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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 5 - The Heroes of Old 1901-1919

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It was in 1912 that an Australia-wide definition of "amateur" was adopted by all sports affiliated with the Amateur Sporting Federation. The Barwon Rowing Club had supported the establishment of the federation and expressed their desire to mark distinctly the difference between an amateur and a professional. The final definition read: "An amateur is one who has never competed for a money prize, staked bet, or declared wager, or who has not knowingly, and without protest, competed with or against a professional fora prize of any description, or for public exhibition, or who has never taught, pursued or assisted in the practice of any athletic exercise as a means of livelihood or for pecuniary gain".

The establishment of the federation was prompted by the growing popularity of all sports in Australia. Rowing was held in high esteem as it embodied the ideal of subordination of the individual's desire for the common good of the crew. But rowing was an expensive sport entirely funded by the participants, as regattas raised little money. Victorians had long been considered the "stylists" of Australian rowing and had developed a style which differed from the orthodox English form, as explained by a contemporary: The Australians row a stroke in which the body swing is shorter and in which the body lift, leg drive are blended uniformly and continuously into an even-powered stroke. The body is recovered to a natural sitting position, with the slide still on the back, and the swing forward is continued, using body and slide until both reach the 'forward" position simultaneously. There are other differences in detail, namely that the blade is "rowed" into the water rather than 'dipped' in.

The club was soon leasing the nearby Connewarre boatshed from the Geelong Harbor Trust for its fleet of eights and the committee was considering seriously various fund-raising schemes to enlarge the shed following a very successful 1912 season. Early in 1913, W. H. Pincott put forward a motion for the construction of a gymnasium. A grand fund-raising ball was held in May at Strachan, Murray and Shannon's woolstore, but the net proceeds of £66 were not spent on Pincott's project. At a stormy committee meeting his motion was rescinded and instead, the money was spent on a new eight. By October the club membership was split over the issue and morale was low. It was serious enough fora special general meeting to be called for 8 October at the Mechanic's Institute. Forty members attended and the following decision was duly recorded in the minutes:
... to discuss and thrash out, and substantiate the rumours re a split among the members of the Shed so that anything wrong may be righted and the harmony of the Shed restored.

The Chairman opened proceedings by reading a memo composed jointly by the three vice-presidents -Messrs Storrer, Bannister and Pincott - which put the matter clearly and impartially before the meeting. A general discussion took place - questions asked and answers given - and when the matter was properly thrashed out by a unanimous show of hands it was decided to sink all differences and work together again. A vote of thanks for Mr Pincott for the able and painstaking way he managed the whole of a difficult proceeding closed the meeting.

By 1914 the Barwon Regatta was one of the most popular rowing fixtures in the state. More than 500 competitors and spectators from Ballarat alone arrived in Geelong by special train and along with a huge crowd witnessed an exhibition of wire walking. In May of that year Eliot Shannon was killed in a car accident in the Western District whilst on his honeymoon. Eliot had been a crew member of the victorious 1908 Maiden Eight double at Ballarat and Barwon. His death was to be first of many for the club in the following years.

World War I was declared in August and on the first day of enlistment for Australia's Expeditionary force to Europe, eight members of the Barwon Rowing Club presented themselves for service. They were J. Paul, R. Barnfather, J. Munday, M. Stoner, H. Hurst, A. Taylor, H. McRae and V. Ibbotson. Three club members were also training at Queenscliff, making six from the victorious 1914 Maiden Eight at Ballarat on active service. Despite the war, the Colac Regatta was held in January 1915, with Barwon winning the Maiden Four and the Barwon Regatta was held also that year. But the club was gradually being depleted as more and more men answered their country's call. By the close of 1915 23 members had enlisted. Presenting the annual report, the president Mr. Bostock noted that several others, although eager had been unable to go and that almost all eligible members had gone to the front. The club, he said, was doing its part in the cause of King and country. Three rowers had already paid the supreme sacrifice; Lieutenants J. C. Paul and H. Hughes and Sergeant C. M. Storrer. Paul and Storrer both worked for Dalgety and Co. and their deaths at Gallipoli were described by fellow worker and former Barwon member, Norman Hurst, in a letter to the company.

I regret to write particulars of Murray Storrer's death, which occurred in the trenches. He turned out a smart soldier, and was doing good work - was popular with everyone, and is greatly missed by us all. The Turks were pumping shrapnel into our trenches from about 6.30am till gam, and they made it fairly uncomfortable for us. Murray was sitting in a recess in the firing line having his breakfast of bully and biscuit at about 7 am when a shell burst right over him, a fragment of which hit him on the top of the head, exposing the brain. He lost consciousness instantly, no one knew he was hit for some seconds as he never moved, just sat there with a piece of biscuit in his hand. We got him to the dressing station, where he died at 1 pm, without regaining consciousness.

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