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australian rowers profiles and history

Richard B J Tresidder

Professional Sculler from Newcastle

Richard Bernard Joel Tresidder (1871-1920), of Carrington and later Mayfield was a broad shouldered fisherman with strong upper body who rowed with skill and stamina. After his first sculling race in 1889 he raced the top local rowers including the Towns' and the Hickeys' throughout the 1890s-early 1900s. Although his earliest successes were in doubles, his breakthrough as a single sculler came in 1896 when he defeated the better credentialed "Hunter Hurricane" Jim Ford over about three miles on the Raymond Terrace course for £50 a side. 

In March 1903 he rowed Harry Pearce on the Parramatta River for the Australian sculling title. He was accompanied by a big contingent of supporters including many of Newcastle's best rowers. It was said that Newcastle people "had come down to a man" and were not afraid of stacking money on their representative taking bets for between £1 and £100. He won by six lengths earning the right to challenge George Towns for the world title. 

Richard 'Dick' Tresidder 

As both were Novocastrians, there was widespread speculation that the match would be held locally. That wasn't to be and the race was held on the Parramatta River on 30 July 1904. Immense interest in the first race for the title to be held in Australia for twelve years drew an estimated 90,000 (including about 1000 Novocastrians) spectators who watched either from the bank or on following boats. For some inexplicable reason Tresidder was favourite with the Novocastrians, his supporters prepared to back him for up to £1000. Some supposedly even mortgaged their homes for the purpose. If true, it turned out to be real bad judgement as Towns won by 20 lengths. 

Following Webb's win over Charlie Towns, Tresidder quickly challenged the new champion. The race that was held on 25 February 1908 over a 3 1/4 mile course on the Wanganui River in New Zealand. Even though Tresidder was supremely confident beforehand he was beaten by 2 1/2 lengths in a time of 20 min 28 secs. After the race, Tresidder rowed the eight miles back to Wanganui. He later said that Webb deserved to win being a better sculler than he had anticipated. Observers felt that the ten-year age difference benefited the younger Webb. 

Soon afterwards, Tresidder announced that he had no intention of ever rowing again. He handed the Australian Sculling Championship over to another Novocastrian, Ben Thoroughgood. 

A fascinating feature of Tresidder's contest against Webb in New Zealand was that his racing singlet bore a kangaroo motif. Nowadays, linking native animals with Australian sporting teams is common but this was 1908. The only reason Tresidder would have adopted the symbol was to identify his nationality. Whether it was a first or whose example he might have followed may never be known. 

Colin Charters
Extracted from his book Just Add Water - the Times an Tides of Newcastle Rowing Club, published by Seaview Press 2009

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