1881

Ward’s Boatyard was one the Lake foreshore in 1864. the Alabama Rowing Club shed (later Ballarat City Rowing Club shed) was erected alongside in 1865. Examples of clinker gigs shown alongside boatshed.

The members of the club took energetic steps to place the club on a satisfactory basis this year both in points of membership and facilities afforded to acquire skill in rowing. Some seventy new members joined the club and in order to accommodate such large numbers two new four-oared boats were ordered from Melbourne as well as a gig for learners.

The opening of the season was again set to be a grand spectacle of the combined three clubs but disappointment was the order of the day. A northerly gale was blowing making it quite impossible for the rowers to join in. “The sea was so high that no rowing boat could have lived in it-and hence the best that could be done was for the yachts, which were all close reefed, to go in line around the sailing course.”

A special meeting of the club was held in July to consider the proposed alterations and additions to the shed with thirty members present. The firm of Caselli and Figgis were to draw up plans and the work was to be carried out as funds permitted. As the club already had 250 pounds in hand the meeting resolved to proceed with the erection of dressing rooms.

Although it had been decided the last season to pull down the old shed and build a new one, prudence obviously prevailed. A new wing was to be constructed alongside the existing shed consisting of a dressing room 60 feet by 15 feet with room for sixty lockers and a bathroom and lavatory 10 feet by 15 feet. It was to be built along the north side.

A new regatta was added this year, that of Upper Yarra, as opposed to the lower Yarra course which was down round Victoria Docks. The club had it’s single,solitary win at this regatta with the crew of E.H.P.Baylee, J.Byrne, A.Kortlang and the indomitable Arthur Gibbs was stroke. At Ballarat Regatta there were five races on the program and City came second in four of them!

Scratch racing commenced on November 9th with scratch fours. About thirty crews competed and the new boats were used for the first time. It would have taken many Saturday afternoons to race all the crews especially if there were only three or four boats available.

The colours of the club were changed for the third and final time to a dark blue jersey with white trimmings and a star on the left breast completed by a cap of the same colour with a white crossbar. These are the colors that Ballarat City race in today however the cap is no longer part of the uniform. I have been unable to ascertain when the City of Ballarat council adopted navy and white for their colors but here again the club and the City share, even today,the representative colours of navy and white.  The Ballarat Star  stated, “Judging by the enthusiasm manifested by the members, the City Club evidently means to keep a leading position in athletics as of yore.”

Lake Wendouree was secured for the citizens of Ballarat when the City Council took formal possession with the Crown grant handed over by the Lands Department on June 29th, 1882.The report in the Star mentioned Mr. Thomas Cosby, mathematician of Geelong, as being the first person to suggest the utilization of the then miserable looking Yuille Swamp as a means of supplying the thinly populated township of Ballarat with water. Others mentioned in connection with the development of the lake were Robert Davidson, mining surveyor, Edward (Ned) Williams, old and much esteemed citizen and Mr. Gilbert Duncan, former mayor and member of the City Works Committee for eleven years.

The article neglected to mention Robinson McLaren, without whose vision and drive in December 1863, crossing the rush bed in a punt and then in 1864, with the Ballarat Rowing Club cutting a path through the reeds which opened the swamp to aquatic sports. He was the catalyst to the practical transformation of Swamp to Lake.

Scene at Lake Wendouree circa 1880. Insets show quartz drinking fountain and rustic fountain which are still on the Lake foreshore today. The boatsheds on the righthand side are no longer there. They were the steamer sheds and the original Yacht Club. they were pulled down prior to the 1956 Olympic Games as the City Council felt they were an eyesore.
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