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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 2 - Here's a Health to the Barwon 1870

Chapter 2 page 1 2 34

Rowing in Geelong for the next 18 months was confined to casual outings for those devotees who had access to the boats of the city's failed clubs. Then, on Wednesday, 22 June 1870 the Geelong Advertiser carried the following notice:

A meeting of Gentlemen desirous of forming a rowing club on the Barwon river will be held at Mack's Hotel on Wednesday the 22nd inst., at half-past four o'clock when all interested are requested to attend. Edward H. Lascelles.

At Mack's Hotel that afternoon a gathering of fourteen gentlemen elected Edward Lascelles as honorary secretary, Charles Farrell as treasurer and Edward Lennon, Charles Shannon, F. Pincott, F. Shaw and J. Arthur. as a temporary committee. Of these men, only Shannon and Lennon had not been involved with Geelong's earlier rowing clubs. Lascelles and Shannon were young men just starting out in the profitable wool-broking business in Geelong, whereas Lennon was headmaster of the Flinders National School and Frederick Pincott was a solicitor. All four were well educated and occupied positions of respect and status within the close-knit community. The committee was to draw up a report on the establishment of a club, to be known as the Barwon Rowing Club and were authorised to collect donations for the building of a boatshed and the purchase of boats.

The meeting that afternoon enrolled as members James Strachan, M. Montgomery, J. M. Simson, A. C. Hugo, H. T. Riddle and F. Martin. Subscriptions were set at one guinea with an entrance fee of half a guinea. Upon the donation of £5 James Wilson, a wealthy landowner, became the first life member. The Geelong Advertiser wished the venture every success. It approved of the river location, noting again that the north-easterly winds on the bay had prevented previous clubs from training for up to a week. With only two days a week usually suitable for rowing these notorious north-easterlies had contributed to the failure of previous rowing ventures and to Geelong's poor position amongst the colony's rowing clubs. The heavy expense involved in setting up a rowing club was mentioned also and an appeal made to the general community to contribute generously to the club. However, the town could boast at least one world class rower in James Ford Strachan, who had been described in the London papers as the best oarsman of the Oxford and Cambridge boat race crews the year before. The anonymous winner of several Thames regatta races was reported also to be showing a keen interest in the new club.

The very next day, Thursday, the committee assembled and then set out to select a site for the club's boatshed. They agreed upon a piece of Crown Land on the north bank of the Barwon River, close to the bridge on Moorabool Street. Over the weekend 30 young men enrolled as members; amongst them were represented some of Geelong's respected and ruling class families: W. Timms, J. Simpson, W. Burrow, J. R. Morris, A. S. Park, W. Guthrie, G. Hitchcock, R. C. Hope, C. A. Mount, A. S. Robertson, H. A. Morrison, A. W. Anderson, A. G. Rose, S. Brearley, G. Day, H. Roebuck, R. Cornish, R. Blunden, A. G. Peel, A. Robinson, E. Landon, Wilson, S. Anderson, Templar, E. Custot, G. Henry, T. McLeod, J. Booth, M. L. Dennys and C. Smith. Joining as life members were H. S. Lewis, A. Buchanan, T. Austin and J. L. Currie.

Two weeks after the notice in the paper had appeared, the first general meeting of the Barwon Rowing Club was held at Mack's Hotel, on Friday 8 July. The club's first office bearers were S. V. Buckland as president, C. Shannon as captain and a committee of F. R. Pincott, J. Arthur, F. R. Shaw and P. W. Rose. Joining the select group of life members were the Hon. John Cumming and P. Russell, members of Parliament, S. V. Buckland, P. Huddart, John Wilson, A. Volum and John Ware. Plans were enthusiastically discussed for a Barwon Regatta and Mr. Strachan was expected to arrive in Geelong shortly from overseas to stroke the "crack four' of the colony. It was also planned to provide the club members with pleasure boats for picnic parties, an idea designed to broaden the appeal of the club.

The temporary committee had ready for the first general meeting a plan fora boathouse which was designed by the local architectural firm of Davidson and Henderson. The meeting approved the plan and authorised the calling of tenders for immediate construction. The response of Geelong's young male population was gratifying and there was a feeling of confidence that this club would succeed. Indeed, within a month the government had granted permissive occupancy of the site and a single-storey timber building of two bays had been erected. By 1 August the new boatshed was complete. Although it held only two boats, a four and pair-oared gigs, it was spacious enough to allow for the new boats which were expected any day.

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