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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 5 - The Heroes of Old 1901-1919

Chapter 5 page 1 2 3 4 5 6

Hope shone bright in Barwon's eyes on the pleasant moonlit night of Easter Thursday. The "eight" had reduced their time over the course to a record, and the 'four" were in the best of fighting trim; the veteran "Pinny" and the wily 'Pat" had wagged their heads together over their watches and had parted wreathed in smiles of satisfaction. The boats were trucked and on the road to Gippsland, and twenty-two enthusiastic oarsmen and barrackers turned their backs on Geelong and labelled their bags for Bairnsdale and the Gippsland Lakes. The Melbourne rendezvous was the Port Phillip Club where "Barney the Wowse" had made all arrangements for comfort.

Good Friday meant an early start, as the train left somewhere about eight o' clock. Sundry free fights occurred near the bathroom for pride of place under the shower, and this question being thus satisfactorily disposed of, it remained to pull the blankets off and otherwise forcibly eject reluctant risers. All these things being accomplished, the noble twenty-two mustered in force for breakfast - 'Stake the oysi' and 'eggs the bake' polling about equal favourites. Sixpence in made the waiters happy for the day - and the next move was for Princes' Bridge.

Here occurred the first of the disasters that crowded thick and fast upon us during the trip. The railway officials had reserved two carriages for the Barwon boys, and these we occupied with force and held against frantic fathers of families and perspiring mothers of ten. All went well until the train was due to start, when a voluble railway official protested that the Barwon "mob" were not all in the reserved carriages. The last sight we had was Barney struggling in the arms of two porters, with a third manoeuvring for action, and a strange, sultry, sulphurous haze hanging over the four combatants.

After this mishap we had need of comfort, and we found our salvation in a megaphone. At the mouth of Roady the Knight this proved a surprisingly rich source of humour. But Friday proved a long day. The wheels of Victorian trains grind exceedingly small and the many miles to Gippsland took a lot of reeling off.

Early rising was the rule on Regatta day. Boats were untrucked, riggers fitted, lost nuts hunted for and everything got ready for action. The disappointment of the day was, of course, the capsizing of the eight when leading by a length 150 yards from home. This was also the sensation of the day. The end of a hard race is not the most suitable occasion to be tipped out and have to swim, and the accident might easily have ended in tragedy. Lin Storrer dived and brought Ossy the Bat up from the depths; a very creditable performance. Barwon's bad luck was continued by the maiden four just failing by half a length to catch Albert Park in the finals. Barney, Shardey, Pro and Macka the Toash were rowing good form and were rapidly overtaking the "Parks", who had obviously done their dash. This is another of the might-have-beeps. It was a disastrous day for Barwon. Who was the Jonah?

Regatta night was given up to revelry - everybody was off the chain. Sunday was spent on the "Gippsland" in a pleasant excursion down the Mitchell and through the Lakes to Cunningham. All were out to enjoy themselves, and the day swung along very happily. Darkie the Marsh added by a gang of "Banks" and "Barwon" discoursed popular choruses from the bows. Midday was got at Cunningham, and we were back at the moorings at Bairnsdale in time for tea.

On Sunday night each did his own kind. At this stage, White (who had collected £3 on the boat for donation to the hospital) was posted as missing, but it is satisfactory to learn that the Bairnsdale Hospital funds are intact, and it is obvious therefore that some other explanation for his disappearance must be sought.

Most of the party retired fairly early on Sunday, as the through train to Melbourne left on the Monday morning at the unhallowed hour of 5.45.

In the early 1900s the club's executive had been at the forefront of various schemes to improve the Barwon River and its surroundings. In both 1902 and 1905, conferences were called by all those interested in the river. Rowing clubs, councils, industries and large land holders joined together over the condition of the Breakwater. The river-based industries, in particular, were interested in upgrading the river to allow alternative transportation of their products. From an industrial point of view, the prospect of a river which was navigable from the mills to the sea would allow wool to be brought directly to the mills and the final product to be shipped away directly from the factories. In 1911 interest was renewed in this project when freight was moved down the river by W. Glees who mined sand at Queen's Park and towed it to his landing stage on the south bank west of the Barwon bridge. The sand was then conveyed by road to the pipe factory at Marshall for use in the Barwon aqueduct.

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