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australian rowers profiles and history

William Unwin

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Bill Unwin – 23 July 1919 d. 11 March 2003


Bill Unwin took up rowing in Belgium in 1938 after a Rugby injury stopped him playing that game. He was He was an active member of “Unique nautique beige” in Brussels – they used to row on the filthy waters of the canal Bruxelles – Charleroi in big boats.

He rowed in the Ostend International Regatta in 1938 and 1939.   His key ring still carries an Ostend Regatta badge.

His rowing was then interrupted by World War II.

Bill Unwin’s rowing re-commenced after the war at Shanghai, China, where he spent five years – the rowing was on sliding seats, BUT with poppets!

The rowing in Shanghai was a little different, the boats were put into the water – and taken out by natives – the oarsmen only had to get in and row.

After five years in Shanghai he was transferred to South Africa where he joined the Alfred Rowing Club in Cape Town – he became Captain of that club and elector.

His next shift was to Australia and he joined Mercantile.

He rowed on Sunday mornings and was a good social supporter.

Bill was also a member of the “Mercantile Yarra Buoy-laying” group who used to buoy the Yarra for every regatta for free and they maintained the equipment at their own expense. This group was disbanded in 1996 when the river was closed for the construction of the City Link Tunnels. At that time Bill, along with Graham Richardson, Garth Manton and Jim Harvey were presented with VRA Service Medals in appreciation.

He was a member of the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association and made his mark four years ago at the Henley Luncheon by having a stroke!

A celebration of his life was held at Mercantile on Sunday 23 March 2003.


James Harvey
March 2003

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