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Bobby Pearce scull

Vessel Number: HV000153
Date: c 1930
Designer: A & H Green
Previous Owner: Bobby Pearce , Dalton ,
Dimensions:
Vessel Dimensions: 7.79 m x 0.26 m (25.55 ft x 0.85 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Significance
This 7.79 m (25 ft 6&1/2 in) single racing scull was owned and rowed by the legendary champion Australian rower Bobby Pearce, winner of Australia’s first Olympic rowing gold medal in 1928. This was then followed by other important victories by Pearce as an amateur and then professional sculler. He remained unbeaten throughout his career and has been considered the finest sculler of all time. The scull is also an example of the craft built by A&H Green who were important Sydney builders in this period.
DescriptionBobby Pearce's wooden scull is largely intact. It carries the builder’s nameplate and is an excellent example of A&H Green's craftsmanship working in a specialized and competitive area of boatbuilding. The hull, cockpit and riggers are all original; the only items that may have been modified or replaced appear to be the runners and seat rollers. It has a set of wooden oars that probably date from the time the craft was built.

Establishing when this craft was built is a matter of continued research. Bobby Pearce appears to have rowed different craft over a long period of competition. This craft was obtained by Paul Walz from the widow of the second owner Mr. Dalton. Walz was also an experienced Olympic rower for Germany whereas Dalton had been coached by Pearce in Hamilton and had purchased the scull from Pearce. The scull has been rowed by both Walz and Dalton who revered the craft because of its connection to the legendary Pearce. The current owner used the craft sparingly until it developed a crack which could not be repaired by anyone local. He then kept the scull indoors which has helped the craft remain in good original condition.

Pearce came to Canada for the 1930 Empire Games at Hamilton, Ontario as the sole Australian sportsman. Funding for sporting activities was severely affected by the Depression and it is understood the city of Hamilton helped pay Pearce's fares and other costs. Pearce won his event comfortably. Meanwhile, just before the games he was offered employment as a salesman with the liquor firm John Dewar and Sons who had been a supporter in the past, and he settled in Hamilton shortly after the event. Although he remained there from 1930 and eventually became a Canadian citizen, he rowed for Australia in the 1932 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles. This was his last race as an amateur; he became professional directly after his win at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

It is known that he used Australian built sculls. The boat he used in 1928 in Holland was built by the Greens rival Sydney builder George Towns and was given to him by Dewar. It is currently assumed that this craft built by Greens may be one of the boats he brought over to Canada from Australia in the period from 1930 to 1932. The previous owner Dalton is said to have understood that Pearce brought a number of sculls to Canada from Australia during his Olympic period.

Bobby Pearce was born 30th September 1905, christened Henry Robert, and grew up in Double Bay Sydney. He entered his first race, a handicap for under 16s while only aged six, and finished second. His first occupation was a carpenter, and then he worked in the fish industry with his father. He joined the army in 1923 but left in 1926 to take up rowing full-time. During his period in the army he won the army’s heavy weight boxing championship.

He began his rowing career by winning the amateur national sculling championships in 1927, before going on to double Olympic success. Another important international win was in 1931 when he took out the prestigious Diamond Sculls event at the Royal Henley Regatta held in England. As a professional he raced in Canada and England and retired unbeaten in 1938. During the war Pearce served in the Canadian Naval Reserve, and he also became a professional wrestler for just over 12 months. In 1972 he became a Canadian citizen and died in 1976 aged 70.

Amongst the many accolades given to Pearce in Canada and Australia, where he is featured in sporting halls of fame in both countries, there is the ‘Bobby Pearce Award: Junior Female Sculler of the Year’, given by Rowing Canada Aviron, and the 'Bobby Pearce Foundation' in Australia which supports emerging talent. Pearce was considered the finest sculler in his day, some thought he was also the finest sculler ever to that time, and both Canada and Australia are proud of his connections to their respective countries.

Four generations of the Pearce family have been successful Australian rowers, starting with his grandfather Harry Snr, followed by Bobby’s father Harry (II), then Bobby and his cousin Cecil. Cecil’s son Gary continued the tradition; he was in the Australian eight at the Munich Olympics in 1972 that won a silver medal. Other family members have been champion swimmers and rugby league players.

In October 2008 this scull was acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum from Paul Walz in Canada. It will be brought back to Australia to become part of the National Maritime Collection at the museum, just a few kilometres from Abbostford where it was built.

Vessel Details
Current status:inside building
Current status:non-operational
Deck layout:decked with cockpit
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hull material and construction:cold mouldedcold-mouldeddouble diagonaltriple diagonaldouble-diagonaltriple-diagonal
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:canoe stern/double endedDE
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:round bottom
Deck material and construction:other
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:other

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