Illawarra's first world champion

World champion sculler William Beach.

World champion sculler William Beach.

Professional sculler William "Bill" Beach is referred to as the Illawarra's first world champion.

"His life story is the stuff that today's mini-series are made [of]," said Bill Beach's great-granddaughter Yvonne Downes.

"He suffered quite a few setbacks in his early childhood, and perhaps this gave him the grit and determination to go on to win the World Championship."

On August 16, Ms Downes will launch a book titled The Brownsville Blacksmith, the life story of William Beach.

In 1884, Beach "astonished the world" by defeating the invincible Canadian Edward Hanlan in the World Professional Sculling Championships on the Parramatta River.

Ray Pearson  with his granddaughter Hannah, 13,  and daughter Kathryn Mavrofridis. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Ray Pearson with his granddaughter Hannah, 13, and daughter Kathryn Mavrofridis. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Beach became an instant Australian sporting hero and retained his title on six occasions before retiring.

Beach lived most of his life at Dapto, learnt to row on Lake Illawarra and was active at a time when professional sculling was a prominent international sport.

His name lives on in the Illawarra through a park at Brownsville, IRT's William Beach Gardens and the William Beach Brasserie at Dapto Leagues Club.

After his rowing career came to an end, he served the community in many ways including as an alderman on the Central Illawarra Council.

Ms Downes is calling for descendants of William Beach to be part of the book launch being held at the Dapto Leagues Club on August 16.

"Bill and Sarah Beach had 12 children and their descendants are scattered far and wide," Ms Downes said.

"The date of the launch will mark 130 years to the day since he won his first world title. It is also 50 years since William Beach Park was opened at Brownsville in his honour."

Ms Downes said she would like to invite as many descendants as possible and any other people who might be interested.

Relatives can contact Ms Downes on (03) 6429 1353 or via email on ennovyar@gmail.com.

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