‘Father of Dragons’ celebrates 40 years

• FSDBC Founder David Blackley.

Dragon Boating is a modern sport with ancient roots and was born in Australia right here on the Swan River

By Jane Grljusich
Herald Promotions

In 1981, a dragon’s fi re was lit in the belly of Fremantle Surf Lifesaver David Blackley, our nation’s real-life ‘Father of Dragons’.

In Hong Kong with wife Sylvia, he met Mr Patrick Chu who suggested the Fremantle Life Savers form a dragon boat team to compete in the 1982 Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. 

“Charles, or Charlie as we all knew him, was a good man with a very outgoing personality,” David told the Herald.  

“He liked nothing better than a beer and a cigarette and spoke and sang in fluent Cantonese.”

The ancient sport had been reborn in the busy harbour city in the mid 1970s by a Hong Kong born Englishman, Charles Thirwell MBE (now deceased), who descended from a family of lighthouse keepers. 

He knew of the ancient ritual performed on the fi fth day of the fi fth moon each year, and took it upon himself to organise a local team of Chinese fi shermen from Chai Wan to resurrect the tradition and encourage others to do likewise. 

David rushed home to Freo to build a team, but there was a lack of interest.

comThis journalist is very proud to have won a State Title and paddled in festivals in Hong Kong and China with FSDBC in the club’s 25th Anniversary year. Here’s us (right) in China in 2006.

Nevertheless, he worked his guts out to get the fi rst ever Australian team up and over to Hong Kong for the Festival and the Fremantle Swan Dragon Boat Club (FSDBC) was born. 

The news spread like wildfi re with colourful pictures of the event gaining the attention of international press.

And so it was. 

Dragon boating took off in Australia and around the world and became a modern-day sport.

David is now celebrating 40 years of the FSDBC, the oldest club in a nation that now boasts thousands of avid paddlers.

Sadly, David is now battling Melanoma Cancer.

He is so proud of his club and his hatchlings, from the 80s to today, and all they have achieved.

Last week, David was honoured by hundreds of paddlers at the Champion Lakes Regatta Centre which has become the home of dragon boat racing in WA.

Current FSDBC President Joanne Dixon is encouraging new people to join the club, and to come down to Fremantle’s iconic Fishing Boat Harbour on 7 February, between 10am and 3pm, to see dragon boats in action as part of the Fremantle Festival. 


http://www.fsdbc.com  |  Phone 0449 951 272

TRAINING Tuesday & Thursdays 5.30pm, on water 6 to 7pm, Saturdays 1.30pm, on water 2 to 3pm, Mens, Womens and Juniors
• Regattas Monthly November – February, State Titles March
• National Titles each year in various states
• Social regattas throughout year
Affiliated with and based at the Swan Yacht Club, Riverside Rd, East Fremantle

Promote your business. Contact Jane on 0417 814 128, or email jane.grljusich@fremantleherald.com

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