Premiers! Ballarat City was the premier club in Ballarat and in the Colony of Victoria this year. We won more races than any other club including the much bigger metropolitan clubs. Although this was a year before the Victorian Rowing Association introduced official premierships, it was a highly significant achievement. We were only one year off our quarter century-25 years of operation, and after the lull of the late 80’s we had worked hard and trained hard to gain success on the water. The club would not win another premiership until 1967 when we won a Country Premiership for the most successful country club. It would then be another 20 or so years until with a club of 25 competing members we took out the Champion Club of Victoria. This season was also marked by gold rushes in Western Australia many young men of the district left to chase the elusive metal, including secretary F. B. Smith and Andrew Lorimer who left together and vice-captain F. F. Davies who also left to try his luck. Despite this exodus the club still had a strong rowing force to chase that other gold by winning races.
If there was a standout season during the 1890’s this was it. Although official Victorian Rowing Association premierships were not awarded until 1895, this season Ballarat City was the premier club of the colony scoring more wins than any other club with the Albert Park Club were second and Ballarat Rowing Club third. Indeed the club scored its highest number of victories since its inception in 1870. A concerted effort was made to get crews ready to race. No combined Opening of the season was held because it was felt that the club needed to organize and train crews as early as possible to represent the club at regattas. With this end in view, the competition for the Officers’ trophies was commenced immediately and used to trial and select oarsmen into various crews. Mr. Harry Gullen’s crew was successful from the unusually high number of crews competing. Also in the successful four were B. Darby, E. S. Norton, and P. Usher. The competition for the scratch pairs followed the fours competition immediately with the winners being Andrew Lorimer and J. Cutteliffe.
At Warrnambool Regatta a huge contingent of members attended-a Maiden eight, four and pair and a Junior four, pair and scull-a total of twenty-one oarsmen not counting coxswains, coaches and supporters. Given that the scratch pair racing was held principally for those not competing at Warrnambool, this was obviously a season were there was quantity as well as quality in the rowing ranks. The club took home two trophies from this first regatta John Anwyl winning the Junior sculls and W. Thomas and E. Ward winning the Maiden pair. There should have been a third win as the Maiden eight was the first crew past the post but they were disqualified for a slight steering error by the cox.
At Melbourne Regatta the Maiden four and pair were entered but this time the crews could only manage second placings
At Ballarat the Junior four, Maiden pair and Maiden eight raced with A. Clarke and A. F. Ellis winning the pairs and J. Ferris, C. Denniston, W. Thomas and E. Ward winning easily in the Junior Four.
Then at the final regatta of the season, Barwon, the club collected three wins. The Maiden eight finally stood atop the winners’ podium. The crew comprised J. Smith, C. Robinson, B. Darby, J. Horne, J. Griffiths, J. Gullen, I. Coulter and H. Denniston. The successful Junior four at Ballarat again took the honours and the Maiden four of C. E. Herbert, F. Taylor, A. Clarke and C. Broadbent also bought home the winners’ trophies.
Immediately after the Annual Meeting in September 1894 it was decide that the old boatshed could wait for renovation no longer. The ‘unsightly’ portion of the shed that was the original Alabama shed which been standing for more than 25 years, was demolished. Mr. J. Allen was the winning tender for the job and for the cost of 62 pounds 10 shillings, he pulled down what had been the original Alabama shed that had been used to store the boats.The original stumps of the old Alabama shed became visible when Lake Wendouree dried up in the big drought of 2006-2012. It was to the south side of the existing boatshed much closer to Wendouree Rowing Club.
Captain William Bennett, after long and devoted service to the club, tendered his resignation before the commencement of the regatta season in order that a younger, more active member of the club could take on the captain’s role. He was then elected, as was the custom, to a vice-president’s role. Mr. C. E. Denniston was elevated from the committee to fill the role of Captain. He had been a committeeman for several years and a successful oarsman.bThe club also lost the services of the secretary Mr. C. Robinson with Mr. R. Cameron his successor and Mr. I. Coulter his assistant.
J.T.Sleep was the timekeeper again at 1894 Ballarat Regatta. He had filled that position since 1870 when he used his “new racing chronograph” with some improvements of his own invention. He was able to time the races to the quarter second. At the 1870 regatta when Frederick Hughes won Ballarat City’s first race, the Youth sculls for youths under 18, he was timed at 6 minutes, 47 and ¾ seconds for the course of about 1 mile. That would be a pretty good time today in the much lighter racing boats we have now.