacob stroking the 1923 Essendon Junior Pair

Jack on the right hand side seated and behind him T Mannix
Probably 1924 senior four at Ballarat Regatta in February

Later on in his rowing career he was able to race with his brother Nils, and yet later, coach him in club races.

Essendon Club historian Glenn Bottrell adds that Jack commenced his rowing at the relatively old age of 30 and rowed throughout the 1920s and 1930s. He also coached until the 1960s including the club's first maiden 8 (C grade) double win in its first 65 years of interclub racing. Glenn also mentioned two other interesting facts, he defeated H McRae (Past Essendon Rowing Club President) to take out the Victorian Amateur Boxing Championship, and also he was the grandfather of Brownlow Medallist Neil Roberts. 

Jack's amateur lightweight boxing career brought him to prominence in many newspaper reports prior to WWI. This would explain his late start to the sport of rowing post WWI.

Finally, he also appears to have been prominent in the Norwegian community, being noted in one newspaper report as serving as President of the Norwegian Club of Victorian in 1938.

Some extracts from rowing stories from the newspapers follow.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Monday 6 February 1922, page 3 records as follows:


"Scratch four-oared races were rowed on Saturday by members of the Essendon club. Seven crews competed. Results: T. Cashen's crew beat T. Hogan's crew by half a length. W. Birkenhead's crew beat L. Doig's crew by half a length; J. Nicolaisen's crew beat R. Freeman's crew by 2ft; R. Miles's crew had a bye; R. Miles's crew beat W. Birkenhead's crew by one length. J. Nicolaisen's crew beat T. Cashen's crew by one length. FINAL: M. Matthews (bow). C. Stewart, T. Mannix. J. Nicolaisen (stroke) beat W. Williams (bow), F. Hales, F. Wishart, R. Miles (stroke) by a canvas."

The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), Friday 8 February 1924, page 2 reports that the crews for the Ballarat Regatta from Essendon as follows:

"... The Essendon club will be represented at Ballarat by the following crews:— Maiden Four; A. Jordan. (bow), E. C. Edmonds, G. J. Adam, and W. R. Fraser (stroke). Light-weight Four : A. M. McTaggart (bow), W. Downes, J. O’Neil, and L. Johnson (stroke). Maiden Pair: C. Richards (bow), G. Weatheritt (stroke). Senior Four: H. L. Brew (bow). A. E. Ruff, T. Mannix, and J. Nicolaisen (stroke). ... "

Later that year in December, the Weekly Times reported that he stroked a winning Club Fours race.

The Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), Saturday 3 October 1925, page 82 reports that he stroked a winning Club Fours race at the Club 

"The four-oar races attracted an entry of eight crews. The final was won by N. Nicolaisen bow, A. Jordan 2, R. Roberts 3, J. Nicolaisen str."

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Monday 22 October 1951, page 11 reported:

"Club honours former top oarsmen

"Essendon Rowing Club honoured well-known former members at its opening day function on Saturday. Messrs Norman Muir, H McRae, W Birkenhead, Henry La Roche, and Jock Nicolaisen were presented with special gold life membership medallions. Similar medallions will be sent to Messrs W O'Brien and J Blair, now in Canberra and Tasmania respectively. ..."

Andrew Guerin
August 2021


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