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australian rowers profiles and history

Edward (Bill) White

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

Edward Coane While, also known as Bill White or more commonly as Spiv. (1924-2010)

The following story was recorded on the Mercantile Rowing Club’s website on the death of its long serving Club member and Vice-President, Spiv White.

With great regret, the Club advises members of the passing of our esteemed and loved Vice-President Spiv White who died on 3rd June 2010 aged 86 years. A wake will be held at the Clubhouse on 10th June 2010 and a President’s luncheon will be held in his memory at a later date.

Vice-President Spiv White loved both Mercantile and the sport of rowing. Upon hearing of Spiv’s departure, senior member John Bostock aptly said “The Spiv was one of those characters that belonged to a Club like ours, and makes our Club so different to less colourful organisations.”

Other members said that they broke the mould when he entered the world and thank goodness – no club would be big enough to have two Spivs.

He was not a great rower himself, being of maiden and junior standard. However he was a person who enjoyed his participation in the sport. At one Rutherglen regatta at Lake Moodemere, his skill level and sense of humour combined when the maiden pair in which he was racing capsized. He quickly clambered onto the shell and yelled “shark” to gain attention.

He was also a Club administrator, a representative at the VRA general meetings for Wentworth, a long serving Victorian, Australian and FISA umpire and a highly respected member of our sport.

He was very helpful, knowledgeable, supportive, kind, astute and a great supporter of the Club. He had a genuine interest in our rowers, knowing their names and skill levels, and was a regular attendee of local, interstate and international regattas.

Above: Spiv White at Henley Royal Regatta in 1980

He could hold his own in any company. On one occasion, he stayed with John Rowe when John was living in San Francisco as the Qantas representative in America. Spiv attended a function with John being held foe senior government and business personnel. John found Spiv in deep conversation with some senior businessmen including senior oil executives who founds him very knowledgeable on the oil industry. Little did they know that he was a retired manager at the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria with responsibility for the metre readers.

However there was a contradictory side to him which made him a great character. He was argumentative, opinionated, unyielding, often difficult and a deliberate stirrer. Mind you, club members returned the favour stirring up Spiv horribly. We all enjoyed his company.
We will all have our Spiv stories and they will be regaled with great gusto at the President’s luncheon.

Bill White – sadly missed.

Author unknown
Reproduced April 2017


Spiv was a founding member of the Cock Robin eight, gentlemen who had retired from active competition and who wished to maintain their friendships and support the club in all ways, including financially, and regularly row followed by the traditional replacement of lost body fluids.

Above: Spiv at the Mercs Bar with Celia Patterson and Tony Walker on the right

 In later years, as it became increasingly difficult to regularly boat an eight, he, regularly rowed on Thursday nights, not missing the Club’s traditional fluid replacement programme, in a coxless four with other Cock Robbins. (Thrasher, Ted Sorani, Jimpy Shears and always in the bow seat, Spiv’ in the boat, the “Caltex and Dealers”. A cox was never required for Spiv’s crews, other than for their steering ability, as Spiv disliked talking over them (the obituary said it well in that it referred to Spiv as self-opinionated, whereas Ted may refer to Spiv as an incessant talker from the bow seat).

Martin Owen
April 2017

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