last time Spencer Grace rowed on his beloved Lane
Cove River was just three weeks before his death
- at the age of 92. A businessman and sportsman,
Grace represented Australia at the 1948 London Olympics.
His partner then was Ted Bromley of Palm Beach and
the duo, dubbed "the gruesome twosome", still rowed
together well into the 1990s.
Spencer Grace was born in Mosman, his Sydney schooling
interrupted by World War I when his father was sent
to Melbourne as chairman of the Interstate Shipping
Commission (he died in 1919 in the global Spanish
the family's return to Sydney, Grace finished his
schooling at Mowbray House and North Sydney Boys'
where his love affair with sport really began.
studying accountancy, he became captain of his local
tennis and swimming clubs; practice for the latter
included diving from the old Roseville Bridge and
racing the sharks to the Roseville Baths (where,
years later, his sons learned to swim).
too, was going well; at 19, he came sixth in NSW
in his accountancy exams, waited two years for admission
to the Institute of Accountants, and worked with
some of the city's larger practices.
keen motorcycle racer, he sought a competitive edge
by machining parts for his bikes, which served to
whet his appetite for engineering. As the Depression
bit, he launched, with Roy Burns, Spencer Grace & Co
at 175 Pitt Street, a branch of which specialised
in a then growth market - motor trade debt collections.
was about then that he discovered rowing. It was
a winter's evening, already dark, when he arrived
at the deserted North Shore Rowing Club in Neutral
Bay. He paid his dues to the caretaker, against whose
wishes he then took one of the club's skiffs, a narrow
vessel, not for beginners.
having rowed before, he struck out into the busy
harbour on a course which brought him into dispute
with one of the many ferries (completion of the Harbour
Bridge was still two years distant). A collision
was avoided but Grace capsized; a passing Italian
fisherman returned him, with skiff, to Neutral Bay.
1934 he had become captain of the club and would
remain in that position until the outbreak of World
War II. Those were its golden years, with the unique
double in 1938 of the State championship eights and
the State premiership pennant.
the professional front, he'd sold out of private
practice and become company accountant with Automatic
Totalisators Ltd. He would swiftly become ATL's general
manager, putting his meteoric rise down to having
become "repulsively organised and pedantic".
1935 he married Daphne de Bovis; they honeymooned
at Charlotte Pass and he joined the Kosciusko Alpine
Club and became a member of the NSW ski team. He
was nominated for the skiing and rowing teams for
the 1940 Olympics, suspended for the war. In 1939,
he rowed in an Australian eight at the centenary
Henley regatta, he and his wife learning of the outbreak
of war as they steamed home to Australia from England.
tried to enlist in the RAAF but ATL had been declared
essential to armaments production; under Grace's
direction it would produce parts for all manner of
weapons from howitzers to Mosquito fighter-bombers.
the war over, ATL returned to making tote machines;
Grace became managing director and with his war experience
and study at Sydney Technical College (now the University
of Technology, Sydney) was admitted to the Institute
of Production Engineers and the Australian Institute
of Management. There was constant air travel as ATL
built markets in India, Africa, the Middle East,
North and South America, Europe and Britain.
pinnacle of his sporting success came in 1948 with
the London Olympics, with Bromley in the coxless
pairs. Though he didn't compete at the 1952 Olympics,
he played a key role in the success of the Australian
eight, most of whom would be the honour guard at
the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Grace retired from ATL
but not from work, setting up marketing firms in
the US and working with a scrap-iron and foundry
firm at home.
retired again in 1985 but not from rowing; when 78,
he rowed in the first World Masters' Games in Toronto,
winning silver and bronze medals. At 84 he competed
in the third Australian Masters' Games in 1991 and
won two gold and a bronze. He outdid himself in the
World Masters' Games in Brisbane in 1994; then 88,
he won two gold, three silver and two bronze medals.
is survived by his first wife and their two sons,
and by his widow, Eileen, formerly of New York.
the Sydney Morning Herald.
for Ted Bromley
and Ted Bromley
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