1954 Era of the Lightweights

The club was now into its fourth year without a home. While the Reconstruction account was growing and had reached 900 pounds and some insurance had been collected there was still a considerable shortfall. Membership was maintained and regatta wins were up again this year, mainly in the lightweight class, which put us in third place on the Lightweight Premiership. The fleet again had an addition this year of a new eight.  Interesting to note that the club boated three fours for the Champion Sprint fours and four pairs at Bendigo Regatta. We also raced a Lightweight eight at Barwon and Ballarat but without success. The club’s first regatta win was scored at VRA Regatta, which was in November 1953, with the lightweight pair of Ralph Murphy and Kevin Meyers. At Colac Regatta the club won Maiden pairs and Novice fours. At Ballarat Regatta the Lightweight pair of Michael O’Brien and Ron Healey had a win with Teddy Jones was both cox and coach for the crew. At the Mildura and Wentworth Regattas the club again took out the double in the lightweight four. The crew this year was N. Kerr, Kevin Meyers, J. Dean and Ron Healey with Teddy Jones not only steering them to victory but coaching them as well.

At BRA Open Day combination fours were rowed and ten members from City competed with E. Lenthall  and N.Kerr being in the wining crew. The Novice Regatta was not as successful with the club failing to win a race. Club Open day Nomination Pairs were won by K. O’Brien and G. Smith. The new George Towns racing eight arrived at a cost of 545 pounds paid for by the Social committee. President Frank Findlay was appointed as a Vice-President of the VRA.

BRA Open Day 1954 Combination fours race Bow: N. Kerr (2) E. Lenthall  BCRC
The amazing Teddy Jones pictured here steering the
Railway Workshop crew for the Trade Fours : G.Wallis, Vic Gingell, Bill Dawkins, Ray Phillips and cox Teddy Jones. North side of Ballarat City Rowing Club jetty. 1958


Albie McGuire was probably fairly typical of young men who rowed in the late 1940’s. The Second World War meant that instead of sporting pursuits all able-bodied young men were defending Australia, mainly overseas. During the early 1940’s rowing activities in Ballarat were virtually closed down. Two Ballarat regattas were held in the early years for the Patriotic fund and in 1941-42 the three Ballarat clubs held a combined Annual Meeting. Albie served two years in the transport unit in Bougainville returning home to Ballarat in May 1946. While in the Army, Albie was mates with Wally Long. Wally returned to Ballarat a few months before Albie and when they met up again Wally suggested that, if Albie wasn’t doing anything he might like to go up to the Ballarat City boatshed  and have a row.

Albie rode his bike up one Saturday and went in looking for Wally. Some members were sitting around upstairs and on enquiring, Albie was told that Wally was in hospital. So he turned around and walked out to get back on his bike and ride home. Fortunately Alan Ehms, one of the members talking upstairs followed Albie down and whistled him back. He asked if he wanted a row and when Albie said he did so Alan took him out in a pair for a row. It must have made an impression on Albie because he was back up again on the Sunday morning for another go.

 He rowed for  a couple of months before his first regatta. His first race was in a pair at Ballarat with Jimmy Newcomb. As most rowers know some pairs are made in heaven-this was not one of them. Albie’s comment was that he “pulled him all over the lake”. So that was that. When the list of crews went up for the next regatta Albie saw he’d again been teamed with Mr. Newcomb making the comment ‘Well if I have to row with him I won’t race.’ Someone on the selection committee must have overheard him because when he came up to train on the Sunday he was paired with Frank Beattie-and the rest, as they say is history. Frank had been in the scouts with Albie as young boys and they were about to remake their acquaintance with a pair of oars. They were coached by Les ‘Hammy’ Hamilton. Apparently everyone used to laugh at him as a coach but after the McGuire/Beattie combination had its first win (and incidentally “Hammy’s first winning crew) respect for him grew. The pair went on to win the double at Mildura/Wentworth with daylight second on both occasions!

The club was billeted out at private accommodation for the Wentworth regatta. Everyone travelled up by bus with the boats on top of the bus. Albie and Frank were staying with a lady in Wentworth. Frank was a little slow to get out of bed of a morning and as they had been called to breakfast Albie had suggested a couple of times to Frank that he might like to get up. But Frank wasn’t moving so Albie grabbed his sheets and pulled. Unfortunately Frank was not giving up so he held on to his end. There was a tremendous rip and the two ends of the sheet parted company! Albie had to go and explain to the lady who kindly said she’d only used sheets that had just about had it anyway. The “boys” got their breakfast, won their race by a huge margin and returned to Ballarat triumphant.

The next season 1947-48 was a very busy and successful one for Albie and he would have been away nearly every weekend competing at all the country regattas. Albie’s rowing career went on for another for another 6 years with his final win was in a lightweight four at Barwon Regatta in 1951.While he said he was only interested in rowing, Albie has kept an interest in the progress and achievements of the club always. He came to a couple of Annual Meetings and he would always ring me up once or twice a year, usually before Christmas, just to ask how things were going at the club.

 His contribution to the competitive record of the club and the to the ongoing survival of the club have been great. Albie was Ballarat City’s first oarsman to win a Senior pair since the Commons brothers in 1912,winning at Ballarat regatta in 1949 with Frank Beattie. He also was part of the Maiden Four that won at Henley Regatta in 1947.The next time the club won a four at Henley Regatta was nearly forty years later in 1989. As for keeping the club running, Albie assisted at the famous Boatshed Dances that were revived in 1946 and for many years volunteered time and expertise to repair equipment and buildings.In 1980 he and Bob Angow pulled up the deteriorating hardwood floor in the hall and replaced it with the lovely jarrah floor that is there today. They did this handsaws and hammer and nails. It took many weeks and saved the club a fortune. He was a Vice-President of the club for many years and his son Rob McGuire was secretary of the club from 1972 -1976.

His wife Joyce was also a tireless worker for the club assisting with catering on regatta days and helping out whenever it was needed. Joyce was still helping in the kitchen on Ballarat Regatta days when I joined the club. I remember before every regatta I would go up and help Kit Quick and Joyce McGuire make sandwiches which were packed in plastic bags. They would then go to the finish of the course and sell food and drinks all day while I and various other members were left to serve tea and coffee and sandwiches upstairs at the club. She did this until about 1980.

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