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australian rowers profiles and history

John W Seammen

Mercantile Rowing Club (Vic)


John migrated to Australia as a teenager with his family. He joined the Club in 1927 at the age of 19 and remained a member ever since. Whilst not a champion rower, he enjoyed all aspects of the Club. In fact it is difficult to locate many entries of his rowing in the annual reports. His first recorded race was in a lightweight maiden four at the VRA and ANA regattas over the Australia Day weekend in 1928. Alas he was unsuccessful in these two events. John continued his rowing over the next few years in mainly in lightweight maiden fours. A back injury incurred during the war preventing John from participating post the war.

Despite not being a champion oarsman, John probably got more from his membership than most and enjoyed the Club as much as anyone. This quiet gentleman actively embraced the personal development generated from both Mercantile and Lodge Henley. His enthusiasm for the Club and the recognition of the privileges of membership were passed onto many generations of members. He made many life long friends at the Club and his friendship with both David Stirling and his family has survived generations. Even after David’s death in 1977, John has remained one of the “Stirling” clan and kept David’s widow Alice up to date with the Mercantile Club affairs until her death in recent years.

John was an optometrist and saw service in World War II as an optometrist officer with the Medical Corp. This commenced at Alice Springs in the 2nd 9th Division. His five years service included one year overseas in Moratai where other Mercantilians served. Following the war he resumed civil life and his former employment with Coles & Garrard, optometrists. As with his rowing associations, John’s employment relationships bore more resemblance to friendship than that of employment. John was the god father to Julian Coles, the son of his employer and Julian is also the executor of his estate.

John’s wife predeceased him by many years. John left the Club a bequest which has been invested into the Club’s Endowment Fund. The Club was most grateful for this bequest..


David Cowling and Andrew Guerin – 2003

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