KEY CLUB BUILDERS
CAPTAIN JAMES FEARON – LACROSSE BUILDER
Captain James H Fearon, commonly known as “the Skipper”, Sea Scout Commodore of Victoria, sea pilot, member of the Marine Board and sea lawyer supreme, kept the Club running, often at his own expense, in those early years. He was Club President from 1901-43, Victorian Amateur Lacrosse Association President 1934-5, with our state league team and our ground bearing his name in perpetuity. It is not known how Captain Fearon became involved with the Club, he was 37 when the Club formed in 1898 and never played the game, but he was genuinely involved in promoting sport to the youth of the area and was heavily involved in football, sailing and the sea scouts.
The Captain did not play lacrosse, possibly because he only became involved with the club circa 1903, when he was in his late 30s, however he was very keen to ensure that the young men of the district had some type of sport to enjoy.
Captain Fearon did referee lacrosse, well into his senior years. There is a record of him refereeing 40 plus games, in a season, at the age of 65.
Captain Fearon was an outgoing person and he must have had some money as he kept the Club running during WW1, and after the war he was a major source of entertainment for the members. He took teams to Nagambie, Adelaide, Perth (The Victorian team in 1935) and Tasmania and was elected president of the Nagambie Club following the first visit. He was a very open person and often arranged for dance parties and or drinks parties at his home. He was, as previously stated very interested in the juniors, so much so that in 1929 he started the ball rolling to set up the junior section of the Club, and there were so many that turned up that they had to make up two teams.
How fortunate was the Club to have such an active and capable leader as Captain James Fearon in such difficult times, which started in 1914 and continued to his death in 1944, just prior to the cessation of WW2.
Mal Taylor started playing lacrosse in 1934 as a 14 year old in the Wanderers junior team that had been facilitated by Captain Fearon’s energy and enthusiasm to develop a junior team at Williamstown. WW2 put an end to Mal’s playing days, he returned to referee after WW2 and when the call was made he along with a few others rebuilt this club, primarily through his selfless commitment to the establishment and growth of the junior program, which from humble beginnings bore fruit when in 1963 the Club won its first A grade premiership, primarily with players who were in Mal’s junior teams from the early 50’s. Not only did Mal Taylor develop the junior program but he also was a primary mover in the establishment of women’s lacrosse in Victoria, he was the key supplier of hickory sticks in the western suburbs of Melbourne, and he went on to establish the Newport, Footscray, Altona, Essendon and Glenroy lacrosse clubs. Mal Taylor was the centre of the lacrosse universe in the western suburbs from the 1950s to the 1980’s.
While there have been many people who have helped make Williamstown the lacrosse juggernaut it is today it is difficult to consider they would not have achieved the success they have and be where they are without Captain James Fearon and Mal Taylor. Captain Fearon actively led the club through a recession, 2 world wars and the great depression, through active leadership, personal sponsorship of interstate tours, and where necessary the payment of expenses where players could simply not afford it.
Mal Taylor came back to the Club after WW2 when the economy and society were struggling, and through hard work and dogged persistence, along with a vision of what had to happen in terms of junior development to make the club great, systematically went about recruiting, developing, encouraging, coaching and training junior players, from not winning games in the early years to claiming the Club’s inaugural A grade premiership in 1963.
People like Captain Fearon and Mal Taylor sadly come along very infrequently, and Williamstown Lacrosse Club has been fortunate to benefit from the service of both of these great leaders and builders in the 20th century.
There is more written about these two legends of the Club and members are encouraged to learn more about what they did to make this club so great.
The above honour board has not been updated but note that Simon Brown was awarded a life membership in 2019 and Jock Garnsworthy in 2020.
For many years lacrosse has been a major sport of the area providing an avenue for like – minded people to gather together to achieve group and individual goals.
Apart from our success within lacrosse the Club has been fortunate in having so many inﬂuential community leaders over many years. Alan Deacon, Lionel Burgoyne, Laurie Parker, Max Robertson all ﬁne players who served long terms as councillors were also appointed Mayors of the City. Lindsay Caithness, a tower of strength in Williamstown Hospital activities and Arch Fowler, local solicitor and historian, were players of distinction and long service.
Lionel Garnsworthy, 1988 Williamstown Citizen of the Year, as a player, participated in one of the Club’s many interstate lacrosse trips under the direction of long time Williamstown resident, Howard Balmer and the sponsorship of Captain Fearon.
While it would be hard for someone born in the last 70 years to appreciate, WW1 had a devastating effect on the population, with many young men paying the ultimate sacrifice, and if they did return many were either physically or mentally injured or scarred. So it took many years for lacrosse and society in general to recover, only to be hit in October 1929 with the Great Depression, which saw the highest unemployment the nation had ever endured, and people struggling to survive, let alone afford to play sport. The Great Depression lingered on for many years and it was only the advent of WW2 that saw the nation start to come out of the depression, but then have to offer up its favourite sons to once again defend the “Empire” and itself, which again caused significant social upheaval and hardship and again many paying the ultimate sacrifice, and many coming home physically or mentally damaged forever!