Vale Joan Morison OAM


Stop the clock
Her race is run
Bruce waits on the shore

There was a service for Joan on the 25th of May at 2pm in the South Chapel of Woronora Cemetery.

Paddle NSW organised a paddle guard of honour at the funeral. Paddlers were invited to bring their paddles along and farewell Joan in style.

Guard of honour with raised paddles

Frank Pancer wrote:

I am deeply saddened to hear of Joan’s passing. She was an inspirational and giving person and I will miss her friendly and cheerful smile and conversation.
In tribute to Joan I’d like to include one of her poems that has always inspired me – it’s titled “The Courage of Jenny Barnes” and goes likes this:

“When people talk of courage,
One tends to think of war,
The feats of bravery under fire,
The battlefield of gore.
But there are other types of courage,
That one lives with day by day,
When accident or illness strikes,
And loved ones pass away.”

“Such bravery and courage,
Is often borne with strength and grace,
When the Doctor passes sentence,
And you know you’ve lost the race.
You can pull out at a “checkpoint”,
Hide away and brood at home,
Or face the “race” with courage,
And battle all alone….”

“I knew a girl of youth and charm,
Who did exactly that…
She paddled many marathons,.
She’d smile to stop and chat,
I’m reminded of her courage,
And I miss her smiling face,
For Jenny stayed so cheerful,
Tho she knew she lost her race.”

by Joan Morison (from her book Poetic Licence)

RIP Joan!!!

Photos from Lynn Parker @ River Canoe Club

PETER TATE, Chief Executive Officer, PaddleNSW wrote:
“Paddlers statewide and nationwide are deeply saddened at the passing of Joan. She was much more than a founding member and Life Member of NSW Canoeing. With husband Bruce, they were the heart and soul of paddling for decades. As an elite athlete, a dedicated coach, a tireless administrator and a fantastic club supporter – Joan’s enormous input and service to our sport for 65+ years knew no bound. Quite simply Joan Morison was the matriarch of paddling and will always be fondly remembered by all who shared the wonderful journey with her.”

Richard Barnes wrote
My special memory of Joan is paddling with her in the 2012 Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. In completing that Classic, Joan became the first ever over-80 paddler to finish the 111km event. Joan spent months preparing our race plan. She chose to steer and captain and set the pace in our TK2, and never missed a stroke. Throughout the night, she kept me, and the craft around us, entertained and awake with her limitless store of historical canoeing facts and acts. My favourite is that she and husband Bruce were the only people I ever knew who had paddled the upper Hawkesbury River before Warragamba Dam flooded its valley. That was the first [year] we actually paddled together, despite having met and paddled alongside one another at literally hundreds of canoeing events, from slalom to polo to flat water and marathon.

Grant Mascord wrote:
Was lost for words this morning and still am, got home to look at this page on the full screen of the computer and see the image that I truly cherish, that was the night of the 2012 HCC and I was shaking the hand of a true champion that completed that event 30 seconds faster than me and 40 years my senior.
If the world was full of Morrison’s it surely would be a great place.
RIP Joan

Chee wrote:
I missed the Time Trial at the club yesterday. I took my Taekwon-Do students to the State Championship in St. Georges Basin. We came back with exhilarating results.
Today I have mixed feelings and heart broken to hear that Joan has left us. I miss you Joan dearly. You and Bruce are an inspiration and my mentor, my guru and pundit in my kayaking discipline. My memories are with you with every paddle stroke in my kayaking.
With deepest condolence to the Morrison family
Our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy.
Chee, Mayumi, Izumi and Taisei

Kerrie and Tom Claffie wrote:
So sad – she and Bruce were inspirations!

Warren Trick wrote:
Well said. She was a grand old lady

Travis Frenay wrote:
A wonderful woman who has done so much for paddle sports in Australia – rest in peace, Joan.

Larissa Cleverly wrote:
Such a lovely lady. She will be missed at the kayak races.

David Tongway wrote:
Goodbye to a great lady

Kayaks Australia wrote:
It is with much sadness that we acknowledge the passing of an absolutely lovely lady, who was a legend in the kayaking fraternity.
Joan and Bruce – reunited once more.

Kath Tuziak wrote:
Goodbye to one of the world’s beautiful people. We were lucky to have her in our lives.

Anna Foley wrote:
Vale Joan.
An inspiration to women who came after you.

Mark Sundin wrote:
Mark Sundin I remember paddling past her & Richard in the Classic a couple of years back, the pair of them chatting away like it was a Sunday arvo cruise. Rest in peace, lovely lady.

Grant Mascord replied:
Mark, that photo above is the same night as she and Richard finished.

Mark Sundin replied:
Amazing eh? I remember being blown away by her cheerfulness out there!

Robin Bingle wrote:
Robyn Bingle Such a lovely couple who will never be forgotten, may they rest now with no pain xx

Chris Eagle wrote:
Joan and Bruce gave me my very first lesson a few years back. So sorry to hear that. Wonderful people, both of them.

Robert Lawton wrote:
Proud to have known Bruce and Joan and to count them as friends

Kellie Maxwell wrote:
I remember them both as I was going through as a junior. Both lovely people and to think Bruce ‘waits at the shore’ is just so beautiful.

Tim Hookins wrote:
A treasure of Australian Canoeing, NSW Canoeing and Paddle NSW. Vale Joan

Anna Foley wrote:
Bruce & Joan’s 60th wedding anniversary, which they shared with the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club members camping up the Shoalhaven.

Tam Fook Chee wrote:

I missed the Time Trial at my Sutherland Sutherland Shire Canoe Club club yesterday 17-5-2015. I took my Taekwon-Do students to the State Championship at St. Georges Basin. We came back with exhilarating results.
Today I have mixed feelings and heart broken to hear that Joan Morrison OAM has left us.
“I miss you Joan dearly. You and Bruce are an inspiration and my mentor, my guru and pundit in my kayaking discipline. My memories are with you with every paddle stroke in my kayaking.I know you have now paddled away to be with Bruce.”
With deepest condolence to the Morrison family.
Our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy.
Chee, Mayumi, Izumi and Taisei

Peter Tuziak wrote:
Very sad to hear of this.

David James wrote:

Grant Mascord wrote:
I was talking to someone about Bruce’s illness last year,they then commented on how they made it hard for the rest of us married couples as they were perfect that no one could replicate!

Bruce Hodsdon wrote:
I’ve known both Joan and Bruce since I was born, they will be sorely missed by everyone who knew them.

Andrew Webb wrote:
A very nice person – she gave my wife a spontaneous paddling lesson only a couple of years ago. RIP

Pauline Findlay wrote:
An amazing lady who touched the hearts of so many people. She was inspirational in her strength of character, and the love that Bruce and her shared – I feel lucky to have known such a wonderful person.

Dianne Chellew wrote:
Rest in peace, hand in hand with Bruce.

Anne Moore
My hero. RIP

Steve Dawson wrote:
I was a kayaker when I met Joan. She taught me to paddle a canoe.
She paddled her canoe sit’n’switch style, from a kneeling position. She tried to teach me, but my knees couldn’t take it for more than a mile. She paddled the Murray Marathon that way. Paddling along, day after day, singing a little song she’d made up.
“Agony. Agony. Hurts. Hurts. Switch!”
I sometimes whisper it to myself when the racing starts to hurt. And I remember Joan, who never gave up.
We’re hurting now too, without Joan. There’s no switching sides to ease the pain. Just the memories of a dear friend with an enormous heart, an unstoppable resolve, and boundless passion for life. A woman who touched everybody she met.
If you mention Joan Morison in any corner of Australia, you’ll soon find a canoeist or a kayaker who has paddled with her, raced against her, or been taught by her. I’ve been amazed by the least likely people who remember paddling with Joan back in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. Every one of them loved her dearly and remembers her fondly.
I am proud to say “She taught me to paddle too!”

Marni Smart
I met Joan once only. What a magnificent woman.

Nat Bradford
I never met Joan formally, but I do remember the moment someone older than my grandmother overtook me in the dark at a great rate of knots on the Hawkesbury one year – hurt less later on when I found out why she was better than I was.

Greg Archibald
She will be missed she had so much energy she was an inspiration to a lot of people.

Lorraine Harper-Horak
Canoeing has lost their historian. She will be sadly missed by those who knew her.

Wendy Phillips
Beautifully said. She will be missed.

Warren Trick
A beautiful tribute to a truly remarkable lady. She certainly was the Matriarch of the SSCC and the canoe sport in general.

Deb Moorcroft
What a fantastic woman.

Don Tomlinson
We met Joan & Bruce via the canoeing family when Big River Canoe Club (Grafton & Clarence Valley) was formed, and their guidance was instrumental in the initial successful activities of our Club.

Nick Naughton
Commiserations to her Family from CCCC. We will miss her also, and share your loss.

Andrew Barnes
I spoke to her on the phone once, about ten years ago; trying to put together an article for Wild about the history of whitewater kayaking in Australia. She and her husband did great ‘canoe expeditions’ down the Snowy before the dams ruined it. A great life!

Andrew Webb
Very classy woman. RIP

David James
RIP Joan

Photos of Joan…

Joan Morison OAM, Club Historian & Living Legend 22Sept2013 008 22Sept2013 009 29-DSC_0868 Marathon Series - SSCC (323 of 446) P1060056 P1060058 P1060074 P1060075 P1060119 P1060120 P1060125 photo photo (2)11201004_1571253049805126_789660267484961106_o11270313_1571253029805128_5639636274916035370_o 11270396_1571252929805138_6312759431740140045_o30868172157_1535979638776_3988220_o1836624_10201784498273514_6348719908878006837_omorisons


More about Joan…
Joan paddled the 111km Hawkesbury Canoe Classic in 2012 for the 26th time, aged 81. [link]
Joan’s life of paddling in her own words. From an interview with Ross Winters in 2001 [link]
Tribute page from Paddle NSW [link]
Before Joan went into hospital, we gathered up messages from friends across Australia and presented it to Joan in a card [Messages to Joan]


  1. We too , at Central Coast Canoe Club, will miss Joan.
    It’s wonderful to read all the appropriate tributes and memories.
    We hope her Family, and her legion of Friends, can draw comfort from them.
    The Canoeing fraternity has lost a wonderful Lady.

  2. A truly remarkable lady. Full of inspiration and knowledge. If ever there was a first lady of kayaking then Joan was that lady. Sadly missed. Jack and Jenny.

  3. To Joan,
    You were the inspiration for thousands of kayakers, especially women. I am proud to have known you & will always remember your last Hawkesbury Classic & what a triumph it was for us all. My life has been all the richer for having known you! Warren & I will miss you & Bruce.
    Rest in Peace First Lady of Canoeing,
    Merridy & Warren Huxley

  4. Joan would often pull me aside and offer words of encouragement and advice on training and racing. Even towards the end her mind never stopped, still looking at race results and offering yet more ideas for improvement. I’m certain that many other paddlers who met Joan would have benefitted from her wise words and wealth of experience built up over a lifetime of paddling, and life. She will rest in peace now and be in the memories of all who knew her. David Little.

  5. About 35 years ago Joan paddled TC1 down the Murray Marathon. As well as doing her own race, she encouraged and supported Rob and me and many other NSW paddlers who were also paddling the Murray. She inspired us then and continued to encourage and laugh and support all our canoeing/kayaking adventures. She was the trusted stalwart at canoeing meets. All these years later Joan and Bruce and canoeing are inextricably fused (fibreglassed) together.
    Although the Morison seniors have passed on the memories live within
    us. Farewell…. Marg Cook

  6. Special photos to keep the memories alive.

  7. Sad to see Joan go. I’m sure Bruce was waiting for her so they could get back into their canoe and paddle off once again.
    Both Joan and Bruce had so much to offer our sport, and through their work in the paddling arena, it is rare to find someone who has not heard or known of Joan and Bruce.
    If only we could all make such a positive impact in life as Joan and Bruce did. it would be wonderful

  8. Quite a lady, Joan was a great help during my four year tenure with SSCC, Joan will be missed along with Bruce may they both rest in in peace.

  9. They had to be very very special people who, even though they were not part of my family, their passing has had a major impact on both Jan and I.

    I guess when one thinks about it, those of us who had the privileged to meet both Bruce and Joan and join with them in kayaking / canoeing events, they were part of our families, hence the level of sorrow. To say we will miss them is an understatement.

  10. i have known joan and bruce since 1970 when joan wrote her book she talked to me about so many things to do with the sport her knowledge of canoeing was second to none a great loss

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