Just recently I was fortunate enough to again make contact with the descendants of one Ballarat City’s earliest champions, Arthur Gibbs. His great, great granddaughter Bronwyn Fisher purchased a copy of “Boys from the Rush Beds-The History of Ballarat City Rowing Club” for her brother. She mentioned in passing, that her grandmother had had a photograph hanging over her fireplace of Arthur and his crew from 1878 and also that she had seen a second copy some years ago in the kitchen of a homestead near Horsham. I was very excited and asked if the photo still existed as this was the earliest photo from the club that I had heard of. At my request, she asked around the family and her cousin Heather Lewin kindly forwarded images of the original photo. I hope to have the individual photographs restored and a copy of the original made. Arthur is pictured bottom right hand oval. This is a little of his story.

It was remarkable to see actual images of Arthur Gibbs, John Fitzgerald, Walter Dawson and Fred Tregaskis with Peter Cazaly junior their coxswain. Peter Cazaly senior was both club Captain and coach of the crew. Interesting also to note that their uniform is the white singlet with a RED star. I had forgotten this fact but in my initial research for “Boys From The Rush Beds” I found a small article in the Star newspaper about Arthur Gibb’s crew rowing the fastest trial mile on the Lake of 5 minutes and 45 seconds and indicating that the crew “with the white cap and red star” would be hard to beat at upcoming regattas. It was the custom then of having oarsmen all in white with different colored caps and emblems to distinguish them. The magnificent Grand Challenge Cup pictured in the centre, was made by renowned silversmith, Edward Fischer of Geelong.

The 3rd Annual Barwon Regatta was held on Tuesday, April 2nd 1878. It was a half day holiday in Geelong and by the start of racing over 1000 spectators were present. However by 3 o’clock, one report states there were over 7000 spectators! Even given the propensity for members of the press to exaggerate, there were a lot of people there. To get to the river of course there would have been all sorts of horse drawn carriages and a lot of horsemen actually riding up and down the bank following the racing. The Ballarat City crew would have had to bring themselves and their boat up from Ballarat by train possibly on the Sunday or Monday before the event. It is a long way from the current railway station in Geelong to the river, so again they would have had to load it on a dray or wagon and get it to the river. All of this before they’d even raced.

The race was advertised as the Grand Challenge Cup for best boats and the prize worth 30 pounds with medals or cups. Just as the crews were heading to the start, it was reported that something was wrong with Fitzgerald’s sliding seat and on examination it was found that two screws were missing from one of the slides. This was fixed and they headed out to race. Their opposition was the Melbourne crew who had beaten them last year. The regatta course was about 1 ¼ miles from the Prince Albert Bridge to the fence at the foot of Bellarine Street. The City crew got away first and led for 20 yards until the Melbourne crew pulled through to be on equal terms. After half the distance was covered City again began to pull ahead and gradually increased their lead to come home winners. The margin depends on which newspaper report you read, anywhere from 1 ½ lengths to four lengths. It obviously didn’t matter too much back then!

 It was reported on the 11th of April that “Four pretty cups have been manufactured by Mr. E. Fischer to the order of the crew of the Ballarat City Rowing Club who were successful in winning the Grand Challenge Cup. The crew chose cups in preference to medals, as trophies of their prowess.” It is worth noting that silver trophies made by Edward Fischer are worth thousands of dollars today! Unfortunately the family do not still have the trophy. After Arthur raced and won Maiden sculls at the Melbourne Regatta, he wrote a letter to the newly formed Victorian Rowing Association complaining about the value of the gold medal he received for winning. He requested that he be supplied “without delay” a silver cup! He contrasted the “liberality of the Barwon Regatta…… with the niggardliness of the association…….”.The letter caused some mirth but the VRA voted not to take any notice of Mr.Gibbs and his request. It was however reported in the Argus newspaper so I’m not sure what Arthur would have felt upon reading that.

At the club’s Annual Meeting, the report stated that “… the Cup had been won for the second time by Messrs. Dawson, Tregaskis, Fitzgerald and Gibbs. This crew is entitled to your best thanks and the highest credit, in competing against the picked oarsmen of the colony, especially bearing in mind that two of them Messrs. Tregaskis and Dawson, were maiden oarsmen at the time. Great efforts will be made to win the Barwon Challenge Cup at the next regatta when, if successful, it will become the property of the club. To achieve this a new boat will be required-and we will need to work hard to raise the funds……”

This they did in 1879 and at the 1879 Annual Meeting the Barwon Grand Challenge Cup was presented to Captain/coach Peter Cazaly in recognition of his driving force behind the three wins that secured the cup for the club. Arthur Gibb had been stroke of the crew for four years and they had won the Grand Challenge Cup three times gaining it for the club in perpetuity. Ballarat City were the first Ballarat club to win such a prestigious trophy.  Sadly that beautiful cup lies somewhere at the bottom of the lake, destroyed in the boatshed fire of 1950.

A note about the uniform. In 1879 the club also decided to move to a colored uniform that was becoming the fashion in England to distinguish crews from one another at a distance. Ballarat City decided on amber and black horizontal stripes three inches wide! It certainly would have stood out from a distance.

In 1880 it was reported in the Star newspaper that “ Mr. Arthur Gibbs, who had so often lead the City Club to victory and who was stroke of the crew who won the Barwon Challenge Cup, opened a tobacconist at 43 Sturt Street next to Fussell’s Hotel on the south-west corner of Sturt and Albert Streets.”

 Arthur kept rowing and at the Barwon regatta of 1880 stroked the Senior four that placed second to Corio Bay in the final. However, in the heat they accounted for the Barwon crew which had Steve Fairbairn and Mr.Armytage in it. Both had rowed at Oxford University and of course Steve Fairbairn would become an iconic figure in both English and Australian rowing. They also raced the Melbourne crew in the heat that comprised Mr. Booth and Mr. Irving, who were both Intercolonial representatives. The City crew was still rowing in the old clinker four while the other three crews all had the latest racing outrigger boats.

In 1883 Arthur Gibbs was still racing and represented the club in Senior eights at Ballarat Regatta. The crew finished a close second to Ballarat Rowing Club. Arthur Gibb was our most successful stroke of the first decade of the club and also our first and only rower to win Senior sculls, pairs, fours and eights for the club. By 1884 it was reported in the Star that the selection committee of the club had not selected Arthur for the Senior four or Senior eight as he was not racing condition. But he was still involved with the club and rowing because in early 1885 he was back stroking both boats again in training. In March 1885 he moved to Melbourne bringing down the curtain on his illustrious rowing days at Ballarat City.



1875 Senior gig, Melbourne Regatta-J.Stout, A.Gibbs,W.Crampton, Z.Giles

1875 Senior eight, Ballarat-W.Stout,T.Hughes,J.Hewitt,A.Gibbs,J.Stout,D.Lesells,W.Crampton,Z.Giles

          Senior four, Ballarat Regatta- J.Stout, A.Gibbs, W.Crampton, Z.Giles

          Senior gig, Barwon- J.Stout, A.Gibbs, W.Crampton, Z.Giles

1876 Senior four, Barwon-A.Brown, J.Fitzgerald, W.Crampton, A.Gibbs, cox; C.Miller         (1st Barwon Cup)

          Senior gig, Barwon- A.Brown, J.Fitzgerald, W.Crampton, A.Gibbs, cox; C.Miller

1878 Senior four, Barwon-W.Dawson, A.McNaughton, J.Fitzgerald, A.Gibbs, cox: P.Cazaly  (2nd Barwon Cup)

1878  Maiden scull, Melbourne –A.Gibbs

1878 Any four oar, Colac- W.Dawson, A.McNaughton, J.Fitzgerald, A.Gibbs

1879  Senior four, Ballarat- W.Dawson, F.Tregaskis , J.Fitzgerald, A.Gibbs (Sunbury Cup)

           Junior scull, Ballarat-A.Gibbs

           Senior scull, Ballarat-A.Gibbs

1879  Senior four, Barwon- W.Dawson, F.Tregaskis , J.Fitzgerald, A.Gibbs,cox; P.Cazaly      (3rd Barwon Cup)

1881 Senior four, Upper Yarra-A.Kortlang, A.Gibbs, J.Byrne, E.Baylee, cox: A.Wright

1882 Senior eight, Ballarat-A.Kortlang, J.Byrne, W.Trahar, A.McNaughton, A.Tapper, R.Jeffree,    

                   J.Fitzgerald, A.Gibbs, cox; A.Wright

           Maiden eight, Ballarat-J.Jamieson, A.Hollander, W.Trahar, J.Barnes, A.Gibbs, R.Jeffree,   

                   A.Tapper, A.McNaughton, cox; C.Baylee

%d bloggers like this: