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History of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club in Victoria Australia

History of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club

1974 – Settling down

Office bearers for Begonia City Ladies RC elected at the meeting in October 1973 were not recorded anywhere. The minutes of the Ballarat City Rowing Club reported that the women were going to have a meeting three weeks after the AGM to elect office bearers. The women would have had three positions to fill; Captain, Vice-Captain and Secretary. It would appear that Jan Madin did continue on in the Captain’s role as the correspondence dated the 3rd of December, just prior to the 1974 Annual Meeting, would indicate. She married Guy Falla, a Wendouree rower, in early 1974. She was still working at the Ballarat Town Hall. As the correspondence was addressed to her at the Town Hall, she was possibly filling the role of secretary also. Margaret Young was Vice-captain as she was named as one of the organisers for the club Rowathon in March 1974. Ballarat City’s office bearers elected at the Annual meeting in September 1973 and who were in office for most of 1974 were: President-Ralph Murphy; Treasurer-Bob Lawrie; Secretary- Rob McGuire; Bill Davies-Captain and Danny Elliott-Vice-Captain.

letter from Jan (Madin) Falla

The letter is from Jan (Madin) Falla and she is writing about arrangements for the Begonia City Ladies Regatta in February, 1975

She signs it as Captain and it was sent on September 3rd, 1974 just prior to the BCRC Annual Meeting on September 20th, when the new committee members were elected. It is reasonable to assume that Jan remained Captain of the club from 1971-1974 and then did not continue after the 1974 Annual meeting when a new Captain was elected. She was possibly also filling the role of secretary.

Very little seems to have happened in early 1974 in terms of racing for the women. Racing began for the Begonia City Ladies at Ballarat Regatta on March 11th, 1974. There were two races again on the Ballarat Regatta program for women - Novice fours and Maiden fours. Begonia City entered a Maiden four of Karen Jones, Marg Young, Helen Young and Judy Trevena and a Novice four of Lucy Barber, Mary Gallagher, Helen Sproule and Jenny Stapleton. Unfortunately it is not recorded if they had any success at this regatta. Ballarat was one of the few regattas that the club is recorded as attending this year. 

1974 regatta program cover
timetable in program
begonia city maiden fours entries in program
begonia city novice fours entries in program

Cover, timetable and Begonia City entries from the Ballarat Regatta Program 1974.

There was also a report made by Ralph Murphy, in the minutes of the Ballarat City Rowing Club’s February Committee meeting, of a Women’s Maiden pair attending Warrnambool Regatta. There was no detail of names even though they won . It was probably Judy Trevena and Margaret Young who had been competing as a pair and having some success.

Apart from racing at Ballarat Regatta and Warrnambool Regatta, no other regattas appear to have been attended. March saw another club Rowathon held to raise money for the club organised by the two club captains Bill Davies and Jan (Madin) Falla, and Vice-captains, Danny Elliott and Margie Young. It was reported in the minutes of Ballarat City Rowing Club meeting 5/3/1974, that 60 members took part. This was nearly 100% of the membership and an amazing effort. The men’s side of the club had seen an influx of new members and had considerable on water success. The resurgence of the men lead to much greater activity around the club and more wins recorded than for the last six seasons.

murphy named women's selector newspaper article

Also in early 1974, President Ralph Murphy was named as a State selector for the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association. In his position as an umpire and also as coach of several Begonia City Ladies crews, meant that he attended many of the women’s regattas and saw a lot of the racing. In this capacity he was appointed to assist in the selection of the Victorian women’s crews to compete at the National Championships that were held in Perth in April 1974.

The 1974 Annual General Meeting for Ballarat City Rowing Club and Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club was held on September 20th, with 35 members and Associates present. There was no separate report presented for Begonia City Ladies activities for the 1973-74 season. There were also combined elections for committee members for both clubs. Graeme Angow was returned as president of BCRC this season and Rob McGuire continued as secretary. Mr. Alf Quick became treasurer after Mr. Bob Lawrie retired, serving over twenty-five years as treasurer. The club, in recognition of his sterling service, made a presentation to him of an engraved silver tray. Danny Elliott was elected Captain. Begonia City Ladies elected Margaret Young as Captain, replacing Jan (Madin) Falla who had been Captain since inception. Mary Young was elected Vice-Captain and Mary Gallagher elected as secretary. Financial affairs of Begonia City were taken care of by Alf Quick, treasurer for BCRC.

Open Day in early November, there was again a large attendance of members and usual races of Scratch fours and Mixed fours were held. The winning crews were for the scratch fours: - Alan Dixon, Peter Moon, J. Fox and N. Doolan. The Mixed fours were won by Daryl Calvert, Jim Burzacott, Mary Young and Mary Gallagher. Following this was the christening of the new racing four, which had been purchased from St. Patrick’s College and the new boat trailer, which was built by Bob and Graeme Angow. 

The racing four was christened the GRAEME ANGOW and the boat trailer the ROBERT ANGOW in appreciation and recognition of all that these two gentlemen had contributed to the Club. Robert (Bob) Angow with his brother Norm and son Graeme, built the trailer themselves and it was the first proper boat trailer the club had for taking boats to regattas. A smorgasbord dinner at the Eureka Hotel was enjoyed after the formalities concluded. The Ballarat City club had wins in Novice pairs and sculls at the Ballarat Rowing Association Open Day but as far as can be ascertained there were no races for women on the program this year.

At the quarterly meeting of December 10th, nominations were received for several new members for Begonia City Ladies. Nominations were received from Anne-Maree Grace, Tracey Kriz, Pauline Gallagher and Kate Wise. One of these was Kate Wise (later Elliott), started her rowing career in 1974 for Begonia City Ladies. Having been a part of the first rowing “program” at Loreto run by Physics teacher Russell Foley in the winter of 1974, Kate Wise, Anne-Maree Grace and Mary Daniel, all Loreto students, went over to Begonia City to continue rowing. Anne-Maree Grace and Mary Daniel trained for a month or two and then Mary pulled out leaving a vacancy in their novice four. Anne-Maree asked Kate Wise to fill in and the rest, as they say, is history! For Kate (Wise) Elliott it was the beginning of a rowing journey that still continues today. 

Also joining Begonia City this year and rowing in the Novice four was Tracey Kriz and her friend Pauline Gallagher. Tracey’s younger sister Andrea would join a few months later. Tracey, Pauline and Andrea were students at Sacred Heart College, later to be Damascus and they were the first girls from Sacred Heart College to become involved in rowing. Andrea would go on to be in many successful crews and also serve as Captain and secretary of Begonia City Ladies and join Kate as a very successful member of both Begonia City and Ballarat City. 

It was reported at the Annual meeting that the club needed more coaches. Coaches were always difficult to find and the Ballarat City Rowing Club committee decided to place an advertisement in the local paper, the Ballarat Courier, to advertise for coaches for both men’s and ladies crews at the end of November. 

Memories of rowing at Loreto 1974 Kate (Wise) Elliott

In the winter of 1974, my then physics teacher Russell Foley, who quietly and consistently encouraged his female students to expand their horizons beyond the traditional, somehow managed to obtain permission to borrow rowing equipment from St. Patrick’s College. Russell, who had rowed at University, as far as I know, was our coach. We were not allowed to use the wooden racing boats or tub boats that the boys used but were relegated to the “Barge”. This monstrous, rectangular contraption that weighed as much as the Queen Mary had to be lugged out of the shed by 8 small females all averaging about 50 kilos and the not so robust coach. To add to the degree of difficulty, we could only use the equipment at 6 am in the morning to avoid, I presume, distracting any male students that may have been at the boatshed. Believe me when I say, we did not see any male students foolish enough or keen enough to train in mid-winter at 6am on Lake Wendouree!

Despite the challenges presented before we even took to the water there were about 10 of us who were interested enough to turn up and literally launch Loreto’s first organised rowing program. Of those 10 or so who participated, only two continued on to join a club and race at regattas and of those two, only one stayed with the club competing successfully for over 30 years. 

The Barge

The Barge was a rectangular pontoon with conventional sliding seats and riggers-four on either side and a walk way down the middle so the coach/instructor could walk up and down to coach. It did have a rudder but as it was so heavy to actually get it to move in any direction took a supreme effort of will. We rarely rowed enough strokes in unison to have it move in a straight line at any sort of speed. The vital element -rhythm -was mostly absent from our outings. But on a foggy winter’s morning flailing through the pre-dawn mist and watching the sunrise over the enchanting Lake Wendouree-I was hooked. Being short-sighted I had been hopeless at ball games of all sorts and so ruled out any sort of traditional sports. Here was a sport which if I practiced, poor eye hand co-ordination was not a barrier. Here was something I could work hard at as part of a team, enjoy and not worry about letting my team/crew down by missing a catch or not hitting the ball. It was exhilarating, it was adventurous and it was truly pioneering. Only a handful of schoolgirls had thus far graced the waters of the Lake in rowing boats at Begonia City but we were the very first school girls from Loreto to take it on.

similar to the barge

The barge was similar to this but with no rudder and made of plywood, no rudder and with a centre walkway for the coach to walk along! It also weighed a ton.

1974 Regatta and Racing

Begonia City Ladies did not run a regatta in 1974. The third annual regatta had been held at the start of the 1973-74 season, on November 4th 1973. The fourth regatta would not be held until February 1975. 

Given that the men’s crews were probably using the boats and available coaching and that there were still very few women’s races on these regatta programs the women did not get to compete until Ballarat Regatta in March. After that they did not appear to continue either training or racing.

1.Ballarat Regatta, 11th March, Lake Wendouree.

Ladies Novice four:-Lucy Barber, Mary Gallagher, Helen Sproule, Jenny Stapleton.

Ladies Maiden Four:-Karen Jones, Marg Young, Helen Young, Judy Trevena.

2. Nestles Regatta:-November 30th, Hopkins River, Warrnambool.

Ladies Maiden pair:- probably two members of the Maiden four from Ballarat Regatta

3. Ballarat City Rowing Club Open Day, November 3rd

Mixed fours:-Daryl Calvert, Jim Burzacott, Mary Young, Mary Gallagher-first

4. Dimboola Regatta November 16th, Wimmera River.

Ladies Senior B pair:-not recorded. Possibly Judy Trevena and Margaret Young.

5.Horsham Regatta, November 17th, Wimmera River.

Ladies Senior B pair:-not recorded.

hand written crew entry

I (Kate Elliott) discovered this crew’s entry from the treasurer’s notation of entry fees on the back of the 1974-75 annual report. When I checked the minutes of November 19th committee meeting, a men’s Novice pair of Neil Trevena and Norm Young were reported as winning at Dimboola. The VLRA Regatta Program provided the dates of the regatta. It would be reasonable to assume Neil and Norm’s sisters, Judy Trevena and Margaret Young, may have been rowing the pair and gone to the regatta with their brothers.

VLRA Regatta Program

Copy of the VLRA Regatta Program for the 1974-75 season. It is of interest to note that there were very limited racing opportunities for women compared to today. Even women’s regattas had limited Novice and maiden events. Men’s regattas typically had 2 to 3 women’s events on their programs. Championship races denoted by a circle were held at several different regattas.

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