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History of Fremantle Rowing Club 1887-1987

By Ralph Jeffreys

11. Boatmen and Builders

During the Club's first one hundred years it has been most fortunate in having men who willingly and voluntarily used their natural and developed skills in the maintenance of the Club equipment and buildings.

1887-1890 HARRY ADAMS & 1900-1906 JACK PRINCE
Not a great deal is recorded of these two men who were both "men of the sea" and lived and worked among boats. By their awards of Life Memberships ample proof is available that they were valuable boatmen in the early years.

1906 -1924 FRANK SHAW
An Engineer by "trade" Frank maintained the equipment in a professional manner and when the Club was reformed after the war, and it was necessary to restore the fleet which had been in storage for about five to six years, Frank was the inspiration that enabled this to be done. Frank was also responsible for organising the demolition of the old boat house which had been constructed out over the river, and the erection of the new boat shed on the land on the opposite side of Beach Street.

1924 - 1928 'GLAD' (J.G.) WHITTLE
Glad Whittle followed on from Frank Shaw and worked tirelessly at keeping an aging fleet in good condition.

1928 -1930 GIL WHITTLE
Took over from his father and his particular accomplishment was to keep two prewar Tub Pairs in rowable condition. It was finally claimed that one pair had an inside area of more "tingles" than boat.

1928 - 1932 KEN LEWIS
A constant worker who supervised during the period of transition from "thowels" to "swivels" for the oar leverage.

1932 - 1940 EDDIE EDWARDS
Eddie instituted the art of collecting boat material which could have fallen off the back of a truck and was a driving force in having the boats "ship shape".

1937 - 1988 BILL NINHAM
Bill carne to Western Australia from South Australia in 1937 and set up his boat building business in Victoria Park. He was an outstanding craftsman, a fine character and an accomplished South Australian State oarsman. From the time of his arrival in Western Australia until his retirement 1981 he built all boats used at Fremantle and always remained a valued adviser and friend to the club. In his early years Bill was known to have pushed his bicycle loaded with equipment a distance of 54 miles in order to repair a boat and when working on boats at Fremantle, pushed the bicycle from Victoria Park, sometimes with bearers or "ribs" strapped to the frame. A Racing Eight, he constructed and delivered to the Club in 1965, was constructed with meticulous care and using the old method of wooden pegs where copper nails were the "modern" method. The boat was built with such purpose that in 1986 it is still winning races.

1946 - 1948 JACK MARRINER
Jack worked long hours and successfully restructured old boats which had been stored during the war.

1948 - 1956 EDDIE EDWARDS
Eddie picked up from where he had begun in the years 1932 - 1940. He maintained a high standard of maintenance and handed over to the two following Boatmen, whom he had also very successfully coached at rowing.

1957 -1965 BOB BREALEY
Bob supervised the task of storage of equipment when the Club sheds in Beach Street had to be vacated, and he performed the most tedious task of organising and working on the reconditioning of the equipment when it was finally gathered at Preston Point.

1966 - 1977 LINDSAY WALLIS
Lindsay worked tirelessly on the equipment and this apprenticeship at Fremantle must have served him well for on his transfer to Melbourne he joined the Mercantile Club and almost immediately performed a similar job to that which he had at Fremantle.

1969 - 1986 GEORGE WRIGHT
George was mainly responsible for updating boats as railway type wheels were superseded and wide guage runners were developed. He also redesigned some of the footrests as socks replaced leather shoes.

1978 1980 ABERLE FAMILY, JOHN BAILEY, ERN LEVETT AND KEN PARKES
Bill Aberle with his two sons Dean and Peter formed this combination which together could be called "Builders Extraordinaire". Together they were the motivators in building the steps down to the river from the tarmac in front of the shed and also the Annexe on the western side of the Boatshed.

1980 -1986 ALLAN SMITH
Regarded as top man of the century in and around boats and equipment. He completely converted two boats from empty hulls into racing craft capable of winning races He co-ordinates with Bill Ninhan on construction and organises and works on any conversions or alterations of gear.

1980 - 1986 JOHN AKERS
A doctor by profession and forms a valuable combination with Allan Smith and George Wriqht. Often supplies professional logic to problems and always on hand if a second opinion is necessary.

1984 - 1986 GINO CHIARELLI
Gino conceived and supervised construction of the brick extension to the Club. He was the hardest worker in the many working bees and the difficulties he faced in organisation would have daunted a lesser person.

1984 - 1986 RON HARDY
Ron gave considerable support in connection with the brick extensions and gave generously of time and talent to support Gino Chiarelli.

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