Monday 4 April 2011

Monument to a great oarsman

Over at that excellent rowing blog Hear the Boat Sing, they have been celebrating the magnificent monuments that used to be erected to famous oarsmen, including my favorite, the tomb of Robert Coombes in Brompton Cemetery in London.
One detail was missing however - the inscription on Henry Searle's column in Sydney, which curiously stands in the middle of the Parramatta River. It is a broken column, a common symbol for a life cut short. The blog appeals for someone with a boat to get a closer look.
Peter Miller was ready to oblige, and sent these great snaps - I love his panoramas.
He writes:
"I know the monument well and pass it twice a day on the rivercat on the way to work. In November I fulfilled a long held ambition to partially commute by boat. I rowed from Cabarita on Parramatta River to Cockatoo Island on the Harbour, stored the boat there and went the last few kilometres by ferry. I did the whole thing in reverse on the way home and it was a lot of fun - quite impractical but fun.
On the trip I took these photos. There appear to be three plaques on the monument. The southern plaque says "Henry Ernest Searle Champion Sculler 1888-9". The western plaque says something like 'This monument was erected by public subscription by [an Australian MP]'. I cannot make out the rest."
Next day, Peter took his SLR with a long lens with him on the ferry and snapped the eastern plaque, which reads: "Born 14 July 1866 at Grafton NSW"
Henry Searle was World Champion Sculler for just over a year, having won the title in Sydney in 1888 and successfully defended it on the Thames in 1889. Tragically, on the way back to Australia he caught typhoid and died aged just 23. Today, his monument is the traditional finishing post for racing on the Parramatta.

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