Eric Britton

Thank you to everyone who helped last Sunday at the club to celebrate the life of Richmond life member Eric Britton. Please read the below transcript written by Ray Dennis to commemorate the life of a great friend.

Eric Britton second from the right, Scotch Regatta
Eric Britton second from the right, Scotch Regatta

I have been asked to say a few words about Eric’s involvement in the sport of rowing. But first let me express the sympathy of the Richmond Rowing Club members to Barbara, and her family and to his sons Richard, Stephen, and Malcolm, and to all their extended families on the passing of a man whose loyalty and dedication to this club was unparalleled.
Eric joined Richmond in 1955, I am not sure whether his choice was influenced by his employer Bill Yoxon (President at that time) or his allegiance to the football team. Eric was first instructed by Ron Marsh then Mal Gardner (King’s Cup crew member) with whom he formed an extremely strong bond, which was to continue until Mal’s passing. Under Mal’s tuition Eric utilized his great strength to best advantage, and would go on to be the first choice as stroke or six seat in any eight. His regatta successes were not only in Eights but in fours and pairs. Most notably when teaming with Lindsay Patullo he won State Titles as the Champion Junior Pair and later the Senior Champion Sprint Pair, the latter against a formidable Nagambie crew.
Eric never lost an opportunity to row, he was always ready to participate in the many club races held at that time. He enjoyed the sprints but the Time trial was the favourite, it was a military operation, selecting crews within the parameters, arranging times, then racing, often more than once a week, in 1957 he and Lindsay asked Graeme Macfarlane and I to join a crew, which, subsequently set a time that was not beaten for several decades. This was the start of a valued friendship.
This commitment to club activities earned him the honour of being awarded the Mal Scott Award Three times.
His strength, enthusiasm, punctuality, discipline, and camaraderie meant he was an extremely valuable asset to all crews including those he was not personally involved.
Eric’s profession as a carpenter, his enthusiasm, and organization ability, especially in the days of timber boats and a timber shed made him an obvious choice as Captain, a position he held from 1957 till 1962. This task he took on with his usual diligence, varnishing and repairing boats and oars, thus ensuring all equipment was in appropriate condition for training and competition. His work in this area was of great assistance in the Club winning the state Junior Championship. He arranged working bees to ensure the shed was maintained and improved. His dedication to maintenance continued long after his formal position ceased, he cleaned and painted the internal gutters in this shed until access was restricted. He set a standard of commitment to the club and its activities and members responded. He continued to participate on the committee serving two terms as Vice president in 1962/3 and again from 1965 till 1973.
The club recognised his contribution in 2000 by making him a Life Member.
Eric was very loyal to his friends, any assistance given was repaid threefold.
Eric was an individual he had always worn shorts to work, but in 1962 he wore them everywhere, while presenting Henry Lawson’s shirt, to Mal’s funeral, and even to an ice hockey match.
When I returned to the city in 1969 we arranged a social row with others of our vintage unfortunately Eric and I were the only ones to persevere, so except for a couple of masters head of the Yarra, and a pair competition ceased, we continued to row the tub pair socially mainly on a Wednesday evening, on time, without fail, minimum, around the Island, more commonly Toddy’s corner. “Not worth getting the boat wet” was his reply if a shorter row was mentioned. This was in all weathers, Barbara once commented on the inclement conditions and was it worth going out, Eric’s reply was “The river is not frozen, so why shouldn’t we?” An occasional weekend was arranged for a special event, e.g. could we get to Dight’s Falls and could we see the Tall ships at Station Pier from water level. Answer, yes to the ships, not quite to the Falls, the water is too shallow about 400m past Johnson Street bridge. I did a rough calculation that we must have rowed well over 18000K’s together. As mentioned, Eric would use any excuse to row, and if I was not available for an extra session he would come down and scull, he even came down on Christmas morning to scull. Unfortunately in 2008 his health deteriorated to such an extent that made it dangerous to row and very much to Eric’s and my regret we had to cease.
As you can see Richmond was Eric and Eric was Richmond, so it is with a great deal of sadness that we say farewell to a committed oarsman and hope there is a broad stretch of water for him to continue his passion.
1957 Maiden 4+ Stroke - Eric Britton, 3 L. Patullo, 2 R. Shrimpton, 1 A. Busietta, Cox G Stewart, Coach M Gardiner.
1957 Maiden 4+
Stroke – Eric Britton, 3 – L. Patullo, 2 – R. Shrimpton, 1 – A. Busietta, Cox G. Stewart & Coach M. Gardiner