The rowing clubs on Ballarat Regatta day 1900. Ballarat City far left, Wendouree in the middle and Ballarat at the right. The finish of the course was right in front of the sheds. People are crowded on the shore and the balconies. Nazareth House can be seen in the background.


‘Throughout the season perfect discipline and harmony has been a prominent feature and our work (that of the committee) has been of a very pleasing nature. Finally we urge upon all the necessity of paying strict attention to training and we feel that the incoming year will be a prosperous one in every department.” Closing paragraph 38th Annual Report.

What strikes me, as I re-read the old annual reports, apart from the somewhat quaint phrasing, is the way each and every report gave ownership of the club’s achievements to all members. The reports give the impression of a very inclusive and supportive club. Every member from raw novice to seasoned veteran was valued and considered. The committee did not work for themselves but for the club as a whole. Former Presidents were elected to Vice-president roles thus maintain their connection to the club and retaining and valuing their input. It was a real community of people who knew each other and supported each other in training and racing and also socially.

This was the same “vibe” that we had at the club right through the 1970’s, 80’s,90’s and 2000. Even when the big drought of 2006-2012 took away our ability to row, we supported one another and worked together through the tough times. Everybody was on the same page. Sadly, the club these days seems to be a disparate and separate arrangement of groups. Nobody cares about the past or past achievements, nobody values the experience and knowledge of older members. Consequently members are not invested in the club and they treat everything and everyone accordingly. We set out in the 1980’s to make the club the most successful club in Ballarat. We achieved that and so much more becoming the most successful club in Victoria. The older members then were thrilled at what we achieved. We know that because we included them, kept them updated and still valued their support and feedback. Unfortunately this strength of the club, with every member old and new contributing, seems to have disappeared.

In 1907 the 38th Annual Meeting of the club was held at Hogan’s Unicorn Hotel with the president Mr Jas. Tulloch in the chair. The report stated that the club had had a fairly successful season. Although not so successful in regattas, crews had raced well and were mostly defeated by only a small margin. The lake level was very high at the start of the season-so high in fact that it actually delayed the start of the season. It finally commenced on the 5th of November with trial pairs. Twenty crews competed which clearly demonstrates the interest and enthusiasm of intra club rowing. To have 40 active oarsmen to trial for regatta crews demonstrated a considerable depth in the shed. The president’s trophies in this event were awarded to the pair of J. Barnett and H. Griffin. Comment was made in the report about the importance of these races:

“Club races are one of the most important events connected with the work of the rowing club. It is in such races that the new members are coached and taught the art of rowing and the selection committee are in a position to choose their men for future regattas.”

The coxswain trophy was won by Master A. McFarlane. Master Ossie McPhail was awarded a trophy for his services over the last several years. Fifty new members nominated at the Annual Meeting. Things were at last starting to look up.

The club next sent just one crew to the next three regattas, that of a Maiden pair, to Colac, Upper Yarra and Footscray but they were unable to score a win. Their best effort was at Colac where they finished second out of eight crews.

At our home regatta on the lake representation was a lot stronger with entries in the Maiden eights, fours, pairs and scull. The Maiden eight was the best-performed crew-it was beaten into second by a mere couple of feet. The same eight went on to compete at Barwon a week later and were unable to produce the form again failing to progress past their heat.

This year the club recruited two novice oarsmen who were to become outstanding representatives of the club. The Commons brothers, William and Robert commenced rowing as a Maiden pair. At the Ballarat Rowing Association Novice Regatta on December 14th Robert Commons showed great promise by easily winning the Novice sculls. The club also had two entries in the Novice fours that finished second and fifth. The number of boats available to members was boosted by the delivery of the two pair-oared boats ordered last season and purchased at a cost of 48 pounds and by the thorough overhaul of the racing eight by boat builders Edwards and Sons. Club member Mr. E. A. James renovated all the practice boats in the shed-a job that would have saved the club significant money and Mr. Franklin took on the job of shed renovations.

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