24 Feb 2012
Record breaking Australian sculler's gold medals to go under the hammer
The archive of Australia's first ever double Olympic Medal winner Bobby Pearce (1905-1976), will be one of the highlights of Bonhams Olympic Games Sale on 25 July 2012. This important collection comprises Olympic Gold Medals as well as Olympic memorabilia including letters, photographs and posters. The archive has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £30,000 – 50,000 ($44,000 - $73,000 AUD). The Olympic Games sale will be held at Bonhams Knightsbridge, London saleroom during the run up to London 2012.
Henry Robert "Bobby" Pearce was born in Double Bay, Sydney, in 1905. His family were known for their sporting pedigree, his father, Harry Pearce, was Australian Professional Sculling Champion, his uncle, Sandy Pearce, played Rugby League for Australia's national side and his Grandfather, Henry (Footie) Pearce, was a noted Sydney Waterman.
He started rowing early under the tutelage of his father and won his first open race at 14. Despite reservations as Pearce was still an amateur, by 1928 such was his reputation that he was the obvious choice for Olympic Games selection. He went to Amsterdam 1928 as the only Australian rower at the Amsterdam Games and was hugely successful, endearing himself to the crowd by actually stopping during his heat with the French Rower Saurin to allow a group of ducks to cross the course, and then going on to win by twenty lengths. He defeated the American entrant Kenneth Myers in the final, who was so disgusted that he smashed his boat.
This win made him the first Australian to win a rowing Gold Medal, and the only Australian prize winner at the 1928 Games. He returned via England, but was denied a chance to row at Henley, because as a carpenter he was considered an artisan.
In 1930 he went to Hamilton, Ontario, to compete for Australia in the British Empire Games, again winning a Gold Medal, and as work was difficult to find in Australia, decided to remain in Canada, where he was given a job by The Distillers Company as a salesman. No longer an artisan, he was able to travel to Henley the following year, where he won the Diamond Sculls, one of the three premier amateur sculling prizes. Although a Canadian resident, Olympic rules meant that he was chosen to compete again for Australia at the Los Angeles Olympiad in 1932, driving across America to compete, with his sculling boat on the roof of his car. His win there made him the first to retain an Olympic Rowing gold medal.
After 1932 he turned professional competing in the Professional Championship of the World in a wager match at Toronto, where he won the race by a staggering quarter of a mile. He retained the title and went on to defend it successfully in 1934 and 1938, relinquishing it undefeated after WW2.
Regarded by many as the best Sculler ever produced by Australia, he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1986.
His son Bob Jnr, who lives in Canada, is delighted to be offering the collection through Bonhams. He says: "This is a remarkable archive of Olympic and Australian memorabilia, paying homage to my father's great sporting achievements. I would hope that a suitable home for this collection could be found in Australia."
A photocall will take place on Tuesday 13 March at Bonhams Sydney offices, 76 Paddington Street, Paddington, and the collection will be on view for the rest of that week, until Friday 16 March.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com