Peter Cram was a champion rower and champion club Captain. He was the first Captain of the club after World War 1. In writing about his time at the club, I pondered on what it takes to make a good captain of Ballarat City Rowing Club? First and foremost is loyalty to the club and its traditions. Then it takes somebody who is an all-rounder, someone who has rowing skills and experience, has skills with maintenance and repair of equipment and someone who shares this knowledge equally with all members to benefit the whole club. Peter Cram was all this and more. He started his rowing at Ballarat City and then went to Footscray Rowing Club, rowing in their champion eight there but then returned to City in the critical post war era to bring enthusiasm and life back to his old club. He was the model of a great club Captain and followed the tradition of service to the club that all Ballarat City captains up until last couple of years, have followed. He was kindly, good-natured, champion oarsman, skilled artisan and always ready to share his enthusiasm for rowing with anyone at the club.
His contribution to Ballarat City is a commentary on volunteers, those who give selflessly for the good of the club for the long term, as he did, or those who are just passing through only volunteering what gives benefit to them. Sadly most clubs are saddled with an increasing number of the former. They are all self-importance and self-promoting and leave no lasting legacy or contribution to the club. In other words, the complete antithesis of men like Peter Cram. How many of them and their contributions will be remembered 100 years from now? Peter Cram has already written his page in the club history and looking back over the 100 years since, his many contributions are still evident.
Peter Cram was an exemplary club Captain and led by example. He trained and raced hard, he maintained and repaired boats and clubhouse and he devoted his time and energy to improving the club. Son of John Cram formerly of Jeparit and Mutoa, Peter moved to Ballarat sometime around 1909 to undertake a carpentry and cabinet making apprenticeship. He was an all round sportsman as in 1909 he is recorded as winning the sheaf toss at the Murtoa Show with a throw of 26 feet and then in February he is listed as a starter in a bicycle road race. Then he joined the rowing club in the 1908-09 season as a novice oarsman and had his first win that year at the Ballarat Rowing Association Novice Regatta 1909 with the crew of W.Bryant, H.Allchin and G.Allchin.
In the 1910-1911 season he raced and won Junior pairs at Ballarat Regatta with H. Blick and Ozzie McPhail as coxswain (Ozzie gets a mention in the 31/02/2021 post). In 1912 he had obviously moved back to Footscray as he and pair partner Blick, raced at Ballarat Regatta that year, in Senior pairs for Footscray Rowing Club. The race was won by the Commons brothers of Ballarat City Rowing Club! He probably spent 1912-1917 in Footscray as he returned to Ballarat again and was instrumental in reopening the shed and restarting the club in 1918. As mentioned earlier, he was the first Captain post war and as such had a very significant role in restarting the club and framing how it would move into the future. In that season he won Novice sculls at BRA Novice Regatta and the Maiden and Junior Sculls at Melbourne Regatta.
He worked at the Railway Workshops in Ballarat as a carpenter at a time when train carriages constructed mainly of timber. His level of skill is evident in the picture frame he hand carved for the photo of him in 1911 in the winning Maiden pairs at Ballarat Regatta. Many young men joined from the railway Workshops at this time and it became somewhat of a tradition with men like Otto Hauser, Carl Ehms, Acey Wilson and Frank Findlay all coming from the Workshops.
In early 1918 after his return to the club, Peter lost no time in getting involved in the old club. In the club history I recorded-
“A band of earnest workers made the shed safe and habitable. Messrs. W. Nankervis, J. Frees, G. Eaton, J. Hazelgrove, J. Hodges, Lethborg and club Captain P. Cram gave the old shed a thorough overhaul in their spare time.
At Ballarat Novice Regatta Mr. P. Cram, club captain, won the Novice sculling race. The club held numerous scratch and trial fours throughout the season. Donations of trophies for these races were received from Mr. Jas. Tulloch, W. M. Reid, G. Vickery and St. Patrick’s College.
No new boats were purchased but the captain Mr. Cram overhauled all the equipment and made sure it was kept in good repair. The north side of the jetty was rebuilt by the members volunteering their time and labour.” (Excerpt from “The Boys From the Rush Beds”)
Peter was described by his granddaughter Sue Cram as tall and very kind and gentle. One gets the impression of this from his photo. He would have been a good rower today with long arms and legs and certainly he was taller than average. His skills as a carpenter he used for the benefit of the club overhauling the shed which had been closed for two or three years during the war. He had the skill and ability not only to maintain the fleet of wooden boats and oars but also do any repairs around the shed.
In 1922 or 23 Peter married May and moved back to Footscray where he continued rowing at Footscray Rowing Club. They lived in Rupert Street Footscray and he was still living there in the 1950’s. They had three sons, Alec, Hugh and Harry. Hugh, the middle son was Sue Cram’s father. Peter married a second time in his 70’s and moved to live in Mildura where he joined the Clay Pigeon Shooting Club and the Duck Hunting Club. He died aged 88 on the first day of duck hunting season. Obviously the Cram family had good genes as Sue’s father Hugh was still riding his bike every day in his 80’s.
Peter Cram embodied the values of what it means to be a Ballarat City rower and Club Captain and I am happy to be able to in some small way recognise his contribution some 100 years later. Well rowed Peter!
This Information in the post came from an interview I did with Sue Cram 17/1/2005. Sue gave the club the photo of her grandfather in the hand carved frame on semi-permanent loan as she was moving and had no room for such a large picture. I also researched some more in early newspapers to get an accurate timeline of his involvement with the club.
This is the picture that Sue Cram gave to the club to take care of. The frame was hand carved by Peter and you can see the level of care and skill that went into making it. Although it had been reframed at some point the original label from Simpsons Book Arcade, Ballarat, was reaffixed to the frame. The picture was hung in the shed but in recent years, during various repainting of walls, it was taken down and not rehung. It was left leaning against the wall in the club gym. When I went in one day after a group of school boys had been training there with their coach, someone had either knocked it over or thrown something and shattered the glass and just left it there. I immediately took it to the local picture framer and had the glass replaced and removed it from the gym for safe keeping. Although not a major incident, it does demonstrate the current lack of care and respect for club property and the lack of awareness of the contributions made by past members.
This is an article from the Ballarat Evening Echo, Saturday 9th February, 1918