1914 Calm before the Storm

“Under ordinary circumstances, Lake Wendouree, with its surroundings, is generally conceded to be a place of rare attractiveness: but on Saturday, with View Point, boatshed balconies, and all other commanding positions occupied by seasonally attired gatherings, and the expanse of water flecked with craft of various descriptions, the spectacle was at once inspiring and interesting. The occasion was Ballarat’s Henley. Everything connected with this year’s regatta was worthy of the traditions of the past, and the Regatta Association earned the highest commendation for the excellence of the arrangements.” The weather was perfect; there were large fields in a number of events, gaily decorated houseboats and a well dressed throng of spectators making a superb pageant.”

Ballarat Regatta was held on February 28th, 1914 .It was as if all of the rowing community was given a gift of one last memorable regatta in every respect before the shadow of war cast its darkness over the world.

The first regatta of the year was Colac Regatta on New Year’s Day and City was represented by one eight racing in two events-a Lightweight eight and a Maiden eight. The Lightweight eight came second and the Maiden eight third. The crew was: – J. Walker, T. Luke, H. Richardson, C. Ehms, A. Trehearne, T .Stevens, C. Palmer,  J.Gear and cox Roy Geddes.

At Ballarat Regatta Ballarat City scored one win in the Special Maiden four event. It was rowed in clinker boats and was for oarsmen not exceeding 10 stone and who had not won a maiden race. The winning crew were T. J. Stevens, A. Trehearne, C. Ehms and H. Richardson with D. Spottiswood the Cox. Early on in the race Mercantile led, then Ballarat went to the fore about halfway through the race. The City four took command before reaching View Point and won by a length from Ballarat in the time of 7mins 35 seconds. This was the first time a lightweight event was rowed at Ballarat Regatta.There was also decorated boat competition and Miss. M. Brophy, daughter of the club’s first treasurer Dan Brophy, won the best decorated boat competition.

The Interstate Championships were still held this year despite the war. They were held in May in with Tasmania winning the eights and Cecil McVilly, also of Tasmania, winning the Champion Sculls of Australia.

By June Lake Wendouree had begun to dry up and was some 12 inches below the usual level for this time of year.This was to be the beginning of a prolonged drought which also adversely affected rowing in Ballarat for the next couple of years.

In July the Star reported that there was to be a revival of Warrnambool Regatta on Boxing Day, a move that was supported by the Ballarat clubs. And while Ballarat and Wendouree had crews to send to Henley in late October, City did not. Henley would be the last one staged for five years, and as if to signal its departure, the regatta was held in brilliant sunshine with a great crowd in attendance.

Henley Regatta, Yarra River, 1914. Decorated boats in the foreground. Ballarat Regatta, Australia’s inland Henley also had a decorated boats competition.

Sadly there were a number of drownings in the Lake-one in January when 8-year-old Frank Williams who was sailing a toy boat fell in and drowned. Mr. Fred Luke of City Rowing Club was ‘run for’ but was unable to save the boy. Mr. John Robinson, a repairman drowned in early February and Richard Langley drowned in March. There was much debate about swimming in the lake and the Lt.Col. Bennett on behalf of the BRA stated that many rowing club members wished to indulge in a swim after a row. However, the Mayor, Cr. Brokenshire, found himself unable to give permission to anyone to bathe in the Lake under any conditions.

 Ernest Barry, World Champion sculler from England was to visit Ballarat. He was the second World champion to grace Ballarat with his presence as had Ned Hanlan, the Canadian,who visited in 1884.

Just prior to the Annual meeting of 1914, Germany declared war on Russia and France and invaded Belgium. Great Britain was at war and so by default were the colonies including Australia. When the Annual meeting was held a month later, there would be little doubt that life was going to change, although just how dramatically no one could then imagine. By the end of the war Ballarat City would have had fifty men leave to fight the distant war and of those men ten would never return. Many of our potential champions would be fighting a much deadlier battle than the one for supremacy on the water. They would be fighting for their lives far over the water.

The president of the club for this season was Lt. Col.Bennett with Vice-presidents being J. Tulloch, C. H. Bunce, A. A. O’Dea, F. Herman, Dr. Champion and Lt. Col. Morton. The treasurer was Mr. C. Palmer and the secretary Mr. G. Vickery with the committee G. Tyler, E. Dorrington, O. Ehms, J. Buchnan, Waters, R. Hayes and H. Bryant. Dorrington, Tyler and Hayes would all resign from the committee and leave to serve their country. The annual report showed that the financial position of the club was very sound with the building fund now with a credit balance of 345 pounds. It was suggested that a series of working bees be held to renovate the shed. A presentation was held for Mr. A. Scott when he was leaving. Lt.Col. Bennett presented him with a pocket flask on behalf of the club.

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