A number of friends and relatives gathered at an informal ceremony at Balmain Rowing Club on Sunday 7th January to mark the passing of our club patron, George Neilson OAM.
George had been more or less continuously associated with the club since he joined up with his brother as a young lad in 1938. That is a staggering few months short of 80 years membership (a life member since 1955) . George had also been captain, held club and building committee positions and was patron of the club at the time of his passing at the age of 101 years. George also contributed funds for the building design process for the new club and purchased the timber for the West Wing now bearing his name.
With the help of a Piper George's ashes were scattered off the point from the double scull that bears his name. A number of presentations were heard including a short video from our club archives of George recalling how he got involved with rowing.
I have no doubt George has gone to that big boat house in the sky where he would be messing around in boats with his old mates JB Sharp, Billy Nix, Don Croot and Joe Andreoli.
George Maxwell Neilson OAM
George was born on 27th October 1916 and has devoted a significant portion of his long life to the sport of rowing. He began his now seven and a half decade involvement with the sport as a competitor in 1937, describing himself as “a competitive, but average rower” nonetheless in 1939 he won a State championship. George rowed for Balmain Rowing Club until 1955.
Throughout his long career, George has devoted much of his energy and expertise to the black and gold of one club, Balmain and to the sport of rowing in general, a sport which does not often capture media headlines. Up until quite recently he was a coach of young rowers – many of whom have gone on to representative level. He has willingly accepted “behind the scenes” roles – timekeeper, starter, judge, marshal, club representative, etc. as well as administrative roles. One highlight was as an octogenarian he drove one of the commentary vehicles for the 2000 Olympic Rowing Regatta. George is a Life Member of both Balmain Rowing Club and NSW Rowing, His dedication, sense of fair play and ongoing involvement has set a fine example for others in the sport of rowing.
This generosity has carried over to community in general: George was a founding member of Lovett Bay Bush Fire Brigade; a volunteer who undertook the maintenance and repair of small vessels for NSW Heritage Fleet, delivery man for Meals on Wheels to ‘customers’ often a decade or two younger than him.
In 2006 George Neilson was awarded the NSW Maritime Medal for his seven-decade involvement in rowing and volunteer work for the Sydney Heritage Fleet. Further acknowledgement came in 2010 when he was awarded an OAM for his contribution to both rowing and the community in general.
George moved from the assisted living facility “Minnamurra” Drummoyne about a year ago, when he required greater care, to War Vets Home at Narrabeen. He recently celebrated his 101st birthday, in his good mates Ken Knight’s words he had beat the Don’s (Bradman) average.