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Stephen (Steve) Fairbairn (1862–1938)

Stephen Fairbairn, the world-famed rowing coach, died today, aged 76 years.

Stephen Fairbairn, known to rowing men as "Steve," was born at Geelong, Victoria, in August, 1862. His father, the late Mr. George Fairbairn, the owner of a sheep station, started the first freezing works in Australia. When at Geelong Grammar School, Mr. Fairbairn played for three years in the town's cricket and football teams, a distinction regarded as about equivalent to playing for an English county team. After assisting his father in running the sheep station for a few years, he went to England and entered Jesus College, Cambridge. He was a brilliant oarsman and for four years rowed for his university against Oxford. The late Mr. Fairbairn afterwards became a member of the firm of Dalgety and Co., the Australian merchants, but always keeping touch with rowing in England, evolved a method of his own which created a revolution in oarsmanship. Known as the "Jesus style," his system of training took Cambridge crews to victory for years.

To Fairbairn, more than to any other man, was due a striking improvement of the standard of rowing crews on river. His method was adopted with marked success by the Thames Rowing Club, the London Club and many others, and Fairbairn was recognised as the most efficient coach at Cambridge and Henley in the history of English rowing. He inaugurated the Putney Head-of-the-River races and in 1931 a bust of him was presented as a trophy. In the same year he published his autobiography under the title Fairbairn of Jesus to which Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch contributed the preface. Later he wrote Racing Notes, which was called the "Bible of rowing" and edited The Rowing A.B.C., Slowly Forward, a collection of rowing maxims, and Fairbairn's Rowing Annual.

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'Fairbairn, Stephen (Steve) (1862–1938)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 April 2024.

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