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australian rowers profiles and history

Charles Watson OAM

Drummoyne Rowing Club (NSW)

The following tribute was published by DRC Rowers Inc in July 2018.

In Memory of Charles Watson OAM - JULY 2018

Charles Watson OAM, former NSWRA Drummoyne Delegate and Safety Officer 1992-1996 has passed away.

Charles was a long-time member of Drummoyne Rowing Club, joining the club in 1954. With his brother, they both rowed at the club for many years where he became Vice Captain, before joining the Australian Army. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Watson served in Vietnam during the conflict, as well as other overseas posts. He was in command of many Australian bases during his Army career. After retiring from the Army, Charles re-joined Drummoyne Rowing with his two sons Andrew and Cameron who rowed successfully for many years while Charles became Club Captain, coaching several crews.

Charles was an inspirational leader and was instrumental in guiding Drummoyne to win The Premiership in 1991 and The Women’s Shield in 1992 in addition to being a high ranking official of the Scouting Movement. Charles and his wife Margaret moved to their property at Dungog in 2005 where he continued his community work and became President of Dungog RSL. Along with his services to rowing, Charles was awarded the OAM in 2006.

Charles passed away peacefully on Friday 15th June. A great loss to all that knew him and a great loss to the rowing community” (Published on 22 June 2018 by Rowing NSW)

In 2016, as part of gathering information for the Centenary book we asked Charles to write down his memories of DRC. Charles and his wife Margaret attended the Back to DRC BBQ in 2016 where old acquaintances were renewed and some of us had the pleasure of meeting them for the first time.

Some memories of Drummoyne Rowing Club by Charles Watson

In 1954, Alf Maclaren a coxswain with DRC and also a member of 1st Randwick Scout Group, gathered a number of youth members (16-18 years) of the Scout group, including me, to introduce us to rowing. None of us had motor vehicles although some were licensed. Travel to and from the boatshed involved tram to and from Central and then Central to Randwick and reverse. Not an insignificant burden when training at night as well as attending Tech evening classes. This group included Dick Pickering, John Collins, Colin Pike, Bill Watson (my younger brother) and myself.

Other Randwick boys who joined the group later included George Robertson and Donny Russell.

At the time Charlie Brown was a Club Captain, George Ashley Vice-Captain was our coach along with Jack Dixon.

A little later another group of boys from the Petersham area joined us including Malcolm Smith, Alan Davies and John Stedman. By this time George Ashley had been elected Captain and I was Vice-Captain. There was genuine club spirit and the rowing members were well supported by the "old boys" - Frank McLeod, Jim Walker Snr, George Hoyes, Andy Andrews and Jack Hocking (who donated a four oared boat as well as printing services) to name a few.

Charles McNiven (McNiven Ice Cream) was the Club Patron. Although rarely seen he was always there in support, he had previously donated an eight oared boat.

Funds to support the club were very hard to generate but this situation helped in creating and maintaining club spirit.

Almost all work on the boats and the shed was undertaken by the members. During winter the boats and oars in use were stripped down and re-varnished, riggers were de-rusted and repainted. Cracks in cedar boats were repaired and painting of the shed, both upstairs internally and externally was carried out.

The pontoon (‘the beast’) was the bane of members’ lives and regularly sank from ingress of water through its top deck. At times the ‘beast’ would be out of service for weeks necessitating boating from the rocks via the back door.

Creature comforts were also somewhat lacking, no toilet and cold water showers. Although a porcelain pedestal (urinal) sat on the timbered floor at the western door.

As skills were gained the old and new melded and light and heavy weight crews evolved. A crew consisting of Colin Pike, Dick Pickering, Wally Fisk and Ray Bushell won every maiden lightweight four in a season. This crew was coached by Frank Male. Ray Bushell transferred to Leichhardt Rowing Club some three years later and was a member of the winning Penrith Cup crew.

The practicalities of effective coaching were severely restricted by lack of finance. The club didn't have a ‘tinnie’ nor could afford one. Coaches, if physically small enough and were so inclined, did this from the coxswain seat or from the pontoon. Frank Male sat in the boat with significant success as he drove the crews hard. But how much better would his and the crews performance have been by him having been beside the crew. Financial clubs such as Sydney and Mosman Rowing Clubs supported by a licensed club were in a position to provide adequate coaching resources.

National Service ended my competitive period of rowing and probably that of George Robertson, Donny Russell and Bill Mclaughlan. My future as a marine engineer was also put aside as I decided to accept a commission in the Australian Regular Army. This involved postings throughout Australia, the Antarctic and South Vietnam.

On returning to Sydney in 1981 one Sunday morning my eldest son announced he was going down to the Spit to join Mosman Rowing Club. My response was "I don't think so, hop into the car we're going to Drummoyne".

That was the beginning of my further involvement with Drummoyne Rowing Club.

(Charles was Club Captain from 1988 -1990)

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