Clarrie Healey

​​(1895 - 1987) | ​​Rowing

Clarrie Healey gained fame as one of New Zealand’s finest rowing oarsmen and coaches including stroking the NZ Army crew to victory before more than 100,000 spectators in an epic Allied Forces Eights race on the River Seine in 1919.

The then 24-year-old Wanganui Union rower, who was recovering from injuries suffered in the trenches in France during World War I, stroked his Kiwi crew to a thrilling victory over a USA Expeditionary Forces eight picked from two million Americans in the war, with host country France third.

The Allied Forces Regatta was staged following the signing of the Armistice to end the war and was watched by New Zealand Prime Minister Bill Massey, his Minister of Finance Sir Joseph Ward, Lawrence of Arabia and other world dignitaries.

The Kiwi eight, which included Clarrie’s Wanganui Union fellow club members Bill Coombes, bowman George Wilson and coxswain Arthur Trussell, lost only once during racing in England and France in 1918-1919. The boat they raced in was donated to New Zealand and used by the Union club for many years.

Clarrie, born in Sanson, had a very distinguished career as a competitor, coach and official. He joined Union in 1911 at the age of 16, won eight NZ titles between 1920 and 1938 (the last at the age of 44), coached the club to eight national titles between 1937 and 1962 and was club captain for 35 years (1931-1966).

Remarkably he was named to attend four Olympic Games over a period of 28 years. He was selected in the NZ eight for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics but the crew did not travel because of a lack of funds. But he attended the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as NZ eight-oar coach and both the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics as the four-oar coach.

In addition Clarrie stroked the Union eight at the 1934 Melbourne Centenary Regatta and coached the club four at the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games, both crews representing New Zealand.

He was heavily involved with the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association (NZARA), serving seven years as national selector, helped developed the country’s training ergometer which was based at Union and used for NZ trials for many years, and was rewarded with NZARA life membership to go with an MBE and life membership of both the Wanganui association and Union club.

Clarrie coached Wanganui Technical College crews from 1941-1953, winning back to back national Maadi Cup eights titles in 1949-1950.

A fanatic for fitness training in all forms of sport, he also represented Wanganui rugby five times in 1924-1926 when playing for Wanganui Pirates.​

Page reviewed: 22 Aug 2016 3:35pm