Wollongong City's Oldest Member Passes Away

Wollongong City SLSC's oldest living member Don Burrows, passed away on Sunday 9 February, aged 90 years.

Burrows, a Life Member, past President & legendary surfboat sweep for Wollongong City, gained his Bronze Medallion in 1945 and had his lifesaving career recognised with the SLSA 50 Year Long Service Award in 1995.

In 1953 at Newport, Burrows swept the Wollongong senior crew of Ross Dawson, Terry Nay, Ron Priest & Geoff Daniels to victory to win the Club’s first Australian Championship. Of that crew, bowman, Ross Dawson (87) is now the sole surviving member.

Burrows went on to win further Illawarra Branch, NSW & Australian championships over a lifesaving career that spanned more than 50 years. Despite suffering a major heart attack in 1976, where doctors advised him to retire from all strenuous sport, Burrows returned to surfboat competition & coaching for a further 25 years.

To celebrate his 90th birthday, current City’s U/23 Female boat crew sweep Brett Dingwall invited Burrows to take his girls for a nostalgic row around Wollongong Harbour. Despite his advanced age, Burrows had lost nothing of his renowned balance & poise with the long sweep oar in hand & his eyes shone reflecting the memories of many crews past.

Initially a beach competitor, Burrows won a silver medal in beach flags at the 1951 Australian Championships in Scarborough, W.A. Burrows other sporting exploits were in Illawarra Rugby League & Rugby Union where because of his diminutive stature, he gained the nickname Sparrow. He won Rugby League premierships in the tough Illawarra competition with Wollongong Rugby League from 1945 to 1951.

When the surf club boys entered a team in the local Rugby Union competition to keep fit during winter months, Burrows & many others played Union on Saturday & League on Sunday. He was halfback for the Wollongong Surf rugby team that won Illawarra Rugby Union premierships in 1952 and 1956 & captained Illawarra against the touring Fiji team in 1954. The 1956 team went through the season undefeated. The 1956 grand final 6-3 victory over Port Kembla Surf was a dour affair, almost lost in the final minutes except for a monumental try-saving tackle by Burrows on Port’s Frank Peterson in the final minutes of the match.

An extract from the book Sports Stories - Yarns From The Sideline by noted sports journalist Brian Surtees (2007) describing Burrow’s arch rivalry with neighbouring North Wollongong Surf Club states - “When my time comes, under no circumstances scatter my ashes when a southerly is blowing because I would hate to finish up on North Wollongong Beach”.

Don is survived by wife Ula, daughter Lesley & grand-daughter Donna-Mae who is currently in Switzerland on contract as an elite professional ballerina.

Don Burrows funeral service will be held on Tuesday 18 February 2.00 pm at Hansen & Cole, Kembla Grange.

Fri 14 Feb 2014