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history of the city of warrnambool rowing club

City of Warrnambool Rowing Club – 140 years on the Hopkins River

By Susan Finnigan

Chapter Five: Centenary celebrated, State Champions off to Nationals

In 1973 the Club was 100 years old, membership was increasing and crews were winning some races. The Club’s Maiden Four, with three ‘Davids’ in the one boat, D. O’Grady, D. McDougall, D. Turland, Max Baudinette, coxed by Wayne Sherlock, won on the Yarra. Two Novice Fours also made the finals.

In celebration of the Club’s centenary Jim Taylor, the Club’s President and a school teacher, together with the Secretary Peter O’Grady, were made Life Members. Peter, a technician with the Postmaster General (PMG) was also an above knee amputee. He joined the Club in 1958 and rowed in sweep boats, without his prosthesis. The Club’s ‘100th’ annual meeting was held at Proudfoots boathouse on the Hopkins River. A committee was formed to organise a Centenary Regatta, to be held in October, with Mr Peter O’Grady as Regatta Secretary.

The Club continued to be very active socially and resourceful. When the river mouth closed and water was coming into the shed, a group of rowers and other river users would ‘take a slab and a shovel’ to dig it open. Since 2007 this has become the responsibility of the Council, as waterway manager, in consultation with the Catchment Management Authority. The river is now opened according to a protocol usually including a level of 1.5 metres. Being licensed on Sundays was a good way to raise funds and may have distracted the athletes from training. Sundays at the Clubrooms were family days and usually lasted into the evening. Members recalling these years shake their heads and smile, ‘I don’t know how we got home’ and ‘we were banned from there’ are the theme of their memories.

Warrnambool Centenary Regatta: 1973.

The Centenary Regatta was the first regatta in 20 years.187 In preparation for the regatta the V.R.A. was approached re: ‘hire of shotguns’ with ammunition to be obtained locally.188 The ‘old masters’ rowed an eight which included Leon Whitson, Don Tinker, Doug Baillie, Arthur Thompson, Harold Warren, Ray Tucker, Bill Scutcheon, Peter Johnson with Des Munday coxing. Eighty one crews entered the 12 event regatta, two were women’s events.189 Warrnambool had 12 crews and made three finals.190 A reconditioned racing four was christened by June Stephenson and named after her husband, the Club’s Vice President, Mr Bob Stephenson.191 Jeff Sykes, Australian Sculling Champion, was guest speaker at the evening dinner held at the Lady Bay Hotel.

The Club also competed at Ballarat, Banks (Yarra River), Albert Park and Corio Bay Regattas sending four to five crews to each. The Club had two wins at Albert Park, the Novice Four of D. Carter (bow), F. O’Brien, W. Carter, D. Stapleton (stroke) and D. Barker (cox) and a Lightweight Maiden Four of David Carter, David Stapleton, Anthony Newman, stroke Clive Wooster and cox Wayne Sherlock. This crew also won at Footscray and Ballarat in the following weeks.

Centenary Regatta Veteran Eight: 1973.

L-R: Don Tinker, Leon Whitson, Doug Baillie, Arthur Thompson, Harold Warren, Ray Tucker, Bill Scutcheon, Peter Johnson, Des Munday (cox). The Club continued to host an annual regatta until 2004.

Perhaps everyone was not ‘rowing in the same direction’ when there were a few mishaps. Boats were damaged in transit when strong winds overturned the trailer on route to a regatta. Some crews may not have been training well enough for coach Mr ‘Bill’ Scutcheon who resigned from the Club citing: “lack of cooperation and dedication of the oarsmen had forced his decision”. The Club did not accept the resignation and all was well again.192

The Club was for male rowers however ladies were accepted as auxiliary members on payment of an annual subscription of $1 per member.193 Needing more equipment the Club purchased a 13 year old eight from Mercantile Rowing Club for $300.194

Classic 70’s: colour, sideburns, fashion and a beer: 1973 rowers and supporters.

The Annual Rowing Club Christmas picnic on the Hopkins: c.1974.

The dinghy is rowed by David O’Grady and Jim Carter, Santa (Bob Stephenson) is assisted by President Jim Taylor.

Warrnambool claimed an unofficial World record for its 24 hour rowathon in April 1974. The Club, with 24 oarsmen, covered 184 miles over an eight mile course. Some individual oarsmen covered about 85 miles each.195 Two crews alternated during the 24 hours rowing to the King’s Head and returning to the Clubhouse. The two crews included Clive Wooster, Max Baudinette, Brian Keilor, John Harris, Eric Walsh, Gary Walsh, David Carter, Jim Carter, Wayne Carter, Michael Aberline, Wayne Sherlock, David Turland and cox Doug Carter.196

Crews were now competing at regular regattas. Two crews entered the Metropolitan Regatta on the Yarra, a maiden and novice crew of Daryl Henry (bow), Andrew McGennan, John Stonehouse, Bob Jones (stroke) and John Crosbie cox. At the Horsham Regatta the Club’s Maiden Four had a win with Clive Wooster (stroke), Wayne Carter, Max Baudinette, David Turland, coxed by John Crosbie. Bill Scutcheon was coach. Also competing at Dimboola and Horsham were a Maiden Eight, Maiden Four, Novice Four and a Novice pairs. The dismal end of the 1960s was forgotten and the Club went from strength to strength.

Warrnambool Maiden Four: 1974

L-R: Wayne Sherlock (cox), Max Baudinette (stroke), David O’Grady, David McDougall, David Turland.

Warrnambool Eight at Nagambie: c.1975

L-R: John Fox (bow), Wayne Sherlock, David Carter, Clive Wooster, Gary Hassell, Peter O’Grady, Wayne Carter, David Stapleton (stroke), Michael Aberline (cox).

Competing at the highest level in a hotly contested event the Club had a major win. The Club’s coxed Junior Pair of John Stonehouse and David McDougall coxed by John Crosbie won the Victorian Rowing Championship in 1976. They were coached by Bill Scutcheon. 197 The crew was therefore eligible to compete at the National Championships. They qualified for the final at Nationals and came a creditable second. This would be the highest level a Club member had achieved. The CoWRC pair were beaten by Sydney (NSW) with Steve Handley and Simon Dean coxed by Stuart Carter and coached by Michael Morgan. Torrens (SA) was third then Adelaide University (SA), Essendon (VIC) and sixth place was Glebe (NSW). John Stonehouse and David McDougall were then invited, by Banks Rowing Club, to go to Melbourne to try out for the Kings Cup crew.198

David subsequently moved to Melbourne and rowed with continuing success in various Banks crews over many years. His wins for CoWRC include the Single Scull at the 1997 FISA World Masters in Adelaide with his last competitive race in 2005. Remarkably or perhaps predictably it was also a win, in the Single Scull at the Australian Masters Rowing Championships. David has coached numerous crews over the years and although he stopped coaching in 1995 he can still be called upon for help.

Warrnambool Coxed Junior Pair, Winners Victorian Rowing Championship: 1976

John Stonehouse (stroke), David McDougall and cox John Crosbie.

Warrnambool Victorian and Victorian Country Championships: Winners Junior Four: 1976

Winners John Crosbie (cox), Anthony Newman, David McDougall, John Stonehouse and David Stapleton.

Crews attended seven regattas in the 1975-76 season. The Club’s regatta was again annual however the dates varied. In 1976 it was on February 21.199 Trophy winners for the 1976-77 season included David McDougall and John Stonehouse for the pairs wins and David Stapleton, Anthony Newman, John Crosbie and Barry Stapleton in appreciation of winning the Victorian Junior Four and Victorian Country Four Championships with David McDougall.200201

Reading the Club’s Minute Book shows frustration was evident regarding the Club’s facilities. At this time nobody could have anticipated this frustration would continue for another 40 years. In 1976 the Club planned to extend the Clubrooms and approached the ANZ bank for a $10,000 loan.202 By 1977 the Club determined to write to the Prime Minister regarding their inability to gain a building permit from Crown Lands Department.203 In September it was reported that the Crown Lands had handed over the Club’s Occupancy Agreement and had appointed the City Council as Committee of Management. The Club then determined to submit its building plans to Council and apply for a building permit. In 1978 the Club had formed a building committee and commenced buying materials for the planned extension.204

CoWRC remained a men’s Club however eight ladies events were added to the Club’s Regatta Program in 1977.205 The Club was now very active attending 19 regattas in the 1977-78 season with 14 wins. Clive Wooster, Colin McDonald and Kelvin Johnson (cox) won the Victorian Country Championships.206

In February 1978 the President’s report included a summary of rower’s achievements for the 1977-78 season. Most notable were Clive Wooster and Colin McDonald with 11 wins in Maiden Pairs and Junior Pairs, winning seven finals in the six series, the most important being the Victorian Country Championships Pairs. Kelvin Johnson coxed the pair for each win. John Stonehouse had his first year as a single sculler and did incredibly well although he was defeated, in a row-over, for the Herald Shield, it was against an ex-Victorian Champion.207

Another successful single sculler was David Stapleton, coached by his brother Barry. Wins included Henley on the Yarra, third in the 1979 Victorian Rowing Championships and gold in the Lightweight Single Scull at the 1980 Colac and Warrnambool Regattas.208 His crew of Colin McDonald, Clive Wooster, John Stonehouse and cox Kelvin Johnson won the 1979 Victorian Country Championships at Ballarat. The Novice Four also had a win with Paul Kavanagh, Ray Bracken, Mick Barton, and David O’Keefe with Bill Scutcheon coach.209

Across Australia women were increasingly keen to join rowing clubs and having separate infrastructure was inefficient. Clubs progressively allowed women to be full members from the 1970’s with others holding out until mid-1990. In 1979 Club Captain Barry Stapleton spoke about the merits of having female members and after discussion it was agreed to have an extraordinary meeting to determine the majority of members’ views.210 The pros and cons for having ladies rowing were discussed. It was felt that women would collect more money, there were numerous keen to join and they would ‘bring their boyfriends and thus more oarsmen’. The concern was there was limited space and equipment. There was also the feeling that Nestles was a ladies club and duplication was unnecessary. In 1981 women started to row with the Club when it was determined that, as auxiliary members, they actually were eligible to row. 211 Nowadays it is accepted that clubs have a better ‘family life’ balance with male and female membership. Jenny Lowe appears to be the first female member nominated for Club membership.

The Club President, Max Baudinette, spoke of increased numbers of oarspersons at the 1980 annual meeting and membership was set at $15, for men and women.212 The first women’s crew to race for the City of Warrnambool Rowing Club won the Ladies Novice Pair on the Barwon River at Geelong. The crew consisted of Carmel O’Keefe, Glenda Warwick coxed by Jan Henderson.213 The other winning crew for the 1981-82 season was the Maiden Pair David O’Keefe and John Crosbie with Peter Maloney as cox and David McDougall coach.214

Warrnambool Four: c.1980

L-R Greg Hill (cox) Wayne Willie (stroke), John McCarthy, John Gee, and Larry McCarthy

Warrnambool rowers: 1981

L-R: Kelvin Johnson, Stephen Carter, Greg Hill, John Crosbie, Paul Kavanagh, David McDougall back, unknown, front Blackie Lenehan, David O’Keefe, Brendan Wilkinson.

Off the water there were some financial cracks showing. The Club asked its social club for $1000 to pay accounts in 1982. There were reports of accounts being ‘held over until funds available’. Fundraising was predominantly from meals and drinks and they were very popular. There was a report of members ‘harassing’ the barman for drinks after closing time. A sign was placed over the bar stating that ‘bar closes at 6:50pm lead to be unplugged from barrel at this time’.215 Beer prices remained at 40c a glass.216 217 In 1984 the roster for cleaning the Club rooms was not working and it was determined to hire a cleaner for $10 per week.218 The Club became incorporated, with Peter O’Grady as public officer.21

Country Championship Womens Pair, Winners (Ballarat): 1982 - 83

Cox Jamie O’Brien, bow Kate Owen and stroke Paula Gee. Coached by David McDougall

Womens Novice Four, Winners at Essendon Ladies, Barwon and Y.W.C.A.: 1982 – 83

Bow Wendy Addinsall, Virginia Sinnott, Kate Owen, stroke Paula Gee and cox Jamie O’Brien. Coach David McDougall.

Mens Novice Pair, Winners Mildura: 1982 – 83

Cox Dennis Heaphy, Mick O’Connor and Brent O’Connor. Coach David McDougall.

Womens Novice Pair, Winners Mildura and Wentworth: 1982 – 83

Bow Jean Reekie, Jan Carty and cox Dennis Heaphy. Coach David McDougall.

In 1983 Best Clubman was David O’Grady and Most Successful Oarsperson Paula Gee.220 David McDougall was coaching crews with male and female crews having some wins. This continued until 1989 however there were progressively less crews rowing.

Peter O’Grady was elected Club President in 1984 and steered the Club well. He reported that the annual regatta and Whale Boat Festival had helped improve the Club’s financial position. There had not been on water success at regattas however there was increasing membership numbers and a strong social component to the Club. David Turland had modernised the kitchen, David McDougall had maintained the bar, and David O’Grady and Bernie Crimmin had kept up with general maintenance. Bernie made a tub pair from an existing Club boat after learning the skills from Charlie Dodds. It was a three year project, which he stated was a ‘first and last’.221 The Club determined to open a term deposit and when $500 was in the operating account the surplus be put in a term deposit. This was to raise funds for equipment there was a lack of oars etc. Bar prices rose to beer 55c per 6oz glass, wine 55c per glass, soft drink 40c and stubbies $1.20 each.222

1. Warrnambool Senior B Pair, Winners: 1983-84

Bow Wendy Addinsall, stroke Paula Gee and cox Andrew Petrethly. Coached by David McDougall.

2. Warrnambool Novice Pair, Winners: 1983-84

Nicholas Fowler, Stuart Fowler (stroke) and cox Jamie O’Brien.

3. Warrnambool Men’s Pair, Winners: 1983-84

Barry Crimmin, Bill McConnell and cox Andrew Petrethly. Coached by David McDougall.

In November 1984 the Club purchased a beer ticket machine to raise funds. It was to be placed in the lounge of the Hotel Warrnambool. Regatta planning was ongoing, with sponsorship to pay for trophies being sought.223 The SEC bill of $166.77 was considered high and it was determined that it may be caused by the band Swinglight, who used the rooms for practice. In 1985 the band was charged $1 per practice session, to cover power costs. It was also determined to advise them that their equipment was stored at their own risk. To ensure rowers commitment the committee determined that rowers should pay their individual oar fees when entering regattas. The cost was 30c per oar to the Victorian Rowing Association.224

In 1985 the Council advised the Club of an oyster feasibility study proposal. The Club stated it had no objection and would like to be kept informed.225 Andrew Coffey donated $200 towards regatta expenses because the Club had not raised an objection to his oyster farm proposal beside the Club.

With finances looking better the Club turned its attention to the Club’s infrastructure. Peter O’Grady suggested that the Club approach the Canoe Club and any other river users regarding a government grant to extend the Clubrooms. Forming a social subcommittee was also discussed.226 Managing so many members also had logistic issues. The telephone bill was $95. There had been unease that the funds collected in the tin beside the telephone did not cover the calls made. There had also been reports of alcohol being stolen - the beer was subsequently returned. The Club, notorious for enjoying regattas off the water, had to write to Peter Cook to ‘apologise for the condition that the bus was returned in after a regatta’.227 Ron Mitchell became the Warrnambool Club’s VRA delegate.

At the annual general meeting in August it was agreed to form a social club subcommittee. Members willing to be on the committee included Jenny West, Maureen Scutcheon, Noela Crimmin, Phillip Arundell, Natalie Smith and Brent O’Conner. Jim Carter and Nancye Crosbie were to be the general committee representatives.228

The Club should have been making a good profit in 1986 as the monthly cost of alcohol, purchased from Hotel Warrnambool to be sold at the Club was $450-550 per month. Beer prices were increased to 65c for a 6oz glass, 95c for pots, stubbies $1.25 across the bar and $1 takeaway.229 As another fundraiser the Club hosted the Whale Boat Race, as part of Wunta Festival. Rowing was promoted with a coaching clinic by Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, Peter Antonie. 230

Warrnambool Novice Four, Winners: 1986-87

Bow M.G. Bell, A.S. McNeil, A.J. Slessar, stroke G.M. Wallace, cox S. King.

A Warrnambool Regatta

On the right is the ski Club, boats were launched on the beach north of it and returned to the landing south of the old ‘ladies shed’ pictured.


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187 ‘Rowers Celebrating Club’s Centenary Regatta on Hopkins’. Warrnambool Standard, 10th October, 1973. No page.

188 Warrnambool Rowing Club minute book 1970- 1975. Ordinary meeting, 30th April, 1972. Page 45.

189 ‘Centenary Regatta Attracts 81 Crews’, Warrnambool Standard. 13th October, 1973. No page.

190 ‘Three wins at regatta for Melbourne club’. Warrnambool Standard. 15th October, 1973. No page.

191 The Standard, 15 October, 1973. Page 12.

192 Warrnambool Rowing Club minute book 1970- 1975. Ordinary meeting, 17th March, 1974. Page 102.

193 Warrnambool Rowing Club minute book 1970- 1975. Ordinary meeting, 17th March & 18th April, 1974. pp 102-3.

194 Warrnambool Rowing Club minute book 1970- 1975. Ordinary meeting, 20th October, 1974. Page 122.

195 ‘Rowers Claim World Record’. Warrnambool Standard, 29th April, 1974. No page.

196 ‘Long Distance Row’. Warrnambool Standard, 27th April, 1974. No page.

197 ‘State Title to W’Bool Crew, Warrnambool Standard. 7th April 1976. No page.

198 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting 14th December, 1976. Page 57.

199 Warrnambool Rowing Club minute book 1970- 1975. Ordinary meeting, 12th May, 1974. Page 108.

200 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting, 10th May, 1977. Page 71.

201 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting, 19th July, 1977. Page 78.

202 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting, 8th March, 1977. Page 38.

203 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting, 9th August, 1977. Page 81.

204 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting, 13th June, 1978. Page 112.

205 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Ordinary meeting, 8th November, 1977. Pp 93-94.

206 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Scrap Book 1977-78. 55 pages.

207 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Annual meeting, 18th August, 1978. Page 116.

208 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Scrap Book 1979-80. 15pages.

209 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Scrap Book 1978-79. 55 pages.

210 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1975-1979. Annual meeting, 8th May, 1979. Page 140.

211 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-1984. 29th April, 1979, page 1 & 10th February, 1981. Page 54.

212 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 11th August, 1981. pp 68-70.

213 ‘Women Win’, no author. The Standard, 20th October, 1981. No page.

214 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 9th October 1982. Page 97.

215 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 12th January, 1982. pp 83-84.

216 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 11th May, 1982. Page 92.

217 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 11th January, 1983. Pp 112-115.

218 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 10th January, 1984. Page 143.

219 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 10th April, 1984. Page 151.

220 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1979-84. Ordinary meeting, 16th May, 1983. Page 122.

221 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary meeting, 11th September, 1984. Page 10.

222 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Annual meeting, 14th April, 1984. Page 6.

223 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary meeting, 11th November, 1984. Page 18.

224 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary meeting, 11th December, 1984. Page 21.

225 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary meeting, 15th January, 1985. pp 23-24.

226 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary meeting, 14th July, 1985. pp 41-43.

227 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary meeting, 12th February, 1985. pp 25-26.

228 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Annual Meeting, 11th August, 1985. Page 48.

229 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary Meeting, 13th July, 1986. Page 74.

230 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 1984-1988. Ordinary Meeting, 11th March,

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