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australian rowers profiles and history

John G Williams

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

The following obituary appeared in the 1979-80 Club annual report.

Despite his death at a comparatively young age, John Williams had been associated with Mercantile for more than forty years. Son of the late Michael Williams (a former Vice President of the Club and President of the Victorian Rowing Association), John first joined Mercantile as a coxswain in 1937 and steered the Clubs' successful Maiden Four at Henley of that year. 

During the latter years of the War, he showed considerable promise as both an oarsman and sculler and was a member of the Clubs' first post War Senior Eight. 

In 1947, John was emergency for the successful Victorian King's Cup crew in Perth. The following season he rowed in the stroke seat of the Mercantile Senior Eight and subsequently concentrated on sculling. 

In 1949, John won the Victorian Sculling Championship and as Victoria's representative finished second to the legendary Merv Wood in the President's Cup. 

Whilst just short of league standard, John was also a footballer of great ability and became a regular member of the now defunct Brighton side, when that team was a power in the Victorian Football Association. 

A successful business man, he was both a member of the Melbourne City Council and a leading publican, whilst still in his early twenties. 

During his long illness, John Williams showed tremendous courage and until shortly before his death, he was a visitor to the Club whenever his health and presence in Melbourne permitted. 

After his valiant struggle, members were saddened to learn of the death of this great Mercantilian in Queensland on 4th May, 1980. 

John Williams in Victorian colours in 1949

Extracted by Andrew Guerin
February 2023

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