1929 Victorian King’s Cup eight from Ballarat

The Annual meeting this year was held at the Wattle Tearooms in Lydiard Street on Wednesday, September 4th 1929. The Annual Smoke Night was held immediately after the conclusion of general business and the gentlemen of the club enjoyed a social occasion including recitations and musical items. The president was Mr. Alf Dawson and the secretary Mr. Jack Lawrie. The Annual report stated that the standard of rowing had fallen off somewhat this season with the club only recording four wins and a fifth placing on the VRA Junior premiership. The lack of regatta success was noticeable mainly at Junior and Senior level and the report deplored the lack of club spirit. Membership was maintained and several promising novices nominated for membership for the upcoming season.

Financially progress had been good. The club closed the year with a credit balance and the building fund increased from one hundred and twenty pounds to a little over two hundred pounds. A big contribution to club funds came from running the Tea Tent at Ballarat Regatta this year, something the clubs did in rotation. The total receipts for the day were one hundred and twenty three pounds. It must have been a cold and blustery day on the lake that made so many people patronise the tea tent.

 For the first time in the history of Victorian rowing a challenge was made this year to the crew selected to compete in the King’s Cup. The Ballarat Rowing Association had maintained for many years that crews should have the right to challenge the selected crew. To that end a composite Ballarat eight were the first (and I think also the last) to be afforded this opportunity. So the boys from the “rush beds” betook themselves to Melbourne and on the 13th of April 1929, a test race was rowed on the Yarra between the selected crew and the Ballarat boys. It resulted in an easy victory to Ballarat and with it came the right to represent Victoria in the King’s Cup in Perth, Western Australia. The crew were coxed by Mr. A. J. (Ace) Wilson of the club while Mr. J. Beattie and Mr. Lou Zilles were members of the crew with Mr.V.Thomas the emergency. One can only imagine the trip by train, to Perth in 1929.The Victorian eight came third with NSW winning and WA second. Thus Messrs. Beattie, Wilson and Zilles went down in history as the club’s first interstate representatives. Mr. Giles, who raced in the Intercolonial four of 1874, was the first oarsman to represent Victoria but, as he did so prior to Federation, he represented the Colony rather than the State.

Mr. Alf Bannister, one of the older members who had rowed prior to WW2 used to tell the story in later years that the Ballarat eight were good enough to win the King’s Cup but the bow, a Ballarat Rowing Club man, was very fond of a drink and on the day of the race overindulged and virtually had to be carried to the boat. In tough competition like that a crew can’t afford to carry a passenger and so they finished third. The history of Ballarat rowing and the direction it took would certainly have changed if the Ballarat crew had come home winners of the King’s Cup eight!

Ballarat Novice Regatta was a highlight for the club this year. The club won the Novice premiership again thus securing outright possession of the Mark’s Cup that was awarded to the premiers each season. Mr.W.Blaikie also won the Novice sculls at this regatta. The eight racing “sticks” that had been ordered last season were delivered early this season and although used for racing, they were unable to sufficiently improve the performance of the crews to win a race. It may also have had something to do with the eight oarsmen pulling the oars!The shed received a few improvements with a new club locker installed with a complete set of tools. The end of the jetty was re-decked and the shed painted-some things never change! Mr. L. Johnson and Mr. T. C. Edwards headed the Working bees.

Opening Day was held on Saturday November 3rd affording members the opportunity of entertaining their lady friends to afternoon tea at the clubhouse. Scratch pairs were raced for trophies presented by the president.

Dr. Edward Champion, President

Sadly, former president and club stalwart, Dr. E. Champion passed away. The report said of him ‘He was a man of steady character, loved and respected by all-a prominent athlete in his day’. Mr. Alf Dawson did not seek re-election this year. He had led the club for three successful seasons and had been one of the handful of champion rowers who went on to contribute to the continuation of the club. Mr. and Mrs.Ted Edwards had a baby boy this year and Mr. Len Johnson, who had been treasurer for the last three seasons also left for the wilds of Wagga Wagga. A presentation was made to him on his departure.

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