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The Champion Oarsman Polka

Date: 1853
Overall: 345 x 255 mm, 0.05 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sheet music
Object No: 00029020
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    'The Champion Oarsman Polka' was composed by George Castleden and dedicated to William Beach. It was published by WH Paling of Sydney.
    Significance'The Champion Oarsman Polka' is a unique tribute to the Australian world champion rower William Beach, and testifies to the popular appeal of this sporting figure.
    HistoryWilliam Beach (1850-1935) was revered as a national sporting hero, winning the Sculling Championship of the World for Australia seven times between 1884 and 1887. Racing both at home and abroad Beach proudly carried the hopes of the colony, inspiring nationalist sentiment long before Federation. His victories were celebrated by everyone, from civic receptions and poetry to the very popular Beach's Champion Oarsman's Polka and mass produced souvenir beer mugs. Living well into his eighties, he grew to become the 'grand old man' of the sculling world.

    Born in England, William Beach migrated with his family in 1853 to the south coast township near Lake Illawarra in New South Wales. He lived in Dapto all his life, becoming a blacksmith and a keen waterman. Winning a series of local regattas and small purses Beach gradually began to earn a great deal of money and respect from the feverish followers of professional sculling, eventually acquiring a sponsor, publican Mr John Deeble of the Bells Inn near the Domain in Sydney. His rise culminated in the long awaited showdown for the Championship of the World against famed Canadian sculler Edward Hanlan for £1000 a side on the 16 August 1884 on the Parramatta River. Beach won this race and remained undefeated for the rest of his career.

    Beach's first major win was over Edward Trickett for the Australian Championship in April 1884. In the same year he defeated the world's champion Edward Hanlan on the Parramatta River, and in 1885 he successfully defended his title against TC Clifford, Hanlan and N Matterson. His most famous race was on the Thames in September 1886 against Gauder. Both rowers pushed themselves to such an extent that each in turn stopped during the race, exhausted. Beach recovered to successfully defend his world title. On his return to Sydney he was welcomed as a hero, and presented to Governor and Lady Carrington.
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