Lawrence Woodgate was the youngest son of Thomas and Annie Woodgate (nee Huntley), and was born at Tahuahua (Blackwood Bay) Queen Charlotte Sound on February 27 1907.
At the age of six years, tragedy struck his family, this was the 1911 influenza epidemic, for in October that year during the birth of her eleventh child, Mrs Woodgate contacted pneumonia and was taken to the Picton Hospital, where she passed away on October 10. Lawrence not only lost his mother, but his grandparents and an elder brother Thomas, who passed away on October 21.
For a time an elder sister cared for the children, but later they were taken in by relatives and friends. Lawrence was brought up by Mr and Mrs Harry Jackson of Rutland Street, Picton.
Lawrence joined the Picton Rowing Club in 1923, where he quickly gained prominence in its senior crews, his judgement and great strength bringing victory to the club on countless occasions. Because of his outstanding services to the sport, he was made a life member of the Club. He was a member of its executive and a delegate to the Marlborough Amateur Rowing Association.
After such tragic beginnings, Lawrence Woodgate-Jackson or as he was more commonly known, “Jumbo Jackson”, became known as one of the Dominions leading oarsmen. In the New Years Day regatta of 1924, he was a member of the Youth Fours crew who won the Murray Shield, a feat which they repeated the following year.
On opening day January 1 1928, a new eight oared boat was launched, Lawrence was amongst her first crew. In 1929, he and Cliff Boese were in the Maiden Double Sculls, that same year these two were in the fours crew which won the McCallum Cup. The following month on February 22, he married Miss Mary McGuinness.
During his career as an oarsman he twice stroked for Picton crews to victory in New Zealand Champion Fours events, the first occasion being at Picton in 1930. When his crew consisted of Vic Olsson, B. Wilson, and Albert (Bert) Schimanski, and the second at Wellington in 1936, when he was associated with J. Charters, E. Smith, and A. Cornish. He was also stroke of the Marlborough boat at the inter-provincial eights at Picton in 1932 and Wanganui in 1936.
Although not successful in annexing the championship, the crews put up a splendid performance in both events, particularly so at Picton. Lawrence brought his boat from an apparently hopeless position at the tail end of the field to enter a tremendous challenge against Canterbury at the post. It was extraordinary staying power, which frequently enabled him to turn apparent defeat into last minute success. Combined with the fact he seemed always able to rally his fellow oarsmen to almost superhuman efforts, which made his record so enviable a one.
The height of his ambition was reached in 1932, when he was a member of the New Zealand eight’s crew which competed at the Olympic Games at Los Angeles. On that occasion he rowed as No. 4 in the crew.