The prince of Parramatta River
Located in the Parramatta River off Henley Point is a broken marble column. Many locals have no idea that this was not the result of an accident, but the column was designed this way for a very good reason. This point is the finish line of the course on which Australian sculling champion Henry Searle defeated Peter Kemp for the world championship in 1889.
Searle came to Sydney when he was 22 and competed in contests on the Parramatta River where rowing, in those days, brought the biggest crowds of any sporting events. The course for all these contests started near the present Ryde Road Bridge and finished at a point known as the Three Brothers, a grouping of three rocks that are visible at low tide. The course was approximately 4.8 kilometres and all these races were for prize money.
In September 1888, Searle beat the then reigning World Champion, fellow Australian, Peter Kemp. The purse for that particular race was 500 pounds. The following year, Searle accepted a challenge from the American champion, W.J. O`Conner, this time for a purse of 1000 pounds.
The race was rowed over the Putney to Mortlake course on the River Thames, a distance of 7.24 kilometres. The Australian won the race and decided to leave England and travel back home. On the return journey, he became ill with what was described as `enteric fever`. When his ship berthed in Melbourne, Searle was rushed to hospital but died of peritonitis on 10 December 1889. He was 23 years of age. Huge crowds turned out for services in Melbourne, Sydney and finally at the funeral in Maclean.
Why is the column broken? This was to signify the early close of the sculler’s career. Gone too soon.
IMAGE CREDIT: Peter Miller