Michael S Williams
Above: Michael Williams in the three seat of his Sunday morning four
1947-55 – Vice-President Victorian Rowing Asociation
1955-73 – President Victoria Rowing Association
Michael Sydney Williams was born in Sydney on 24 March 1891. After attending South Melbourne College and St. Patrick’s College, East Melbourne, he completed his education at Xavier College. Although a long time supporter and later committeeman of Essendon Football Club, his major sporting interest was rowing. He joined Mercantile after graduating as Master of Laws at Melbourne University. His busy and successful practice as a solicitor cut short his competitive career. He had the privilege of rowing number five in a famous Mercantile maiden eight in which (the later B.B.C. comedian) Dick Bentley, occupied the four seat. The crew was well placed going under Morell Bridge in its heat at Henley, when Bentley made one of his better wisecracks. The crew packed up laughing. Coach Bill Pitt on the bank was beside himself trying to restore the situation, and in his efforts managed to ride his bicycle into the river. It was the only crew which finished a race exhausted from laughter. “M.S.” was always a regular Sunday morning oarsman, and in his latter years rowed three in ‘Brooky’s four’ (Doug Brooke, Graeme Richardson, and Alex Dobbie, with Bert Spencer as cox). This crew was always ready to challenge, and quite often was known to beat oarsmen many years their junior.
A large jovial man with balding red hair, he was a dominating figure at regattas and at the King’s Cup. He gave generously to rowing, and for many years presented the oars to successful Victorian crews. He became president of the V.R.A. in 1955 on the death of Arch Dobbie, and remained in this capacity until his death. He took a large part in the conduct
of the 1956 Olympic Garnes, even to the point of staging one of his celebrated ‘Henley night’ parties at his home. This was a gala event attended by Olympic oarsmen and officials from all nations.
He renewed international friendship, when he attended, as A.A.R.C. delegate, the F.I.S.A. meeting at Macon, France in 1958. He was also to the forefront at St. Catherines, Canada in 1968 when the Australian four won the Gold Medal.
He was very devoted to his family and one of his proudest moments was when his son, John, became Victorian sculling champion, and was placed second in the President’s Cup in 1949.
His interest in rowing continued and he was a familiar figure on the riverbank to the time of his final illness in 1974. He was a memorable man with a very wide circle of friends from all fields of life. He was well known to rowing men of all States as well as overseas. He is well remembered by all who knew him.
His son-in-law, the Xavier and Mercantile oarsman, Hubert Frederico, (a appointed judge of the Family Law Court), rowed in the four King’s Cup crews in the period 1957-1960. Freddy coached many a crew of Mercantile senior eights, as well as several King’s Cup crews. In 1967, he took away as coach the successful four at the Empire Games. Freddy is well known as the coach who lifted Xavier to a high peak of rowing, the coveted Head-of-the-River just eluding his grasp on at least two occasions. Freddy went on to be an excellent President of the Victorian Rowing Association. Freddy’s father, a judge of the County Court, was a prominent Melbourne University and Melbourne oarsman.
Field Rickards 1976 (updated in 2015)