James G Howden
Above: 1956 Olympic eight – James Howden in the four seat
James Guthrie Howden 4 Sept 1934 – 10 October 1993
Jim Howden grew up in Point Lonsdale where he attended Queenscliff High School and later Geelong College. He stroked the Geelong College second crew in 1950 to a second placing. In the following year he stroked the first crew but did not the final and in 1952 was in the six seat of the second placed first crew.
Jim did his competitive rowing at MUBC and later Yarra Yarra but later joined Mercantile Rowing Club as his children started rowing. Four of his children raced for the Club.
Above: A young James Howden seated second from right next to coach Bob Aitken whilst rowing in a intercollegiate crew
The highlight of Jim’s rowing career was his bronze medal in the eight at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 after winning the King’s Cup in the same year.
Above: Medal presentation at the Olympic Games in 1956
Perhaps his greatest contribution to the sport was as Rowing Australia Chairman of Selectors at a crucial time in the sport, the introduction of a professional Head Coach in Reinhold Batschi. Jim was one of the initiators of this change and a great supporter of Reinhold when he arrived. This was a controversial and big change for the sport and could not be done without the support of people of the ilk of Jim Howden.
The sport changed dramatically for the better as a result of this decision.
Jim Howden was a lawyer who was appointed a County Court judge. In his obituary, County Court Chief Judge, Judge Waldron described Jim as “a man of great physical and personal charm” who earned high respect from all who came in contact with him. “He had a genuine empathy with and understanding of the less fortunate in our society.”
15 months after his appointment to the County Court on 11 March 1986, he was diagnosed as having a malignant melanoma. He finally lost his battle with cancer six years later but continued to sit for most of this time. Judge Waldron noted that: “We, his fellow judges, marvelled at his heroic fighting spirit and his conscientious determination to continue to discharge his judicial duties.”
Jim and Elaine Howden had five children, three boys and two girls, most of whom rowed, and at Mercantile. Jim is buried at Point Lonsdale.
Andrew Guerin (using material from an obituary in The Age newspaper)
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