Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rogers, George Edgar (1882–1960)

by D. H. Fraser

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

George Edgar Rogers (1882-1960), oarsman and carpenter, was born on 19 May 1882 in London, son of Alfred James Rogers, shipping company clerk, and his wife Selina Annie, née Pitt. George learned to row from professional oarsmen on the Thames and won repute as a sculler; he was national amateur champion and won the Sandow trophy, England's highest sculling prize. He had a string of rowing successes to his credit but, being a tradesman, was barred from Henley regattas. Only at 55 could he achieve his lifelong ambition to race at Henley—during a visit to London for the coronation of King George VI. Rogers was also a prominent long-distance runner, boxer and footballer.

He came to Australia in 1907, joined the Western Australian Rowing Club in Perth and won the State sculling title next year, remaining undefeated champion for seventeen years. Rogers first represented Western Australia in eights at Melbourne in 1908 and he stroked the State crew at Hobart in 1910. After some prospecting, Rogers wore the gold-and-black-swan singlet again in Melbourne in 1914. On 3 August 1912 in Perth he had married Mary Alice Bildock, dressmaker; they had no children. In World War I he was not accepted for the Australian Imperial Force because he had lost the index finger of his right hand in an accident; but after several years on munitions work in England, he stroked the A.I.F. Wattle Rowing Club crew to victory at the Marlow peace regatta after the Armistice. He represented Western Australia at Brisbane in 1920 and next year selected and stroked its victorious crew at the inaugural race for the King's Cup at Launceston, Tasmania. George stroked two winning Stewards' Challenge Cup crews at Melbourne Henley, in 1928 and in 1936 when he was 54, and he coached several winning Hale School crews at Perth's annual interschool regattas.

On the Swan River Rogers won thirty-nine State championships in sculls, pairs, fours and eights. His last winning champion eight in the stroke seat was in 1945 at 63; his last winning champion eight race was three years later when he rowed bow. Through the 1940s he was still Western Australia's leading oarsman, coaching the 1946, 1947 and 1951 King's Cup crews.

'Old George' had a unique rowing record; some said he was one of the greatest 'freaks' the sporting world had known. He replied, 'I simply believe in keeping myself fit and the only way to do that is to stay active'. At 65 he was selected by the University of Sydney's department of physiology to undergo tests conducted by Professor Frank Cotton to assess the amount of exercise necessary to keep a man fit and well. The first was at Jacob's Ladder in Kings Park, Perth—a climb of 274 steps to a height of 150 ft (46 m), taking the steps two at a time and paced by a young student. George's blood pressure was less affected than the student's. In Sydney, for a fortnight, he performed before an audience of doctors. Cotton concluded that Rogers was physically superior to the average man of 30. In 1952 he won the 11½-mile (18.5 km) sculling race from Fremantle to Perth, claimed to be the world's longest and most gruelling race, against some men fifty years younger.

Although retired as a carpenter, Rogers kept the trained athlete's easy grace. With wiry build, tanned face and an unassuming but resolute manner, he won friends all over the world. Predeceased by his wife, he died at Nedlands, Perth, on 12 October 1960 and was cremated after an Anglican service. His ashes were scattered over the three-mile (4.8 km) championship rowing course on the Swan River over which he had competed so often and which he so loved.

Select Bibliography

  • People (Sydney), 27 Jan 1954
  • personal reminiscences.

Citation details

D. H. Fraser, 'Rogers, George Edgar (1882–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rogers-george-edgar-8256/text14459, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 26 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Birth

19 May 1882
London, England

Death

12 October 1960
Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage
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