Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics was the death of Sir Frank Beaurepaire on 29 May, just six months before the Games opened.

He was, however, to leave an indelible contribution to amateur sporting life in Melbourne before his passing.

On 29 April, 1954, it was announced by the Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University, Professor G. W. Paton that Beaurepaire had made a gift of £165,000 to the University for the development of sport and physical education.

(Beaurepaire actually had made his offer some eight weeks before, but insisted on a cloak of secrecy being maintained until he left for overseas on a tour of the U.K.  and U.S.A.)

Payment of the bequest was to be spread over several years, but it was noted an initial instalment of £35,000 had been paid.

Professor Paton (who at the time was also Chairman of the Olympic Games Fine Arts Committee and on the Board of Inquiry into the introduction of television Immediately prior to the opening of the Games)) said the money would be used to erect buildings m the University grounds for:

The Melbourne University commissioned Messrs. A. S. and R. A. Eggleston, a father-and-son firm of architects, later joined by a builder G. A. Winwood Pty. Ltd. of Richmond, who gained another contract valued at  £196,108 from the University later in the year for the reconstruction of Wilson Hall which had been destroyed by fire in 1952.

The Sir Frank Beaurepaire Memorial Centre was formally opened on 1 November, 1956, by Sir Frank’s widow, Lady Beaurepaire.

The cost by this time was put at £200,000 with facilities for swimming, gymnastics, athletics,boxing, wrestling, and basketball, along with the trophy hall and library.  

The jump from the original bequest of £165,000 to £200,000 appears to have been the installation of a cinder training track which was noted at the time of the opening as not being part of the gift (the source of the funds remains unknown).

The Centre opened in time for training sessions in track and field, swimming and gymnastics prior to and during the Games.

On Beaurepaire’s death, his Hawthorn home was valued at £20,000, and his personal estate worth £918,609, made up principally of shares in Olympic Consolidated Industries Ltd., valued at £906,290.  it was noted that State and Federal probate were are expected to total nearly £400,000.

His other legacy to Melbourne which many, many will remember was Beaurepaire’s active support of the Herald Learn-to-Swim campaign which he helped to found in 1929 and with which he served as president for twenty-four years. He fostered the installation of municipal swimming pools, and also financed a dressing-room complex at Albert Park Lake, perhaps close to his heart given his education and early swimming talents emanating from the Albert Park State School.

Swimming ability appears to be in part natural buoyancy of the body - some kids took to it, well, “like a duck to water”, others (author included) that might have had moderately average bility at other sports simply jumped in and dog-paddled, tread under water, or perhaps if the water was shallow enough, sneakily took a few steps along the bottom of the pool

 




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Playgrounds : Sir Frank Beaurepaire Centre

Above : Aerial view of Melbourne University, c. 1956, the Beaurepaire Centre centre top with the athletics facility and the main oval in front of it.

Below : The centre in close-up.

The Sir Frank Beaurepaire Centre today

Above : Exterior and cinder track

Below: Swimming Pool

Bottom : Gymnasium

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