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AITKEN, Robert Russell MBE (1922-2004)

Robert Aitken (Prefects, 1940)

Robert Aitken (Prefects, 1940)

AITKEN, Robert Russell MBE (1922-2004)

Lawyer and Olympic rowing coach, Robert 'Bob' Aitken was the son of Phillip Lewis Aitken, founder of the law firm Aitken Walker and Strachan, and Margaret Clara nee Davis and studied at Glamorgan School, Toorak before attending the Geelong College as a boarder from 1932 to 1940. He showed early promise at school co-winning the Gillespie Scripture Prize in 1933. Later, he became a member of the Debating, Pegasus and Music Committees, rowed in the Senior Eight in 1940, was a school prefect and Dux of the School in 1940 as well as a Cadet Corps Lieutenant.

He began studying law at Melbourne University but shortly after, enlisted in the AIF in 1941. He spent several years in New Guinea becoming a lieutenant with the 33rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery. He returned in 1945 but remained in service until 1946 although he continued his legal studies during this period and commenced part-time work with his father’s law firm after his return from New Guinea. He graduated in law from the University of Melbourne in 1949.

He coached the crew of the Australian Rowing Eight at the 1956 Melbourne OLYMPIC GAMES to a bronze medal in the final. His brother James Kenneth Aitken also attended the School. In a distinguished commitment to rowing Robert Aitken was, at various times, President of the Victorian Rowing Association and Life Member, Australian Rowing Council 1975-1979 and the Mercantile Rowing Club. He was a Chairman of Rowing Australia. A keen golfer, Bob also became a member of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in 1946 eventually serving as club president from 1982 to 1986.

Bob Aitken had a ‘successful rowing career as an oarsman, coach, selector and administrator and made a significant contribution to the sport in all these areas at a national and state level. He was also the inaugural chairman of both the Victorian and Australian umpires’ panels and Rowing Australia’s first Life Member. However, Bob was never happier than at the club level where he taught many generations of Mercantilians the joys of rowing, coaching, club administration and, most of all, club life. He valued the life-long friendships gained in rowing. Mercantile Rowing Club has provided a trophy to be named in his honour for the Men’s Four National Championship.'

Sources: Obituary - Rowing Australia Annual Report 2005-2006. Obituary The Age (Melb) newspaper 4 January 2005.
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