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History of Essendon Ladies' Rowing Club

3. Red and Black - the Origins of an Essendon Tradition

During the establishment of the ERC in 1880, it was decided that the racing colours of a trotting family, the Spongs, would be used for the ERC, as quoted by Jamison:

... the Essendon Rowing Club was founded during 1880 ... (by) avid and renowned horsemen ... Rowing enthusiasts met at Spong's Maribyrnong Bridge Hotel to establish a local club. The Spong family had a very keen interest in trotting, and their colours - black with a red sash, were adopted by the newly formed rowing club. Thereafter all sporting clubs from this district including the football club, followed the rowers lead and used the famous red and black which are now synonymous throughout Victoria as the colours of Essendon. (Jamison 1980, p. 3)

Spongs Hotel

Spong’s Hotel circa 1906

Photo courtesy of the Footscray Historical Society

Whilst listening to Forsyth, it became evident that the red and black racing uniform of the ELRC initially differed from the ERC uniform. Forsyth stated that before the ELRC and the ERC amalgamated, the racing colours of the ELRC were also red and black, however, "... they had their uniform which was red on both sides with a black stripe down the middle." (Bottrell & Forsyth 2000, p. 5)

Uniforms have come a long way since women's sport in the 1880s.
... in competitive rowing ladies' crews were dressed in copious bloomers covered by long black skirts, garments hardly conducive to efficient rowing. By contrast, competitive male rowers ... (wore) shorts and a light shirt. (Daryl Adair, 'Rowing and Sculling', in Sport in Australia, p. 182, in Adair & Vamplew 1997, p.51)

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