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australian rowers profiles and history

John Tait

Yarra Yarra Rowing Club (VIC)

Member 1875/76

Employee of Moubray, Rowan & Hicks firm and founding member. He drowned returning from a regatta on the Saltwater River.

From the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club newsletter 'Yarra Yabbie' no 75, 26/1/2023

John Tait, 1855-75

John Tait, member of Yarra Yarra, was only 20 years old when he tragically drowned after being knocked from a four-oared clinker boat that was swamped by a passing paddle steamer, the P S Warhawk, in November 1875. The four was on its way back from Saltwater River (now called the Maribyrnong) where they had been racing. In those days, you had to row your boat up to the course, and all the way back again afterwards. They were on the Yarra when the incident occurred. Although he was a good swimmer, his fellow crew saw him throw off his cap into the air and then sink below the water, never to emerge. All the other members of the crew managed to swim safely to the bank it was suspected that John suffered cramps in the water which led to his drowning.

Even back in those days, members were asked to confirm their ability to swim before they were allowed in a boat. At the inquest, much was made of the speed the Warhawk was going on the river, and her failure to stop and provide any assistance. Whilst river safety has improved tremendously, and we are much better at sharing the water with other craft, it’s a salutary reminder of the dangers of our sport and the need for a healthy respect for the river.

Jim Skidmore
June 2024

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