With the shed still closed and no rowing happening again in 1944, I have chosen to include the memories of the 1930’s from Robert (Bob) Lawrie. Bob was the son of Jack Lawrie and Jack was a member from the early 1920’s serving on the committee in as secretary for many years in the 1930’s and also as club captain. Bob followed in his father’s footsteps and became one of the longest serving treasurer’s of the club from 1949 until 1974.

Interview with Robert J.Lawrie. Memories of the 1930’s.

Robert (Bob) Lawrie and his sister Jean cut their teeth at the rowing club-quite literally! Their father Jack was a member from the early 1920’s quite successfully as an oarsman and then as a committeeman and coach. Bob and Jean were taken up to the shed from a very early age, indeed Bob seems to think they were wheeled up in the pram every weekend on Saturday to set up for the dances. Prior to the dance being held at the shed, it was run by the club at St. Pat’s Hall and the Crystal Ballrooom in Armstrong Street.The dances were run by the club from the 1920’s to the 1960’s and were  major fundraiser.

Bob’s Aunty Isa (Isabell Browne) was in charge of the supper room. The rowing club was the first place to introduce milk coffee for supper and it was the designated job of one person to watch the urn of milk heating to ensure it didn’t boil over or burn. They also provided a wonderful selection of cream cakes so that supper was quite a highlight of the evening. Isabell Browne gave many years of service to the rowing club and on her retirement was presented with a gold broooch that is still held by the family.

Bob also remembers Harry Bunce who was the president. He lived in Pleasant Street and always wore a buttonhole in his lapel. He grew magnificent gladioli and these often featured in his floral arrangements. Bob himself became treasurer in the 1950 taking over from Warwick Holden.He was a member before the war but there was very little rowing at all during the war years and the club was run on a caretaker basis.

The equipment was considered to be quite good for the time. The boats were mainly clinker construction and there were a few Best boats which were for some reason called best and best.There was a good crew of members who were considerably skilled as tradesmen who kept the fleet in tip top condition. Otto Hauser was a tool maker at the Railway workshops and Stan Wilton was a welder and they took on the task of maintaining and repairing all the equipment and the boatshed.

After the shed burnt down in 1950 it was many of these older members who galvanised everyone into action and continued the club running. Bob also felt that if it had not been for Ballarat hosting the Olympic Games in 1956 it is doubtful if the current shed would have been built.Once again the club did not receive any grants or money from the government and the rebuild was achieved by key members taking out a loan and then working tirelessly to pay it off.

The regattas used to run in the same sequence each year with a couple of weeks between them. First regatta of the season in November was Henley.Then followed Warrnambool on Boxing Day and Colac on New Year’s Day. Ballarat and Barwon were always about March with only a week between them. Then at Easter came Mildura and Wentworth and they concluded the season.

Bob was also Honorary Auditor to the club when I was secretary and I used to make the once a year trip to his home with the books to have them audited. He did this right up until the mid1980’s making his contribution to the club span an impressive 50 plus years. The Lawrie family made a very generous donation to the club in 2014 to buy two new boats, an eight and a four. These were named the ROBERT LAWRIE and THE LAWRIE FAMILY, respectively. This came after the big drought of 2006-2012 when the club was again in caretaker mode and down to 10 members. The donation meant that we could buy competitive boats and the first nomex eight we had ever owned. Without the generosity of Nance Lawrie, Bob’s wife, and Jean, his sister, and the whole Lawrie family it is doubtful we would ever have been able to afford a good eight. Sadly Nance passed away earlier in 2020 in her 92nd year.

Nance Lawrie (with hammer) and Jean Lawrie, christening the ROBERT LAWRIE in January 2014
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