“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” –
The Hon. Sir John Robertson – Fifth Premier of NSW, July 1876
Ned Trickett – His Life
Ned Trickett was born on 12th September 1851 in Woolwich, a suburb of Sydney, on the junction of the Lane Cove and Parramatta rivers. HIs father had been a convict and former bootmaker and his mother was Irish. During Ned’s formative years, sculling in Australia was fast becoming a very popular sport within all sections of society. Both his older brothers, George and William had been rowing from an early age and Ned had a strong desire to join them.
His maiden effort as a competition rower took place before he was 15, at the St. Patrick’s Regatta on 17 March 1866. In a dinghy race for youths under sixteen, he finished sixth of seven entries. At the Anniversary Regatta of 1869 (now known as the Australia Day Regatta and associated with sailing craft), he entered the under twenty-one amateurs’ race, pulling a pair of skulls in light skiffs; he won easily. On 1 April 1872, at the Lane Cove Regatta, he again won a light skiffs event. After a brief hiatus in the early 1870s, he entered the Grand Champion Scullers match for the Championship of the Australian Colonies in October 1874. He lost to fellow competitor, Michael Rush, but beat Elias Laycock, another promising young competitor.
It was then that he attracted the attention of Mr James Punch, a well-know Sydney hotelier, himself a former skilled oarsman. Punch announced his intention to take Ned to London to challenge the then World Sculling Champion, Joseph Sadler. Punch had both the knowledge and experience to assess Ned’s competitive edge and in 1875, formed a committee to raise the necessary funds to take him to England for the challenge.
On the 27th June 1876, Ned defeated Joseph Sadler. By doing so he became both the World Sculling Champion and the first Australian to win a World Championship in any sport.
The race was on a course from Putney to Mortlake on the Thames and Ned won by approximately two and a half boat lengths, in 24 minutes 35 seconds. By all accounts, the English were stunned by the result: not only a ‘colonial’, but the son of a convict had taken out the World Sculling Championship! When he returned to Australia on the 9th November on board the steamship Zealandia, 25,000 people turned up at Circular Quay to welcome him home. Ned Trickett’s achievement seemed to have awoken in the colony’s population a great sense of pride in being Australian.
Panoramic view of Manns Point from North Sydney, 1870-1875. Thought to be the site of the Trickett family’s sandstone quarry. Ned developed his rowing skills transporting sandstone blocks from the quarry to various building sites around the harbour. These sandstone blocks were used to help build the retaining wall around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.Creator: American and Australasian Photographic Company
On hearing of Trickett’s success, his old rival, Michael Rush had begun to reassess his decision to retire from competitive rowing. The now thirty-two year old decided to contest the title and the articles of agreement were drawn up for a £200-a-side challenge. It would take place on the Parramatta River, 30th June 1877.
There were an estimated 70,000 spectators lining the shores of the river and more following the race on board numerous large steamers. Ned successfully defended his title and the enthusiastic celebrations continued well into the evening. There was a general consensus that Ned had gained considerable advantage by using the then relatively new sliding seat which Michael Rush had declined to use.
The following year a rolling keg crushed Ned’s hand; a resulting partial-amputation of his index finger affected the balance of his stroke. While in August 1879 he defeated Elias Laycock in a £200-a-side World Championship Challenge, his best racing years were behind him. In June 1880 he went to England for the third defence of his title, but lost to the rising Canadian star, Edward Hanlan. Trickett subsequently lost his final title race, again defeated by Hanlan on the Thames, on May 1, 1882.
In May 1884, Ned moved to Rockhampton where, in June 1888, he came out of retirement to again race against the champion Canadian sculler, Edward Hanlan on the Fitzroy River. The two past World Champion scullers were meeting again after six years. But while Hanlan had kept up his racing skills with continuous training, Ned had virtually retired. Though he put up a good fight, he was defeated by Hanlan by ten lengths.
After retiring from the Department of Trade and Customs in September 1916, Ned visited his son, Fred Trickett, at Uralla where Fred ran a shop and had a hobby gold mine. Ned helped his son work the shaft until tragedy struck and the shaft walls collapsed. Ned survived the initial impact, but later died of his injuries on 28th November 1916, at the age of 65. He is buried in the Uralla cemetery, where a memorial was erected by public subscription in 1918.