1882 Draper’s Challenge Cup, Ballarat

In this post I am going to diverge a little from the history of the club to an interesting discovery that actually occurred after I had published my book. It has to do with this handsome trophy from 1882. It is highly decorated and beautifully inscribed 

“Draper’s Challenge Cup. Presented by Wm.Orrock Esq; 6th of January 1882.”

Around the base are inscribed the winners in 1885,1886 and 1887. It was won by a crew from a very famous early Ballarat Drapery store, Harry Davies and Co. The crew were W.Gribble, G.Petrie,W.Tonner and J.Scott with H.L.Wright the coxswain. Having won the Draper’s challenge race three years in succession, it would have become theirs permanently and probably went on show at Harry Davies store.

The Star newspaper reported on December 20th 1881, that at a meeting of the Draper’s union, Mr. Orrock presented the cup to be rowed for amongst its members and the first contest was to take place on Friday, 6th January 1882. The members elected to arrange the program were Messrs. Virtus, Kortlang, Bennet and Martin. Given that Mr. Kortlang was a member of Ballarat City Rowing Club,it is reasonable to assume that the club loaned boats for the competition.

The really fascinating part about this story how this beautiful piece of Ballarat Rowing history came into my possession through a series of, I think, remarkable circumstances. In about 2009/2010 a gentleman contacted me after having read “Boys From the Rush Beds.” He told me that he had in his possession a rowing trophy from 1882 and was I interested in buying it. He said that he had been custodian of it since 1961. I asked him if it had been passed down through his family and he said no, that he had come across it through unusual circumstances and he thought now it should go to someone who would appreciate its history, as he himself had no connection to rowing.

In 1961 he was working as a carpenter doing some renovations on a store in Sturt Street,Ballarat’s main street, at Gribble’s Menswear. He had pulled out some old shelving when stripping the walls back for renovation and found a small sliding door hidden away behind them. On opening the sliding door there, gleaming softly in the gloom, was the silver cup! It was his “Howard Carter” moment. It had obviously been placed there for safe keeping and been forgotten. It probably hadn’t seen the light of day in maybe 50 years. I think it is reasonable to assume that the Gribble on the trophy was related to the Gribble who owned the store-maybe a father or Grandfather. Thankfully the cup was rescued and a part of Ballarat’s rowing history returned.

In January 1882 a meeting was held at Brophy’s Hotel with Captain Cazaly in the chair, to organise a fundraising Bazaar in March. The funds raised would go to rebuilding the shed.  The new dressing room was finally erected at the start of this season completed just after the Annual meeting of 1882 and proved to be of immense advantage to members both in comfort and convenience. It also meant that the fleet could be housed more suitably and out of the weather. In the early days some boats were actually left moored to the jetty resulting in considerable deterioration. The level of the lake was very high this year and the club had to go to the expense of raising the floor of the old boathouse. On September 23rd the new colours of the City Rowing Club were hoisted and with 200 members on the roll the future was looking bright.

Scratch racing again figured prominently in the activities of the club with two scratch four events being held. The first series was held in November with great interest being shown in the progress of the heats. Barber, Askwith, Nichols and Dawson won the first series. The second series was won by Jamieson, Broadfoot, Hunt and Lumsden. There was some difficulty in collecting the entry fees for these races so the incoming committee was warned at the Annual meeting that in future firm action would have to be taken. Part of the action was to pass a resolution that no order for medals be recognised except through the express order of the committee.

In November it was mentioned in the Age newspaper, that a regatta was held in Dimboola- “this novelty on the borders of civilisation was much enjoyed, with the beautiful river over 100 yards wide greatly admired by those who raced on it.”

On Friday December 1st, preparations were in hand for the Colac Regatta-the Colac correspondent stating that 3000 people were expected to attend. On the Thursday evening before the regatta City and Ballarat conveyed their boats to the western railway station for the trip to Colac. City took its best Senior four, clinker maiden eight and a maiden sculling boats. The club’s new racing colours finally made a show on the winners dais at the Ballarat Regatta where crews impressed with their neat and tasteful appearance. A.McNaughton won the  Maiden Sculls and the club won both the Maiden and Senior eights. The Maiden eight was J.Jamieson, A.Hollander, W.Trahar, J.Barnes, A.Gibbs, R.Jeffree, A.Tapper and A.McNaughton. The Senior eight was A.Kortlang, J.Byrne, W.Trahar, A.McNughton, A.Tapper, R.Jefffree, J.Fitzgerald and A.Gibbs. A.McNaughton had a hugely successful regatta winning 3 races! We also had an entry in the Junior fours won by Victoria rowing Club. Apparently stroke of the crew William Cazaly fainted just before the finish causing consternation amongst the watching crowd.

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