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Adelaide Rowing Club - The First Hundred Years

A Narrative History 1882-1982 - Compiled by R W Richardson

6. Narrative History of the Adelaide Rowing Club - 1897-1902

Successful Rowing Result Season 1897-98

Notwithstanding all the socializing and other functions, the Club managed to win the major races for the Season, Champion 4's, Champion 8's, Webb memorial cup and Ladies Challenge Shield and a Maiden 4's race for good measure.

Random Events 1897-98

June: The Vice Captain reported that some person had entered the boathouse and stolen 2 sets of boxing gloves and a gallon jar of whisky.

August: Profit from the Annual Ball was £62-10-8, plus two donations totalling £6-0-0.

October: The Captain, John Milne, stepped down from that office and Rev. Henry Girdlestone, Headmaster of St. Peters College was elected in his place, after twelve years of continuous service.

J Quinton Bruce Mr G McEwin

J Quinton Bruce and Mr G McEwin

J Quinton Bruce was Treasurer from 1890-94, Assistant Secretary in 1895 amd Secretary in 1896. Mr McEwin was a prominent oarsman and later Captain.

Offer For Banks Rowing Club

In June, 1898 there was another flood, but not as severe as the 1889 one. It did quite a lot of damage, however, to the boatsheds upstream of Adelaide's, particularly to Norwood, Way College and Banks, and to the boats in them and in the Commercial R.C. shed. As a result, Norwood and Commercial Rowing Clubs amalgamated to become Mercantile Rowing Club, and Banks, with 10 members, damaged boats, a battered shed and £8 in cash, called for offers from the other clubs.

Adelaides offered free entrance fees and free membership for two years for the ten members. The shed was worthless where it was, and obviously vulnerable to the next flood and the boats needed a lot of money to be spent on them to make them serviceable.

But Banks held out for a better offer, and the name faded from the Adelaide scene.

A little later a break-away group at Mercantiles, mainly Norwood men, acquired the remnants and set up as a new Rowing Club, calling themselves "Torrens Boating Club".

Season 1898-99

The new Captain, The Reverend Henry Girdlestone, had stroked the Oxford 8, and had carried on the tradition of manly sports after he was appointed Headmaster in 1894, but the rarefied atmosphere of the Anglican Church and the dignity designed to impress adolescents was somewhat embarrassing in the company of the convivial spirits of the Adelaide Rowing Club.

Prince Alfred College for many seasons, had kept their boats in the Adelaide shed, but this year they ceased to row, not because of the new Captain, but some completely different reason, not recorded.

Fred Acraman that stalwart of many fine wins in senior and Champion events, left and was given a send off and presented with a handsome dressing case. George Steel reached the tally of 50 wins for, or in A.R.C. not long after Grayson had done.

The Senior Crew of Mildred, Hamilton, Gosse and Grayson won three good races, but none of the junior echelon won any races. At S.A.R.A. regattas, Champion Senior 4's over 2 miles was won mainly because Ports sank; time 30 mins. 30 secs. Eight club events were held; Opening Day, Swimming Races, Trial 4's, Senior-Junior 4's, Pair oar races, Closing Day Club Picnic, Annual Ball, plus the usual Smoke Socials, athletic class and the committee was persuaded to order a new racing 4 from England, a famous Clasper.

But it was a dull year.

So at the Annual General Meeting the great man was promoted to Glory, to become a Vice President, and they voted in as Captain, the man who had coached the club crews to so many victories, W.L. Burton.

The new Patron, as before, was the new Governor, who had succeeded Lady Victoria and Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, namely Lord Tennyson, and the Club welcomed as honorary members Captain Lascelles, the A.D.C. and The Hon. Alf Tennyson from Government House.

Next September, The Reverend Vice President Jingles Girdlestone took unto himself a wife.

Season 1899-1900

Queen Victoria was still on the throne, and a very old Lady. Australia was bursting to break its bonds with the Mother Country and become a self governing nation.

The Boers in South Africa had begun attacking, and war was declared a couple of weeks before the Adelaide Rowing Club held its Opening Day.

The Torrens Lake was described in the Press as "unsightly" - weeds and mud and debris remained after the usual winter "purge" when the water was allowed to flow unimpeded over the lowered weir, and hopefully take accumulated mud with it.

The members were in turmoil. Some joined up as soon as the call to the Colours was made, and by January 15th, 1900, the Club held its first of several socials in honour of its members who were shortly to leave for South Africa in the Mounted Rifles, V.M. Newland, H.W. Brown, W.G.P.R. Nordmann and A.G. Napier. Sir Richard Baker presided and the guest speaker was Colonel Gordon, who responded in a rousing manner to the toast "The British Army", which followed the Loyal Toast. The next toast was "The Guests" in which tribute was paid to the Boers (cries of hear, hear) reference made to Duty, Glory and Honour, the Bulldog Spirit, etc., attributes fostered by the Noble Sport of Rowing. Then followed toasts to "The Navy", to Karri Davis, a South Australian, who organized the Imperial Light Horse, (later to be commanded by a Major Tom Bridges, who was to be Governor of South Australia) to "The Girls They Left Behind" and to "The Chairman".

The toasts were interspersed with a programme of music and recitations organized by Joe Sharp. Stirring stuff. The Club had come alive.

The Committee decided to have a photograph taken of as many members as possible in front of the boathouse in December, and to hold a Dinner on the evening after the next Annual General Meeting, both new ideas.

Rowing, No Grayson, No Wins

One of the new men on the Committee was J.H. Gosse, who had already distinguished himself in the boat, and was a great footballer as well, and popular with the members, but as a replacement for A.J. Grayson at stroke of the Senior 8 and the Senior 4, he had a long way to go yet. The reason Alf gave up rowing for this season and the next is not recorded, but the results speak for themselves; four wins in two seasons, only one a Senior race. At least the young crew entered both Champion senior 8's and 4's against some strong opposition.

This was the season the S.A. Rowing Association decided to enter a crew in the Intercolonial 8's contest in Brisbane but without A.R.C. representation. Next contest would be called the Interstate 8's as Federation came during 1900, the first Parliament meeting in May 1901.

On closing day, Lady Tennyson had consented to name the new Clasper racing 4 "Onkaparinga", but then apologised for her absence on account of the death of her brother at the Boer War.

Season 1900-01

Federation, and Australia was a nation and South Australia a State of the Commonwealth, instead of a Colony, and no more customs duty to pay going over the border into Victoria or Western Australia.

The members voted in W.H.G. Blain as Captain, after he had been Vice Captain 5 1/2 years and a talented member of the Committee was Otto P. Heggie, who, not long after, left South Australia, and made his name internationally as a dramatic actor, and appeared on the English stage, and in Hollywood films.

Two members, to rise to prominence in the years to come, were F.W. Porter and R.F. Richardson.

The Committee, hoping to stimulate the rowing side of the Club, having lost so many experienced oarsmen lately, went shopping for a new racing 8, and having been given a sculling boat by Braund, and still housing P.A.C.'s boats on the racks, decided to look into a second extension to the boathouse.

The price shook them when they looked at the overdraft and the number of members each year they had to strike off the roll for defaulting, so the extensions were postponed, and because there were not enough experienced oarsmen to make up an eight worthy of entering Champion 8's, they entered only for Champion 4's, and came third in that.

Brown and Napier came back from the Boer War and were welcomed at the boathouse, and two more went off, hoping to get there before it was over, A.K. Harvey and C.H. Williams.

Death Of The Queen

On February 11th, 1901, Queen Victoria died.

Everyone went into mourning. A letter of condolence was sent to the Governor, Lord Tennyson; three Club functions were postponed and two abandoned, but gradually they were resumed, and life returned to normal. It was a matter of "The Queen is dead. Long live the King". And under Edward VII, things promised to be a bit more lively.

The Swimming Races were held, a picnic at Belair; the black armbands came off as they stripped off their clothes, and the Annual Ball was on again, with black armbands but Government House did not attend.

The Adelaide Rowing Club, in conjunction with the Associated Banks, and St. John's Dramatic Club, gave a Grand Theatre Night which proved a great success,. from the proceeds of which a gold chain was presented to Otto Heggie, together with a travelling bag prior to his departure. He wrote a touching letter in thanks for the reception.

As a final effort to get the Club's bank balance more healthy for the coming season, the Committee sold their 2 old 4's, the "Cam" and the "Isis" plus a set of oars to a new Rowing Club on the Torrens, the North Adelaide Rowing Club, for £20.

Season 1901-02

The purchase of new boats was taken up again, but the new 8 and the extensions to the boathouse were deferred in favour of two new 4's, which, when they arrived, were named, "Tamar" and "Derwent" by Mrs. Dixson at a ceremony on Closing Day.

Meanwhile, A.J. Grayson was back in the boat, and early in the season, stroked the Senior four to two good wins in the S.A.R.A. Summer Regatta, the Juniors also winning four events (see glossary).

They entered a crew in Champion 8's and went to the start in foul weather. Ports swamped in mid-stream, and Adelaides passed them, the coxswain bailing for all he was worth, and managed to keep afloat long enough to cross the finishing line ahead of their old rivals, who emptied their boat and took off after Adelaides, but could not catch them. Time 19 minutes 52 secs.

1902 Ch 8

1902 Champion Eight

Top row: G W Steel, R F Richardson, 3: J H Gosse, H W Brown. Bottom row" H H Mildred, A J Grayson (stroke), W H G Blain (capt.), D Blyth, R A Anderson, T E Burden (cox)

1902 Champion Eight

1902 Champion Eight

Adelaides went on to win Champion 4's also, a very creditable come back, after two seasons in the doldrums.

1902 Champion Four of SA

1902 Champion Four

l-r - J H Goose (3), A J Grayson (str), H H Mildred (bow), D Blyth (2) and T E Burden (cox)

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