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australian rowers profiles and history

Richard B J Tresidder

Professional Sculler from Newcastle

Richard Bernard Joel Tresidder [more often recorded as Tressider] (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

The following obituary of Tressider was published in the Newcastle Sun on 19th January 1920, page 4 and provides a good summary of the man and the sculler.



Mr. Richard Bernard Joel Tressider, ex-champion sculler of Australia, died at his residence, at Carrington, late on Saturday night.

Deceased who was in his 49th year, was in fair health till the middle of last week, when a reaction took place after his recent severe illness. He was in Newcastle Hospital for ten weeks, and left that institution on December 20. Next Saturday, January 24, he would have celebrated his 49th birthday.

Deceased was associated with St. Thomas's Church of England. 

The late Mr. Joel Tressider was a dealer at Wallsend, where his son, now deceased, was born. 

The family came to Carrington about 35 years ago, and started a fishing and boat hiring business in close proximity to the old smelting works, opposite Walsh Island works. Deceased left the boat hiring business for about two years, and was employed at Maryville Colliery (now closed up) and then went back to the boat business. 

For the last 15 years he was with the harbor and rivers branch, of the Public Works Department, as surveyor's boatman.

The deceased was better known in sculling circles, where he achieved wonderful feats. His first match was against Tom Jordan whom he defeated. He also defeated James Ford and Alfred Worboys. His next big encounter was the race with Harry Pearce for the championship of Australia, and Tressider was once more successful. He next met Geo. Towns for the championship of the world at Parramatta, but was defeated. After that he retired for a time to train Worboys to pull against Thoroughgood, who won the event.

Tressider next challenged Thoroughgood for the championship of Australia and won. He followed up this with a challenge for the world's sculling championship against W. Webb, the New Zealand champion.

This race was fought out on the Wanganui River, New Zealand, in 1908, and Webb, who was of smaller stature than his opponent, after a desperate struggle pulled off the blue ribbon.

In a double-sculled race in a handicap at Speers Point, Tressider and Mat Bedford defeated Geo. Towns and T. Croese. This was considered one of the most exciting races ever held in Australia, and the spectators rushed into the water in their excitement.

'Dick' Tressider was a notable example of the self-made man, and his record is one of which his many friends have reason to be proud. He was recognised as one of the best scullers that Australia produced.

About 17 years ago he married Miss Jessie Partridge, daughter of Ald. and Mrs. Partridge, whose family has a long association with the Carrington district. 

Deceased was a man of splendid physique. In a quiet way he took a keen interest in football and in all the affairs of Carrington municipality and also the welfare of Newcastle. 

He was an enthusiastic member of the order of Druids, being connected with the Hope of Carrington Lodge. To show the confidence reposed in him by the members, he was full judge in the lodge's competitions. He is survived by a widow and young family of four.

Steve Roll
June 2024

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