COOMBES, Richard (1855-1935)


COOMBES, Richard (1855-1935)
journalist, father of amateur athletics in Australia
was born on 18 March 1855 at Hampton Court, Middlesex, England. Educated at Hampton Grammar School, he was for some years in an insurance office, and became well known as an amateur runner and walker. He was captain of the Harefield Hare and Hounds Club, and champion walker of the London Athletic Club. Emigrating to Sydney in 1886 he took up journalism, and became a contributor to the Referee. In 1888 he founded the New South Wales Amateur Athletic Association, introduced cross country running, and formed the Amateur Walkers Club. The amateur movement gradually spread all over Australia, and in 1897 the Amateur Athletic Union of Australia was formed. Coombes was a vice-president of the New South Wales Amateur Athletic Association from its foundation, in 1893 was elected president, and held the position until his death. He also frequently acted as handicapper, starter, judge of field games or referee, at important athletic meetings, managed the New South Wales team in contests with the other states, and in 1911 was manager of the Australian team at the Empire games in London. He was much interested in rifle-shooting, was captain of the Sydney Rifle Club and afterwards president, and was interested in rowing and coursing, being president of the New South Wales National Coursing Association for 22 years. When the Australian Coursing Union was formed in 1917 he was elected its first president. About 1895 he formulated a set of walking rules which have been widely adopted.
As a journalist Coombes did a large amount of excellent work for the Referee under various pen-names. He was editor for over 20 years, and showed himself to be a good editor and administrator. Advancing years led to his giving up the editorship, but he remained a contributor until 1932 when he resigned on a pension. He died at Sydney on 15 April 1935. He married in 1895 Abbe May Teas who survived him with a daughter. Coombes's greatest work was the inauguration of the Australasian amateur athletics movement, which at the time of his death was healthy, vigorous and carried on in the best traditions.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 1935; The Referee, Sydney, 18 April 1935; Who's Who in Australia, 1933; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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