Trickett’s achievement was arguably an important early contribution to a separate and proud Australian identity

Beginnings of A national identity?

 

 

“… the first man not bred in England to win the great prize of the championship of the world who had won honour for the people of the whole of these colonies”.

Words of praise from the then Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Sir John Robertson…

In 1876, Australia didn’t exist as a nation; we were an unfederated collection of ‘colonies’, not the cohesive modern nation of today with our own history, traditions, institutions and distinctive culture. Those developments were in their infancy; with the first stirrings of nationhood being stoked by people such as the politician William Charles Wentworth, the novelist Marcus Clarke and the extraordinary feats of Trickett. In 1876, Gallipoli and the ANZAC legend were an unimagined (and unimaginable!) horror – a trial-by-fire yet to come.

Trickett’s convincing win was reported in London with a combination of shock and grudging admiration. As it turned out, his victory was the start of a Golden Age for professional sculling in Australia: the world title was held by seven Australians for 22 of the 31 years between 1876 and 1907. When he returned home to Sydney, it was reported that more than 25,000 people turned out at Circular Quay to welcome him home.

Trickett, wasn’t just from the ‘colonies’, he was of the ‘colonies’: a Currency Lad, born in Woolwich on the Lane Cove River in Sydney. His father was a former convict and a bootmaker and his mother was Irish. After a remarkable early rowing career in New South Wales a Sydney publican, James Punch, organised a public subscription enabling Trickett to travel to London to challenge for the World Sculling Championship title.

Trickett’s achievement was arguably an important early contribution to a separate and proud Australian identity – including the good-humoured and keenly-expressed battles against the ‘old enemy’.