Eighty-three-year-old Wentworth College rowing coach, Olympian and original Maadi Cup finalist.

Q: An impressive 2108 pupils are registered for the Maadi Cup (officially known as the New Zealand Secondary Schools rowing championships) with finals today and tomorrow. What was the original eights race like in 1947?


I was in the bow seat of the Wanganui Technical College crew. It was one race with four crews - Mt Albert Grammar, Sacred Heart, St Augustine's College and us - on the Whanganui River.

Q: You stuck with rowing and went to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics as part of a coxed four. How was that?
A: We were very much amateurs. We'd knock off work then train through the winter because the Olympics started in November. We'd go out at 4pm and come back in the dark. The sentry of the boat club would often stand on the pontoon with a torch so we could see our way in.


Q:Tell us a story from Melbourne?
A: Our coach Clarrie Healey was not included in the official team so we used to walk out the gate in Ballarat at the Lake Wendouree course and give him a tracksuit. He'd put it on and come back in to have lunch with us. We raced a four-lane course, which was dug out at both ends to fit in the [2000m] distance. You almost ran up the bank at the finish.

Q: How are your crewmates getting on?
A: There are two of us left - Don Gemmell and I from the Union Boat Club. Ray Laurent, Peter Lucas and coxswain Colin Johnstone are dead.

Q: How does the Evelyn Page retirement village in Orewa shape up?
A: Like anything else you integrate into a new lifestyle after moving out of a bigger home. There are things going on all the time - exercise sessions or trips out. You can do what you want or keep living your own life. During the summer months I don't spend a lot of time in the village because I'm coaching at Wentworth [College]. Now rowing's finishing I'll get back to playing bowls. We've got a dozen or so bowlers coming from Warkworth for a match-up today [Friday].

Q: Have you been on a favourite excursion?
A: Every Tuesday there's a trip somewhere, they normally hire a couple of 12-seater buses. They had to get a full bus the other week for a trip to Goat Island. Jean and I haven't done many because there's still a lot we can do on our own. One good trip was a tour of Marsden Point oil refinery.

Q: How did you get involved with Wentworth College?
A: My son Bruce [the principal] was the former master of rowing at Westlake Boys'. He said he wanted help to start a rowing programme. We started with nothing but had boats donated from clubs then parents got behind us over the past five years and we've done some fundraising and got sponsors. We've got about 20 students rowing. We train on the Weiti River. When the tide's in it's great water; when the tide's out you stick to the middle of the channel unless you like muddy oars.

Q: The secret to your 83 years?
A: I had a heart operation 10 years ago and have been determined to stay fit since, but my valves are starting to get a bit tired.

27 Mar, 2014 8:41am
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27 Mar, 2014 5:00am
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