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History of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club in Victoria Australia

History of Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club

1978 – Full amalgamation with Ballarat City Rowing Club

This year saw Kate Wise take on the Captain’s position for Begonia City Ladies and Andrea Kriz was elected to the secretary’s position. They were to be the last office bearers for Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club and would take up positions on the Ballarat City Rowing Club committee at the end of 1978. Bob Angow was President, Alf Quick continued as treasurer, Ralph Murphy as secretary and Danny Elliott again took the job of Captain. Kate and Andrea also started coaching this year and became the first female coaches to be involved in the Head of the Lake regatta when they coached the tenth and eleventh crews at St. Patrick’s College. Both coached winning crews. The Tenth crew won on Head of the Lake Regatta and the Eleventh crew won at the junior regatta that was held earlier in the week. This was again quite a break through to be the first females associated with the traditionally all-male regatta in 65 years! 

This season saw the two clubs record the highest number of wins ever for a season, with twenty-three in total between the two clubs. Both the women and the men’s club led and coached by Captain Danny Elliott, had their most successful season ever. Danny also won the club’s first Victorian Championship in a sweep-oared boat winning the Lightweight Coxless pairs on the lake in a composite crew with Terry Poole of Corio Bay. He scored another eleven wins in sculling events. 

The numbers of women rowing had again declined and due to the difficulty of getting regular crews together to train, Kate Wise, started sculling in Danny Elliott’s old scull. In her first season of racing in the scull, she scored eight wins for Begonia City Ladies. Begonia City Ladies also had two other wins, a Senior B four of Jenny Burzacott, Marg Elliott, Andrea Kriz and Kate Wise at Ballarat Regatta and a Senior B pair of Andrea Kriz and Kate Wise at Y.W.C.A.’s Regatta on Albert Park Lake. Begonia City Ladies had had perhaps ten wins in the previous 5 years it had been in operation and  Head of the Lake Program,April 8, 1978 this year they equalled that total in one year!

The successes for both clubs were mainly in sculling races and it gave an indication of where they were heading. The Captain/coach Danny Elliott decided that the club’s overall strength lay in members ability to compete in small boats, especially sculls, and a concentrated effort was made to teach all members to scull and compete at least at Novice level. The lack of suitable equipment made this difficult as the club did not own a racing scull or a decent tub scull. Most club members bought their own sculls and shared them with those younger members who could not afford to buy one. The other stark reality that led to this change in direction, was that the club simply did not have the numbers of members to boat crews that were competitive in the bigger boats. 

In Victoria in the 1977-78 season there were more opportunities for women to race at regattas. A total of 157 women’s events were programmed at seven women’s regattas and 27 mixed regattas. A regular competition for women’s eights was introduced. The number of women scullers increased dramatically. For the first time women took part in the winter sculling series for the Stokes Silver Salver.

It was also in this year that nationally rowing took on a new and more defined direction with a National Director being appointed. The appointment of Mr.Reinhold Batschi led to the Golden era of club rowing. He provided structure and direction at a National level and unified Australian rowing as it had never had been before. Mr. Batschi also recommended that if rowers were successful in small boats they would have a better chance of success in larger boats. A National selection policy was drafted that based selection on performance in pairs and sculls-a model that is still followed today.

A Special meeting of the club was held on September 19th  1978 to finally and officially amalgamate the Ballarat City Rowing Club and Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club. In reality, it was just putting the rubber stamp what had been happening in practice for the last couple of years. 

The Notice of Motion read:

“ Committee-The committee shall consist of seven members of which up to three members can be female.

Executive: Females may hold any executive office other than President.

Female Members: Female members to change their name to Ballarat City Ladies Rowing Club and uniform to be a navy tee shirt with white star on the left side. Club number to remain 4 with the approval of the VLRA.”

Danny Elliott moved the motion and former President Graeme Angow, who had first mooted the idea of amalgamation back in 1975, was the seconder. It was carried unanimously. The clubs had been operating and meeting as one club and the constitution was now changed to reflect that. This opened the way for women to hold positions on the committee and the executive of Ballarat City Rowing Club. The only office that a female was not to hold was that of president. Kate Wise, Marg Elliott and Andrea Kriz as the last office bearers of Begonia City Ladies approved the amalgamation. At the Annual General Meeting that immediately followed the Special meeting, these three became the first three female members of Ballarat City Rowing Club and the first women to be appointed to the committee. Kate Wise was elected to the assistant secretary’s position, Andrea Kriz was elected to the committee and Marg Elliott was elected Ladies Captain.

While the club made the change in September it was not until December that the VRA and VLRA ratified the change and so Begonia City Ladies raced for the last time at Artemis Ladies Regatta on November 4th, 1978. Kate Wise had her last race for Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club in the scull. Sadly she didn’t go out with a win but placed second in the Senior B scull and also in the Senior A scull. Just over a week later, at the Corio Bay Ladies Regatta on November 11th, Remembrance Day, the ladies of Ballarat City took to the water with a with Kate Wise again racing in Senior B and Handicap sculls and this time winning both events emphatically and recording the first wins for the women of  Ballarat City Rowing Club. 

Newspaper article, results from Artemis Ladies Rowing Club regatta, last regatta as Begonia City Ladies

Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club had been in existence for seven years. They had firmly established the sport of rowing for women in Ballarat. They had provided the opportunity for any female wanting to try the sport and secured a permanent home, equipment and coaching. While the numbers of members fluctuated, this was also the case for other women’s clubs struggling to gain a foothold in a male dominated sport. Begonia City Ladies certainly did their fair share of promoting the sport and highlighting what women could achieve in the sport if given the opportunity. When I joined the club in 1974 as a 16 year old, I scarcely thought I would be here nearly 50 years later chronicling the history of Begonia City. While it was sad to see Begonia City go, but it was a decision to streamline operations and reduce the duplication of time, money and effort needed to run women’s clubs separately to the men. This also happened at a state and National level later in the 1980’s.

An approach was again made by Ballarat City Rowing Club this year to Ballarat High School, to provide club members to coach their girls’ crews and loan appropriate equipment. This was nearly eight years after the Discontented Shorebound girls Kim Butler and Lois Schmidt had first questioned why rowing was not an option for girls. Girls crews had only just started to appear in the local schools and were still very much the “poor relations” in terms of coaches and equipment. Graeme Angow and Vin White offered to coach the girls as members of the club. However, once again, Ballarat High School did not take up the offer until later in 1979.

The very first High School girls crew to race in Head of the Lake in April of 1980, did train out of Ballarat City Rowing Club during 1979 and was comprised of Joanne Butler, Lyne Gibbons, Cathy Coutts, Roslyn Rixon with Julie Gibbons the cox. Joanne, Lyne and Ros would all later join Ballarat City RC and Lyne and Joanne continued to race with the club for the next three or four years. Lyne would also take a role on committee as treasurer in 1983 and serve in that capacity for nearly ten years.

From L-R:Marg Elliott, Andrea Kriz, Kate Wise, Danny Elliott, Ralph Murphy and Bob Angow. The amalgamation of Begonia City Ladies and Ballarat City Rowing Club showing the first three female committee members with the BCRC Captain, Secretary and President.

Sculling on the Yarra, Metropolitan Regatta, Senior A Sculls, October 14th,1978. Kate Wise, second place. One of the last races as Begonia City. 
Photographs from Kate (Wise) Elliott collection.

1978 Regattas and Racing

1.Colac Rowing Club Regatta, February 5th, Lake Colac.

Men’s lightweight Maiden pair:- Colin Angow(bow), Danny Elliott(str), Kate Wise (Cox)

2. Artemis Regatta, February 25th, Barwon River. 

Kate Wise, composite eight with Artemis Ladies RC-first heat, second in final

3.VRA Championship Regatta, March 12th, Lake Wendouree. 

Ladies Senior B four:- Kate Wise, Marg Elliott. Andrea Kriz, Jenny Burzacott-first

4. Head of the Lake, 8th April, Lake Wendouree. 

Tenth Crews, St. Patrick’s College- Kate Wise, coach; Eleventh crew- Andrea Kriz, coach. First females to participate in Head of the Lake in 65 years

5. Winter Sculling, August 26th, Barwon River Geelong. 

Kate Wise:-first race in scull. Rowed in Jeff Sykes scull in sculling relay-first.

6. VRA Regatta, October 1st. 

Ladies Senior B scull:-Kate Wise, first heat, second in final. (This was the first sculling race rowed by a Begonia City member and first female sculler from Ballarat.)

7. Essendon Ladies Regatta, October 11th, Maribynong River, Essendon.

Ladies Senior B scull:- Kate Wise. First  heat, second in final.

8. Metropolitan Regatta, October 14th, Yarra River. 

  “Thea Skidmore” Senior A sculls; Kate Wise:-second by ¾ of a length

9. Artemis Ladies “Springding” Regatta, November 4th, Barwon River.

Ladies  Senior B scull:-Kate Wise-first in heat, second in final.

Ladies Senior A scull:-Kate Wise-second in final.

Open eight composite crew with Artemis:-Kate Wise BCLRC, second

Last races as Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club


First races as Ballarat City Rowing Club

10. Corio Bay Ladies Regatta, November 11th, Barwon River.

Ladies Senior B sculls:- Kate Wise-first

Ladies Handicap sculls:-Kate Wise-first

11. Barwon Ladies Regatta, November 12th, Barwon River.

Ladies Senior B Sculls:-Kate Wise- first

Ladies Lightweight scull:-Kate Wise-first.

12. VRA Regatta, November 25th, Yarra River. Kate Wise:-handicap sculls-third

13. VRA Melbourne Regatta, December 2nd, Yarra River. Ballarat City Rowing Club

Ladies Handicap sculls:-Kate Wise-third

Ladies Senior B four:-Jenny Hyatt, Marg Elliott, Andrea Kriz, Kate Wise (stroke)-second

14. Upper Yarra Regatta, December 9th, Yarra River.

“R. Morrell” Ladies handicap scull:-Kate Wise-first

15. Victorian Ladies Rowing Association Regatta, December 10th,   Albert Park Lake.

Ladies Champion Lightweight scull:-Kate Wise-second

Article from Ballarat Courier, November 15th, 1978. Kate Wise’s first wins representing Ballarat City Rowing Club.

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