Saturday 5 March 1870
A notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald that read: “Rowing Association. – A meeting for those interested in the advancement of amateur rowing and the formation of a Rowing Association, will be held on Monday next, at half-past 7 p.m., at the Oxford Hotel, King Street. Henry Freeman, Hon. Secretary pro tem.”
Monday 7 March 1870
A meeting was held at the Oxford Hotel at which Q.L. Deloitte moved a motion “that it is desirable that steps should be taken for the formation of a club, having for its object the encouragement and improvement of amateur rowing in this colony.” The motion was duly seconded and carried and the Sydney Rowing Club was born.
Tuesday 8 March 1870
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that “the Sydney Amateur Rowing Club may now be considered an established affair.”
George Thornton, the first President of the Club and past mayor of Sydney, used his power to secure a site adjacent to the current Opera House site. A tender for the construction of the first club house was accepted for the cost of 195 pounds.
27 August 1870
The Sydney Rowing Club was inaugurated with a grand ceremony and procession of boats on the harbour. All boats in the procession carried the Club flag, which at this time was white with a dark blue cross. All crews wore the Club uniform which was a white straw hat with a blue and white ribbon with white shirt and trousers. The Club was officially opened by His Excellency, the Earl of Belmore. The Club’s first dinner was held that night at the “Cafe de France” on the corner of King and George Streets.
17 September 1870
The Club’s first regatta was held on Sydney Harbour attracting a large group of interested spectators. The regatta consisted of five races. The last event of the day afforded great amusement to spectators as two skiffs were tied end-to-end with the first to tow the other to a point on either side being declared the winner.
Club membership reached 340.
3 May 1871
The first Annual General meeting of the Club was held. The annual report attributed to the first year of the club “a large amount of success” and members were congratulated “upon the great improvement in the style of rowing exhibited.” Club assets totalled 615 pounds.
Anniversary Day 1872
“Sydney” crew made the journey along with a “Parramatta River” crew which included the first Prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton. Sydney won the race by 1/4 mile exhibiting a style that “had the Cambridge swing with the Oxford stroke. They approached perfection.”
Deloitte and his colleagues conceived the idea to purchase the site of The Red House. The land was considered “beautifully situated at a bold point of the river” only seven miles from Sydney. There were already adequate facilities for members to remain whilst training and stop for the night if required. There was also plenty to do if tired of rowing; including fishing and shooting in the adjacent bush. A special general meeting was held in 1873 to consider “Branch Establishment on Parramatta River.”
A special general meeting resolved to purchase the Red House property “Red Cow Inn” situated on Abbotsford Point, the current site of the Club. The transaction was finalised at a cost of 460 pounds.
By the end of the 1873/74 season the Club owned 21 boats.
11 July 1874
“The Branch”, at Abbotsford, was officially opened by Q. L. Deloitte after a procession of boats, including thirty-six oarsmen in eight boats, executed precision movements at various points on their way from Circular Quay to Abbotsford.
A meeting was held that decided from this point bona fide amateurs could no longer race for monetary prizes and that trophies would be the only acceptable form of prize.
27 June 1876
Edward “Ned” Trickett, Champion Professional Sculler of Australia travelled to England to challenge Joseph H. Sadler for the World Championship. Trickett won and became the first Australian to win a World Championship in any sport. On his return to Sydney he was greeted by a hero’s reception of 25,000 people.
The Victorian Rowing Association, the first association of rowing clubs in the world, was formed with eighteen member clubs.
The rowing movement spread to the schools with Sydney Grammar establishing its own club.
A meeting of Sydney and Mercantile members elected three delegates each to form the New South Wales Rowing Association. F. H. Dangar, of Mercantile, was elected President but was replaced the following year by George Thornton who remained President for 22 years.
In the early 1880s A. B. “Banjo” Paterson became a member and drew inspiration from his interest in rowing to write such works as “On the Water”.
By the end of the 1879/80 season the Club owned 38 boats and total assets of 2300 pounds.
The new Rowing Association held its first ever regatta. Sydney Rowing Club had a very successful day winning all but one race.
Construction of a Government road at East Circular Quay necessitated removal of a portion of the shed and alterations costing 195 pounds were needed to cope with the changes.
The NSW Rowing Association’s second regatta was notable for hosting the first school race in Sydney where the boys from Royston College beat Sydney Grammar by 6 lengths for the “Mayor’s Challenge Cup.”
A new room was added to the branch and the property was revalued at 1250 pounds.
Active membership was 180.
A lawn tennis court was added at the Branch.
The first annual dinner was held at the Branch with 50-60 people in attendance. There was no guest of honour at this dinner, as was to become the custom, however Mrs Todd the housekeeper and her daughters put on an excellent dinner.
The inter-colonial race of 1885 marked the first time in which Tasmania and Queensland participated. The NSW crew was victorious from Victoria, followed by Tasmania then Queensland. The race also featured the Tasmanian boat boasting the first appearance of a ‘fin’ on an eight.
The Club received notice from the Government to quit the site in Circular Quay. A site was secured on the western side of Woolloomooloo Bay between Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Domain Baths, where the headquarters of the Club remained until 1947.
As the old city shed was demolished and the popularity of the Branch increased there were plans for the expansion of facilities at Abbotsford to cope with the demand. Reclamation of some of the water frontage and purchase of further land also took place.
The new shed was opened at Woolloomooloo. The committee was confident that it was “one of the best boating pavilions to be found in any part of Australia, and quite equal in appearance to the best to be found either on the Thames or on the Cam.” The shed contained a lofty and well lighted boat-house, part of which extended on piles over the water, while overhead was a clubroom together with lockers, baths, lavatories, dressing rooms, caretaker’s room, workshop and extensive balconies on three sides. The total cost of construction was almost 1600 pounds.
In the early days of rowing there were three classes of rower: professionals, manual labourers (who also rowed for money) and gentlemen amateurs.
The Club reported total assets of 6,207 pounds.
Throughout the 1890s “The Branch” at Abbotsford was plagued by its own popularity. The accommodation was deemed insufficient for members and improvements were made early in the decade. These, however did not suffice and committees were formed in 1895 and 1898 to consider further building, however both committees decided that the time was not right to build. In 1898 the Branch was connected to the Sydney water supply however, sewerage was yet to be connected and continued to pose a problem.
In 1893 Samuel Hordern, a Vice-President of the Club and head of Anthony Hordern and Sons, the famous department store in Sydney, donated a magnificent Clasper-built eight, and two sets of Ayling oars.
The 1880s were a time for great social interaction at the Club with moonlight concerts being held at the Branch featuring string bands and the grounds being illuminated with Chinese lanterns. Smoke concerts were also held throughout the nineties, where trophies and special presentations were often awarded.
13 year old coxswain Sid Hellings fell from a horse and fractured his elbow so badly that his arm had to be amputated. He was back coxing a year later with a special device rigged up to allow him to steer the boat. Sid went on to represent the colony in the 1892, 93 and 94 inter-colonial eights.
The Club consists of 110 active and 125 honorary members.
In 1894 the GPS schools began formal rowing competition. Major Z. C. Rennie donated a fine trophy to be awarded as the perpetual trophy for the main race. They continue to compete for the Major Rennie Trophy and the title of Head of the River to this day.
Miss Edith Walker of Yaralla became a Vice-President of the Club in 1895. Although women were not permitted to be members of the Club. Miss Walker was one of the wealthiest women of the era and a renowned philanthropist and the Club benefited immensely from her support. This may have helped in the decision to elect her as a Vice-President.
In 1895 James Reading Fairfax returned as a Vice-President, after previously holding the position from 1885-89. Sir James was most well known for his position at the helm of John Fairfax and Sons, founded by his father, owner of the Sydney Morning Herald.
By 1899 the Club was considered by the Sydney Mail as “the wealthiest Club in Australia” whilst at the same time being “perhaps the most heavily indebted” due to its land holdings and bank overdraft respectively. The club employed three permanent staff; a caretaker and assistant caretaker at Woolloomooloo and a housekeeper at the Branch.
In 1899 the NSW Rowing Association developed a points system for determining the Club premiership. Sydney Rowing Club was declared the winner of the first NSWRA Premiership.
At the annual meeting in August, Deloitte advocated improvements to be made at the Branch, adding that he hoped to live to see “a really handsome structure on the beautifully situated grounds.” A special meeting three months later agreed to construct a new building consisting of six bedrooms, bathroom and further acilities, at a cost of 500 pounds. A further 85 pounds was spent on furniture. Plans were also developed for the construction of a dining hall and billiard room.
Active membership was 93.
The Australian Commonwealth came into being on 1 January 1901. The first Prime Minister of Australia was Edmund Barton, a foundation member of the Sydney Rowing Club.
George Thornton, passed away in November aged 80. Thornton had been President of the Club since its foundation as well as being President of the Rowing Association for 22 years. His great leadership, considerable political influence and generosity had helped greatly in the formation and development of the Club.
The obvious choice to replace Thornton as President of the Club was Q. L. Deloitte. Having been the Club’s first captain he had remained at all times a tower of strength in the Club, devoted during good times and bad. Deloitte held the position from 1901 to 1928. Deloitte also replaced Thornton as President of the NSW Rowing Association.
In 1903 the question of allowing manual labourers to row as amateurs was raised again as in previous years, within the NSW Rowing Association. The matter was discussed at the Sydney annual general meeting and members were convinced that the move would help NSW again become competitive in the inter-state races and that this change by no means meant that manual labourers should be allowed to enter Sydney Rowing Club itself. A motion was then passed by the Rowing Association allowing manual labourers to row as amateurs.
The Club’s fleet consisted of 24 boats.
The Club held its first ever ball at Baumann’s New Rooms, Pitt Street, Sydney and The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the event was “one of the most successful social functions of the season”. The room itself was “artistically decorated with a profusion of flags, a charming effect being produced by a skilful arrangement of oars, draped with the Club’s colours (light blue) around the walls”.
A group of Sydney rowers decided to undertake an epic challenge, to row 300 miles from Sydney to Richmond and back. They started at the entrance to Broken Bay, reached the head of the Hawkesbury and promptly set off for the three day journey home. They barely made it back as a southerly storm blew up just as they rounded North Head.
The Abbotsford arm of the electric tram service was opened in 1905. Indeed, at this time most of Sydney was serviced by trams and the system was the second largest in the Commonwealth behind only London. It was estimated that on average, one tram journey was taken in Sydney every day, for every man, woman and child living in the city. The introduction of the trams to Abbotsford however, did not bring about the expected increase in patronage at the Branch. The Abbotsford tram line was closed in 1954.
By this time rowing amongst ladies was becoming more common and acceptable to the men. In August 1906 the first ladies championship in double sculling was held on the Parramatta River and was won by Mrs Woodbridge and Hyde from a field of ten crews. Soon after, Mrs Woodbridge was challenged by Miss Gertrude Lewis to a race for 25 pounds a side for the first ladies sculling championship of Australia. The race took place in February, 1907 with Miss Lewis winning easily.
The first race for lightweights was held at the SRC Regatta in October, 1908. Rowers under 10 stone were permitted to participate and the Sydney four won handsomely from a field of five. The first lightweight race for points was at the Leichhardt Regatta in November the same year.
Q.L. Deloitte was presented with a magnificent silver trophy in recognition of his service to rowing. The Q.L. Deloitte trophy was presented by the “Friends of Q.L. Deloitte” to mark the jubilee of his first win in a rowing race. The handsome trophy was presented to the NSW Rowing Association and became the perpetual award for the NSW Championship eights.
The Club’s fleet consisted of 26 boats; three eights, two regulation fours and five other fours, four pairs, three gladstones, six skiffs, a best double scull, a best pair-oar and an outrigger.
The popularity of the Branch meant that more boats were being stored there. In April 1910, a new boatshed capable of housing a fair sized fleet was officially opened. The shed was 68′ by 16′ and cost 113 pounds. A new staging and pontoon, capable of boating an eight was donated by a keen member at this time.
The decade had been difficult for the Club financially. Several blocks of land had been sold at Abbotsford to reduce the mortgage however it still stood at 1400 pounds. Total assets were 4484 pounds with total liabilities of 2580 pounds. The Branch property was valued at 2545 pounds, the Woolloomooloo clubhouse at 1000 pounds and the boats and oars at 651 pounds.
The Great War had a dramatic impact on the Club during this decade with active membership falling as low as 42 in 1919. By 1920, aided by the admittance of manual labourers to the Club, membership had recovered to 94.
In May 1910, the first amateur ladies rowing club, Western Suburbs Ladies Rowing Club was formed. By 1917 there were six ladies amateur rowing clubs in Sydney and vigorous competition between them.
The interstate conference decided to make inquiries about sending a crew to Stockholm for the 1912 Olympics. The following day NSW won the interstate eights and the NSWRA promptly met and resolved to send an eight and a sculler to the Games.
In 1912 a Sydney Rowing Club crew competed in an international competition for the first time. The crew won the Grand Challenge Eights at the Henley Royal Regatta, witnessed by the King and Queen of England.
Ladies interstate racing commenced in 1912 with a Queensland crew defeating Albert Park in Melbourne.
This year also saw the first participation of our rowers at an Olympic Games, when R B Fitzharding, H
Hauenstein, S Middleton & J A Ryrie rowed for Australia at the Stockholm Olympics.
The effects of the war really started to impact rowing in NSW in August, 1914 when enlistments commenced. Thirteen members of Sydney Rowing Club had enlisted by September and the Club cancelled its regatta of that year. Queensland was due to hold the interstate races in 1915 however the Rowing Associations of all states were unanimous in their opinion that interstate racing should be postponed until after the war. The NSWRA decided not to stage its premiership between 1915 and 1918.
The Club’s fleet consisted of 28 boats; three racing eights, two practice eights, three racing fours, two practice fours, nine gladstone skiffs, five pair oars, three double sculls and a four pair skiff.
By the end of the first World War 91 Sydney Rowing Club members had served Australia and 21 had paid the supreme sacrifice for their country.
At the end of the War the “Henley Peace Regatta” was held. The Australian eight won the “King’s Cup”, a handsome trophy presented by His Majesty King George V. After much debate the King finally decreed that the cup be used as the permanent trophy for the Interstate eight-oared race of Australia.
Electric light was installed at the Branch in Abbotsford.
Sydney Rowing Club’s 50th jubilee regatta was the highlight of the 1919/20 season with the Rowing Association honouring the event by allocating the champion Eights and champion sculls to the regatta. The regatta was a fabulous occasion, “the glamour, sentimental and historical associations surrounding the celebration and the delightful weather brought about a very large attendance.” Competitively, however the Club had yet to recover from the war and racing results were poor.
In May 1920, NSW competed in its first ladies interstate race without success. At the regatta a meeting was held where the Australian Women’s Rowing Council was formed, showing considerably more organisation than the men
After winning the Kings Cup in 1919 the AIF Sports Control Board had taken possession of the Cup and passed it onto the Australian War Memorial Council, who did not wish to part with it. At the interstate race in 1920, the conference of Rowing Associations agreed to request the Australian War Memorial Council to make the King’s Cup available as the perpetual trophy for the interstate eights. When this request, and a further request later in the year were refused, the Victorian Rowing Association took further action. In October 1920 a petition to the King was prepared and signed by Captain Disher, stroke of the original eight requesting that His Majesty make known his wishes for the disposal of the trophy. A reply in May 1921, from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill, stated that “His Majesty commands me to inform you that it is his wish that the Cup should be used as a permanent trophy and be competed for annually in the Interstate Eight-Oared Race of Australia.”
In March 1922, a fire destroyed the boatshed in Woolloomooloo and a substantial portion of the fleet and many valuable records and memorabilia were lost. The Club was protected by insurance and a new shed was opened on the same site in November the same year. Nineteen boats were lost in the fire and the Club set about rebuilding the fleet over the coming years.
In 1924 The Australian Amateur Rowing Council was formed. The AARC was to meet once a year at the time and place of the King’s Cup and at such other times as was necessary. The purpose of the Council was essentially to determine the rules and policies that govern the King’s Cup and other interstate races.
Club membership was 191.
In the winter of 1926 a new point-score competition was established for amateur scullers with silversmiths, Walker and Hall donating a perpetual trophy for the competition. Bert Goulding won the first race, Kessel the second, and the third race saw the emergence of 20 year-old Bob Pearce, son of Harry Pearce. He went on to win the last four races of the competition and then a row-off with Pye to break their points deadlock. Pearce’s efforts were widely regarded and many observed that he was a sculler to watch for the future.
By 1927 a recently organised winter point-score competition had been organised with rowers being graded into A and B divisions, the A division competing for a newly established Q. L. Deloitte Cup. Bert Goulding was the first winner of this Deloitte Cup.
Social events were of great importance in the 1920s with the Club’s Annual Ball being a highlight each year. In 1928 the ball was held at David Jones’ Ballroom, with the Governor in attendance and a guest list of over 550 people It was a fantastic event and contributed 117 pounds to the Club’s revenues.
H R Pearce was our only rower selected for the Olympic Games held in Amsterdam and won gold.
Club membership reaches 305; 52 Life members, 163 active members and 90 associates. Bob Pearce was awarded the Club’s first ever Honorary Life Membership.
The NSW Women’s Rowing Association was formed.
Quarton Levitt Deloitte passed away on 7 April 1929. Deloitte was the man who moved a motion “that it is desirable that steps should be taken for the formation of a club, having for its object the encouragement and improvement of amateur rowing in this colony.” thus breathing life into the Sydney Rowing Club. He was the first Captain of the Club, served as Vice-President from 1878 to 1902 when he became President of the Club and the NSWRA, both posts he held till his death. He was the staunchest supporter of all rowing clubs and rowing activities and was widely lauded as the “father of amateur rowing”. A large crowd including the Prime Minister attended his funeral.
A meeting was held on 21 June, 1929 to consider the appointment of a new President, to be only the third in the Clubs 59 year history. The choice was C.A. “Clarrie” Smith, a top oarsmen of the 1890s who had served the Club as committee man, treasurer, vice-captain, captain and vice-president.
By the end of the decade the Club’s assets were 6,171 pounds; Clubhouse and land at Abbotsford 3500 pounds, Clubhouse at Woolloomooloo 1290 pounds and the fleet 714 pounds.
With the effects of the depression being felt it was decided that the next two King’s Cup races would be held in 1932 and 1934, thereafter reverting to an annual event.
The fleet consisted of 22 boats: four racing eights, a practice eight, two best fours, five regulation fours, three pair oars and seven gladstone skiffs.
Social events were again integral to Club life in the 1930’s with the Annual Ball continuing successfully (462 at the 1930 Ball). Smaller dances were also held regularly, a little too regularly for the regular boarders at the Branch who wished the dances to be limited to one every three weeks. The Ladies Sub-Committee was very active thanks to the efforts of Mrs C.A. Smith and Miss Maude Honey (later Mrs Jack Goulding). In 1934 the Younger Set Committee was also formed, known by the older members as the “undesirables”, they were also very effective at organising social events and fundraising. The two Committees amalgamated in 1938 to form one social committee.
A meeting was convened, of a “small but enthusiastic gathering of rowing men” who decided to inaugurate the Union of Old Oarsmen. The Union’s aims were to foster a spirit of good fellowship among all men who had rowed or sculled and to maintain an active interest in the sport. Social functions and fundraisers were held and two delegates were elected to the NSWRA.
In 1932 the “Bridge Opening Celebrations Regatta” was held to mark the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Five races were held at the regatta and a special dance was held at the Branch in Abbotsford to commemorate the occasion.
Bob Pearce again represented Australia at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. He claimed another Gold medal amid the general agreement that he was the greatest sculler the world had ever seen.
In 1933 the NSW Police Rowing Club was formed and a shed erected on Blackwattle Bay. They soon achieved success by winning the 1935/36 premiership and their eight being selected to represent Australia at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Competition amongst the womens clubs in Sydney remained strong in the 1930’s with Sydney Women’s Rowing Club enjoying most of the success. In 1933 at the Sydney Ladies’ regatta, the first ladies’ eight race in NSW was held, with the Sydney crew winning easily.
Professional competition for the World Championship continued to be strong early in the 1930s until the reigning champion Ted Phelps, of America, accepted a challenge from Bob Pearce, who had just turned professional. The race was held before almost 70,000 people and Pearce won by such a margin that it was doubted if any high-stakes challenges would be found for Pearce. Pearce defended his title several times in the decade with the 1938 race against Paddon, of Australia, resulting in Pearce rowing out to about 8 lengths lead and then just “paddling” home.
Membership was 173.
25 August 1934
A fire destroyed a large portion of the Clubhouse and premises including the lounge, dining and billiard rooms. Many old trophies and important memorabilia were lost in the fire. Substantial repairs had to be undertaken. The financial position of the Club was very poor and drastic solutions were being considered including selling the Branch, selling Woolloomooloo, or selling some land at the Branch or the Branch liquor license. A Special Finance Committee decided that economies should be effected at the Branch and a membership drive inaugurated.
Draught beer first became available at Abbotsford with Reschs being the beer of choice.
By the mid 1930s, Club activities were firmly focussed on the Branch with most of the boats transferred there also. The lack of focus on the Woolloomooloo allowed the shed to fall into poor condition and around this time Pearce, the caretaker was dismissed from his post. Sale of Woolloomooloo was being seriously considered by the end of the decade.
In 1935, one of the great professional scullers, Bill Beach, passed away. An appeal was opened up and in 1938 a granite monument was opened in Cabarita Park, site of many of his triumphs, in his honour.
A motion was carried at the Annual General meeting that “An Order of Merit Award” shall be made each year to that member who shall have rendered the most outstanding services to the Club during his membership, his name to be inscribed on an Honour roll erected for that purpose. One member only shall be elected each year by the Committee, and shall be recommended to the General Meeting. The award shall take the form of a pale blue blazer, with gold Club monogram pocket, and gold buttons, the cost of which shall be defrayed from donations by Club members.” Frank Leister was the first recipient of the award.
W J Pearce was our sole Olympic representative at the Berlin Games. M T Woods CVO MBE, also participated at these games but at the time was not a member of the Sydney Rowing Club.
A severe storm tore off half the roof of the Boatshed.
A proposal was tabled to erect a new building at the Branch at a cost of 1500 pounds however, a special general meeting decided not to proceed. Consideration was also given to the installation of a fruit machine, however the proposal was rejected due to legal uncertainty.
The 1938 British Empire Games was held in Sydney with the rowing competition to be held on the Nepean River. Australia selected an eight, four and sculler. After the failure of the Australian crew at the 1936 Olympics it was decided to change the policy of selecting entire Club crews to represent Australia and instead the selector chose from all available athletes in Australia. The change was immediately successful with excellent combinations being formed and Australia recording two wins and a second place at the Games.
The fleet consisted of only 15 boats; a racing eight, two practice eights, a racing four, five regulation fours, a clinker four, three pair oars and two gladstone skiffs.
Membership was 242.
The Branch was finally connected to the sewer.
Assets were valued at 4874 pounds; Clubhouse at Abbotsford 2956 pounds, Clubhouse Woolloomooloo 906 pounds, fleet 640 pounds, Boatshed and pontoon at Abbotsford 125 pounds.
3 September 1939
England declared war on Germany. Almost 200 current and past Sydney Rowing Club members enlisted.
Bill Bradley held the position of Treasurer from 1941-42 to 1946-47, he had also held the post of Branch Manager throughout the decade and was largely responsible for maintaining the Club’s operations through the war years. His efforts were recognised when the Bradley Room, a meeting and function room, was named in his honour.
Arthur Chadwick was installed as caretaker and he and his wife Plassy soon became entrenched in the life of the Club.
Membership stood at 221 however, 94 of these were serving in the war, including 42 of the 64 active members.
By the end of the war the boat fleet numbered only thirteen; one racing eight, one practice eight, one best four, five regulation fours, two pair-oars, and three gladstone skiffs.
In 1947, encouraged by Club Captain George Parlby, the members agreed to abandon the Woolloomooloo site. The boatshed was dismantled, transported to Abbotsford and erected on the site it still occupies to this day.
The focus of the 1947/48 season was the London Olympics of 1948. The Victorian Coach Ray Todd was appointed sole selector and the Australian Amateur Rowing Council deemed to send a four and a sculler to the Olympics. Todd selected a complete Victorian crew for the Olympics as well as Merv Wood as the sculler.
In February 1948, the first meeting of the Sydney Old Boys’ Union was held with about 60 old oarsmen gathering to “recapture the spirit of the Club, and get into their togs again and show the youngsters how it should be done.” A race between the 1934 championship eight and a composite lightweight eight was a feature of the day.
Merv Wood competed at four Olympics winning one gold, one silver and one bronze medal. He was also bestowed the honour of being the only athlete to carry the Australian flag at two Olympic Games.
A new peak in membership was reached with 365 members.
A new regatta, the Metropolitan Regatta, was held in December 1948 and was reportedly the “best regatta that had been seen in this state.” Thirty three events were held, entrants came from New Zealand, Victoria, Queensland and of course NSW. Seventeen surf clubs took part in surf boat and surf ski events, speedboat races were held and the Royal Aero Club of NSW staged an aerial display.
The last professional sculling race in Sydney was held in Hen and Chicken Bay, finishing at the Sydney Rowing Club flagstaff.
A new award, the W. J. Goulding memorial Trophy, for the most improved oarsman was first awarded to Frank Burleigh and Frank Malone.
The King’s Cup regatta of 1949 was another successful regatta for NSW with the eight and sculler (Wood) winning their respective races. Wood’s win represented the sixteenth straight win for NSW in the interstate sculls. The eight was a keenly contested race as the AARC had deemed that the winning crew would go on to represent Australia at the Empire Games in Auckland the following year.
The Empire Games in Auckland, NZ proved extremely successful with Australia winning the eight, single scull, the double scull and the pair and placed second in the four.
Improved trading in 1947 brought about changes in the Club’s operation. A visitors’ book was introduced with members only allowed 3 visitors per month. Ladies were barred from the Club except on social occasions. Liquor could only be consumed in the clubhouse, and in September 1948 the first poker machine was purchased.
For the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the AARC nominated Wood as the sculler and an eight to represent Australia. The success of the Sydney and NSW eight meant that the majority of that crew to represent Australia was made up of the entire NSW eight, five of whom were Sydney men; Tinning, Palmer, Middleton, Chapman and Cayzer. Wood transferred to Sydney and the Sydney Double Scull team of Rodgers and Riley also gained Olympic selection. The Olympic crews were to row at Henley as part of their Olympic lead-up and all crews rowed in the light blue of Sydney Rowing Club. The eight placed second at Henley, despite breaking the existing record, Wood won the Diamond Sculls and the double also reached the final. At the Olympics the eight struggled with injury early on but went on to win their way through to the final where they rowed magnificently to take home the bronze medal. Wood, suffering a wrist injury and stomach upset struggled valiantly and still managed a silver medal. T E Chessell also participated in these games and won bronze.
Major extensions to the Club’s ballroom were completed.
In 1952 a committee member was found taking a small amount of money from a cash register. He admitted his actions and in a split decision the committee allowed him to remain a member prompting the Treasurer, assistant treasurer, social secretary and another committee member to resign. This prompted a group of members to get together a petition to hold a special general meeting to express the first ever “no confidence” motion against the committee. All committee members promptly resigned and at the general meeting a new committee was elected consisting of all previous office-bearers and four of the six committee members.
Bar revenue was 10,200 pounds.
Caretaker, Arthur Chadwick was appointed as a full-time employee of the Club.
In March, 1954 Lt.-Commander Bob Pearce of the Royal Canadian navy visited the Club and the occasion was marked by a dinner. The event was extremely successful and prompted the inauguration of an annual dinner, complete with guest speaker each time.
Bill Bradley retired his post as Branch Manager and was replaced by the Club’s first full-time “administrator” in Alan Shedden.
The Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 provided the opportunity for Australian rowing officials to stage a fantastic regatta, featuring 72 crews from 25 countries, and allowed Australia to be represented in all seven events. The eight including F D Kirkham put in a tremendous effort to take the bronze medal, Merv Wood, in his third Olympics, and Murray Riley took the bronze in the double scull and Stuart Mackenzie took silver in the single scull. Wood carried the flag for Australia at the opening ceremony of both the Helsinki and Melbourne Olympics, becoming the only Australian ever to carry the flag in two opening ceremonies.
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New showers and toilets were completed in the boathouse.
At the 1957 meeting of the Sydney Old Boy’s Union the entire 1937 Champion lightweight eight reunited and took to the water again creating quite a spectacle.
Installation of a rowing tank commenced, requiring blasting out of the rock face. A retaining wall was built adjacent to the tank allowing reclamation of more lawn for the Clubhouse. A firm of architects was retained at this time to draw up a master plan for the future development of the Club.
Professional sculling ceased altogether during the decade. In 1953 Evans Fischer defeated Evans Paddon for the World Championship and went on to defend the title twice against Paddon. With rowing interest clearly focussed on the amateurs, Fisher retired in 1958 as the undefeated World Professional Champion.
Significant rock excavation from the rear of the property allowed for more carparking and also provided soil to aid in the reclamation of more land at the foreshore. The pontoon and the staging at the boatshed were overhauled. Improvements were made to the caretaker’s cottage and an office was provided for use by the Club’s officers.
George Parlby served as captain of the Club from 1945-46 to 1959-60 with only one year’s break, thus establishing a new record of consistency in the position and bringing great stability to the Club.
The net surplus on operations was 6575 pounds. The Club’s assets totalled 39,332 pounds, the fleet was valued at 5150 pounds, the clubhouse and land was valued at 16,725 pounds, the boathouse and pontoon at 3370, the rowing tank at 1315 and “furniture and machines” at almost 6000 pounds. The Club held healthy cash reserves of 5675 pounds.
The fleet consisted of 22 boats; three racing eights, two best fours, six regulation fours, a double scull, three pair/doubles, five sculls, three pairs, three gladstone skiffs and a plywood speedboat.
Membership reached 768 after a marked increase in the number of associates and “social associates”, a new class of membership established in 1953.
Patrons at the Club were finally exposed to greater choice of draught beer as Tooheys also became available on tap.
The verandah of the boatshed was extended and enclosed whilst an observation room was built above this for the use of commentators and officials during regattas.
Membership categories were reclassified with the two categories of associate membership being simplified to Social and Associate membership for those who had no affiliation with rowing and those who had been an active member of a rowing club for two years.
The first Australian National Regatta was held at Lake Wendouree from 21 to 23 April 1962. SRC athletes experienced limited success, representing NSW in three crews with a best finish of second in the lightweight eights and the coxless fours.
The First World Rowing Championships was held in Lucerne, Switzerland in September 1962 with Australian crews representing in the eights, coxless four and sculls. The eight and four both qualified for the final and each finished fifth. The regatta was dominated by the East Germans who won five of the seven classes of racing.
A newbuilding was erected on the waterfront at the northern boundary of the property, with a flat concrete top as useable space the shed was to house the Club’s speedboats.
The position of Secretary-Manager was created as a full-time role to take on the day-to-day operations of the Club.
The Tokyo Olympics of 1964 featured six Australian crews, one being the Sydney coxed four. At these Games we were represented by G K Allen, J A Campbell, A W Duval, A G Grover and G Herford. The results however, were disappointing with Australia unable to make a top grade final. The coaches, management and rowers were adamant that Australia would require much greater international competition in order to attain world-class standard.
Fred Meares stepped down as president at the end of 1963-64 and was replaced by George Parlby. Parlby had served the Club extremely well as an athlete, committee member, Captain and in all phases of Club life.
Major renovations were undertaken in the Clubhouse at an expense of 14,000 pounds. The bar was relocated and modernised as well as the lounge area being recarpeted and new furniture and fittings being purchased.
A third bay was added to the boatshed with a sundeck on top. The car park was fitted with proper drainage, was sealed and had proper illumination installed.
1967 marked the most extensive tour that Australian rowers had ever undertaken. In the quest to gain international experience the crews competed at the Royal Canadian Henley, the North American and US national title and the European Championships in France. The Australian eight placed second at the Canadian Henley and the four won their event. A the North American Championships a fortnight later the eight again placed second although against much stronger competition. In the United States nationals the four placed second in the final. The Australians’ performance at the European championships reflected their long and exhausting tour with the best result being the eight placing sixth in the final.
Seven Club athletes and a coach were selected in the eight for the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Those selected were, A W Duval, J R Fazio, A G Grover, M D Morgan, J H Nickson, G M Pearce and J R Ranch and coach Alan Callaway. The crew undertook a rigorous training regime and were hailed the fittest athletes in the entire Australian team. They performed brilliantly and claimed a silver medal less than a second behind the winner.
Bar sales approached $90,000 a year and the bar surplus was $8,650. Poker machines provided the greatest part of net earnings, $45,400 in 1968-69 ($53,750 the previous year). The overall net surplus was under $5,000 due to expenses of maintaining the rowing program and building clubhouse and grounds.
The total number of members reached 1077 by March 1969 largely due to the increase in Social members. The Club’s assets were valued at $168,800; Clubhouse and land at $77,300, boathouse and pontoon at $8,100, boatfleet at $26,400 and furniture and machines at $22,600.
During the 1960s the annual dinner was held every year with great success. The annual ball was reintroduced in 1962 and continued throughout the 1960s. A formal Dinner Dance was held at the Club in 1960 and proved so successful that it became an annual event. The New Year’s Eve party and Children’s Christmas party continued to be extremely well attended events.
In Sydney Rowing Club’s Centenary Year,its oarsmen claimed the state title in the eights, coxed fours, junior fours, lightweight eight, junior eight and lightweight coxless pair. SRC also took out the NSWRA premiership – a fitting end to their centenary season.
The Centenary Dinner was held on 6 March with over 150 members in attendance. The night was a great success with Sir Edgar Tanner, Secretary Treasurer of the Australian Olympic Federation as the Guest of Honour.
The Sydney Rowing Club Centenary Regatta was a grand affair with crews from five states, New Zealand and the Philippines competing. Highlights included the presenting of “Her Majesty The Queen’s Plate” for women’s fours by the Governor-General, a unique relay race, the “Bi-Centennial Eights” and the unveiling of a memorial to George Towns at the finishing line.
The Frank Hidden Award of Merit for 1970 was won by John Coates. John rowed with Homebush High and went on to become a very active member of the Club as well as the Australian Olympic Committee.
By the end of the 1969-70 season the fleet consisted of 29 boats; four eights, eight best & best fours, five regulation fours, four pair oars, one five scull, one double scull, one single scull, two tub pairs and three gladstone skiffs along with eighty blades and three speedboats.
Stage 1 of major extensions and enhancements were made to the Clubhouse during the year including the addition of a permanent dining room and the ever popular billiards room creating “a Clubhouse which leaves little to be desired.”
Six members were named in the State eight to compete for the King’s Cup; R. Curtin, R. Paver, G. Pearce, M. Morgan and B. Curtin with A. Grover as cox and A. Callaway as coach. The crew trained extremely well and easily accounted for the competition to claim the King’s Cup for NSW and gain selection for the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Later in the year at the National Championships in Queensland the coxless pair of Mackney and Horsley were victorious but did not gain Olympic selection. Chris Stevens rowed in a composite four who won the national title and also gained Olympic selection. Shortly after selection, the 6 man of the eight , Ian McGuirter was diagnosed with a terminal illness and was replaced in the team by Kim Mackney. Tragedy struck again and the stroke of the four was killed in an industrial accident. Out of 21 members of the rowing squad for the Munich Olympics, 9 were Sydney Rowing Club members. Unfortunately, the Australian rowers were beset by many obstacles during their preparation and were unable to gain a place in any finals.
In 1973 the Club embarked on the biggest overseas tour in Club history competing in regattas in England and Switzerland including Henley Royal Regatta.
Q. L. Deloitte trophy had been missing for almost a quarter of a century when Miss Enid Deloitte, a niece of the great Q.L. Deloitte, located the trophy at an antique dealer and purchased it. It was re-presented to NSWRA and is permanently housed at the Sydney Rowing Club.
1975-76 was an excellent year for Sydney oarsmen. The Club won the Youth, First, Second, Fourth and Premiership pennants and placed second in the Third grade pennant. The Club gained thirty (30) interstate and international representations. SRC crews received a top three placing in 21 out of 24 State Championship races as well as 20 out of 26 National Championship races.
For the 1976 Montreal Olympics Islay Lee, Robert Paver, Ian Clubb, Stuart Carter (cox), and Michael Morgan (coach) were selected in the eight and Ted Hale was selected to compete in the single scull. John Coates was appointed manager of the Australian Team. Hale performed admirably in his heat but failed to make the major final, running second in the minor final. The Australian eight had a comfortable win in their heat. Three days before the final, bowman Mal Shaw suffered a collapsed vetebra in training and was replaced – the crew went on to place fifth. Coach Morgan believed they had a strong chance for a medal especially as the New Zealand crew who they beat well in the heat took the bronze medal.
Sydney Rowing Club continued its dominance of rowing in NSW and Australia winning the State Championship Eights, Sculls, Coxed Fours, Coxless Fours, Coxed Pairs, Coxless Pairs and Second Grade Eights. The NSW eight, comprised seven Sydney oarsman and went on to win the King’s Cup and Ted Hale won his second consecutive President’s Cup. Following their success I. Lee, S. Handley, I. Paver, T. Brown, G. Clubb, I. Clubb and A. Callaway (coach) were selected to represent Australia at the World Championships in Amsterdam.
Michael Morgan became the first professional coach (and Assistant Secretary-Manager). The Club then recorded the greatest performance by any rowing club in the history of Australia claiming nine Australian titles at the National Championships.
At the 1978 National Championships, Sydney Rowing Club recorded what is believed to be the “greatest performance by any Rowing Club in the history of Australian rowing”. SRC crews won the Australian Championship Eight, Single Scull, Coxed Four, Coxless Four, Coxed Pair, Coxless Pair, Quadruple Scull, Junior Eight and Junior Single Scull.
At the NSW Championships the following year the Club boated two eights and in an amazing, historic result the two crews dead heated for the NSW Championship and the Q. L. Deloitte trophy.
By 1979, various improvements had taken place in the Clubhouse including the addition of air conditioning, the expansion and enhancement of the kitchen, several aesthetic improvements such as new carpeting and painting and a major extension completed in mid-1979. The trading results reflect these changes with the 1979 annual report showing beverage revenue of $291,459 and poker machine takings of $261,475. Total assets were reported at $888,238 being primarily land and buildings $796,026.
The boat fleet consisted of 28 boats; four eights, eleven fours, two single sculls, two double sculls, one quad scull, three gladstones and five pairs.
Two Sydney Rowing Club members, Islay Lee and Stephen Handley were selected to represent Australia in the eight at the Moscow Olympics. The Australian eight performed brilliantly in lead-up races prior to and during the Olympics coming within 0.6 seconds of the eventual winners and beating the eventual silver medallists. However, on the day of the final the Australian eight had to be content with fifth place.
The 1980 season marked the end of one of the most impressive eras in Sydney Rowing Club history with the Club being undefeated in the NSW Champion eights, the Australian Champion Coxed Four and the Australian Champion Single Scull for five consecutive years each since 1976.
Sydney Rowing Club won the NSW Champion eights to record a record ninth straight win in this Championship.
Jim Stride was selected to represent Australia in the Coxless Pair at the Los Angeles Olympics and John Coates was appointed Assistant General Manager of the Australian Olympic Team. The Coxless Pair was unsuccessful however other results at the Games were impressive with the men’s eight and women’s coxed four earning a bronze medal and the men’s quad scull taking the silver.
Dale Caterson was cox of the Australian eight that won gold at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.
Dale Caterson was our only representative at the Seoul Olympic Games and was again selected as cox of the Australian eight.
Major renovations took place including demolishing and rebuilding the main bar and enclosing the “Regatta Lounge.
Eric Perry and Gordon Clubb both joined the Club in 1934. Since 1964 they have sculled together every Sunday morning. They calculated that by 1989 they had covered the distance of Sydney to London – and were on the return trip.
On December 14, 1993 the Sydney Rowing Club decided that it would finally allow women to become members.
Robert Walker and Richard Wearne claimed a bronze medal in the 1994 World Championships. In 1995 they won the National title and a silver medal at the World Championships.
Three of our members were selected to represent Australia at the Atlanta Olympic Games. R Jahrling, R L Walker and R A Wearne.
The Club again undertook major renovations building a new members lounge and the Bill Bradley Lounge.
The Dedes name returned to the catering operations. Con Dedes took up the position of contract caterer held by his parents Stavros and Helen from 1974 to 1982.
One of the longest serving employees, Yvonne Ellis, retired after 29 years with the Club. Yvonne was promoted to Secretary-Manager in 1992 and her years of dedicated service saw the Club through recession and major redevelopments.
We again had a strong representation at the Sydney Olympic Games with D Burke, A Gordon, and R Jahrling winning a Silver Medal in the Men’s eight, M M Long a Bronze Medal in the Men’s pair, and J L Winter and K. Larsen 5th in the Women’s eight.
Three of our rowers were selected to represent Australia at the Athens Olympic Games, K Foulkes, R Jahrling & J L Winter
Work was carried out on the pontoon and boathouse, with repairs to foundations, new electrical wiring and the addition of women’s facilities to the once all male environment. This has extended the life of the boathouse for a few more years. However, the growth of the sport places pressure on the club to provide additional, updated facilities for active members, whose ranks now include a significant complement of female members, masters rowers and active, non-competitive recreational rowers. A master plan has been developed to cater for future development, to provide even better amenities for members.
The redevelopment of 2007 saw the completion of the first stage of the master plan with almost the operating floor of the Club being refurbished. A new kitchen was added to the Watergrill (formerly Regatta room), and a terrace adjacent to the Watergrill, a new Gaming Lounge, with terrace, was created in place of the Bradley Room which created more space for the lounge area to capitalise on the river views. New marketing initiatives were undertaken which complemented the redevelopment works and focussed on the history and heritage of “Sydney’s Original Rowing Club.”
This is but a brief history of the Sydney Rowing Club. While it does not detail the rowing activities of the club, too lengthy to be included here, it must be emphasised that the main purpose for which the club was established, is the development and promotion of the sport of rowing.
To this day, through participation and success in rowing, the Sydney Rowing Club has always been held in the highest esteem by its peers in the sport. With representatives at Club, State and National level, the club continues to be recognised as a leader in the sport.
This is due to the example passed on to us by our predecessors, who believed in and gave us our motto: Mens Sana in Corpore Sano which translates into A Sound Mind in A Sound Body.