The launch of the book The Village Blacksmith highlights the life and times of world champion rower William Beach.
William Beach, the son of Alexander and Mary Beach, was born in September 1850 in Chertsey Co Surrey, England. When he was just five years old his family migrated to Australia and settled at Dapto on the banks of Macquarie Rivulet.
His father was a farrier and William took up the trade as a blacksmith, building up his arm muscles at the same time. At the age of 22 years he married Sarah Duley in 1872 at Brownsville and they went on to have 10 children.
In 1870 an American by the name of Babcock invented the sliding seat in rowing boats. This was first used at the Hassan Boat Club in New York in May 1870. The first person to use this seat in Australia was Edward Trickett in Sydney in 1877.
On May 25, 1874, a regatta was held on Lake Illawarra which included four boats named Kanahooka, Shamrock, Tallawarra and Frances Jane. The sixth heat of the day was for amateurs and the four boats were entered with a two-man crew pulling a pair of oars. Kanahooka won the race with James Duley and William Beach - starting his love and dedication to the sport of rowing skiffs.
Just seven years later, in September 1881, two local Dapto men, Thomas Clifford in Shamrock and William Beach in Kanahooka, entered a race in 22-foot skiffs on Lake Illawarra. Beach won easily as Clifford had problems with one of his oars. This event attracted great interest in Illawarra for about 500 people who were assembled at Kanahooka Point to witness this race. The following year in December, the men met again at a course set out on the Parramatta River. This race was a true challenge for both. Clifford kept spurting ahead, but Beach had no problem rising to the challenge every time. Eventually, Beach won by eight lengths. By 1883, Beach was well on his way to become a world champion.
Australia had one extraordinary oarsman in Edward Trickett, who won the title of Championship of the World in June 1876 when he defeated Edward Hanlon. Trickett held this title until he was defeated by Hanlon in November 1880. In August 1884, Beach defeated Edward Hanlon on the Parramatta River. After having defeated Hanlon twice on the Parramatta River, first in 1884 and again in 1885, Beach then travelled to England where he defeated Jacob Gaudaur and W. Ross on the Thames River in 1886. After returning home, he again faced Hanlon. This time they met on the Nepean River in 1887, where Beach retained his title. He held this title for three years and three months until his retirement.
He wrote a letter in November 1888 describing his methods of training. The main point he made was regularity in doing everything each day at the same hour. Start at 7am each day by walking two miles. At 8am have a good breakfast consisting of either grilled chop or steak. After a short break, walk about five miles followed by a visit to the boatshed to row the length of the course of the next event. When finished have a good bath, then sit down and relax with half a pint of ale. After a good and hearty lunch of meat and vegetables take the boat out again and row the course for the second time. Then, finally cover the course again later in the afternoon. He stated in the letter that it takes five to six weeks to train thoroughly.
After his racing days were over, he settled down with his family in Champion Cottage at Dapto.