Local History, Local Stories... Emmie Pickering

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Emmie and Stanley Pickering

Who could forget the dramatic footage of surfing star, Mick Fanning’s close encounter with a shark at Jeffreys Bay last July? But Fanning is not the only Australian sporting champion to survive a shark attack.

Emmie Pickering (1887-1970) of Oatley was from a large family of talented rowers. In March 1912, spectator boats and onlookers crowded the Parramatta River and cheered Emmie on to a thrilling victory over six-time winner, Gertie Lewis, during the Australian Ladies Sculling Championships.

But this was not Emmie’s most exciting race.

Two years later Emmie and her brother, Stanley, were training on the Georges River when a huge triangular fin glided between their outriggers. As Stan yelled “Row for your life!” a fifteen foot shark suddenly surfaced, showed its jaws and repeatedly charged their boats as Emmie and her brother dashed for the shore before leaping to safety on the sand. “It was a lucky escape,” said Emmie, “and I really think Stan and I are lucky to be alive.”

Emmie claimed the title of Australian ladies sculling champion for more than 20 years. Tragically, Stan was killed in 1917 whilst fighting on the Western Front. His name is inscribed on the war memorial at Oatley.

For more historical photographs of the Sutherland Shire visit sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/history

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