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History of Essendon Rowing Club, 1880-1980

10. Junior Success Again 1950-1959

During the 1949-50 season the Club failed to score in any qualifying regattas. They won the Moonee Valley Challenge Four's again, and created rowing history during the 'Ralf McKay Club Fours' when the two crew strokes - H. Firth and I. Grigg raced three dead heats before a decision in favour of Firth's crew was realized in the fourth attempt. The nearest record, as far as can be ascertained …"Took place on the Barwon River in 1885 when Ballarat City and Williamstown rowed two dead heats and Ballarat City won by a foot in the third race …".

Some convincing wins were recorded during 1950-51, the most notable was performed by R. Willis when he won the Novice Sculls at the Metropolitan Regatta in September; he completed the double when he won the Senior Sculls at the Melbourne Regatta in November.

The Club's social functions were confined to their usual and annual fixtures. Their financial position was sound too. A working bee was organized in late November 1950 to repaint the Clubhouse - cream and green.

Early in April 1951, Messrs. Johnston and Lister donated trophies for the "Best Novice of the Year" and the "Most Successful Oarsmen" - the latter had existed since 1947, thus this season saw the three top oarsmen receiving trophies. The Best Novice was Peter McKenzie.

J. Nicholaisen was elected as a Life Member at the A.G.M. Also it was decided to procure an Honour Board to record Past Presidents and Life Members.

The 1951-52 Committee decided to purchase badges. for £2.12.6 to present to the surviving Life Members, this was performed at the Opening Day races on October 20th by Cotter James to Messrs. J. Nicholaisen, H. LaRoche, J. Blair, W. Birkenhead, N. S. Muir, H. McRae and W. O'Brien.

This committee reported their disappointment in the standard of rowing in the club although some notable wins were recorded. A Maiden Eight at Rutherglen, a Four at Upper Yarra and a Pair at the Barwon Regatta in 1952. There was some apathy towards club racing in the later stages of the season when the "Reg Freeman Memorial Fours", the "Ben Brook Pairs" and the "Arch Shaw Fours" were postponed until the following season, due to insufficient entries being received.

Club attitude was still apathetic at the beginning of the 1952-53 season. The only victories at inter club level were the Four's at the Novice Regatta and an outstanding effort by D. Brook who scored a treble during the season …"It was evident that something was wrong within the club and the committee called a General Meeting of members on February 25th 1953 to try and remedy the situation…”.

Financially the season was satisfactory, the Club purchased a new racing eight and ten oars and settled accounts outstanding from the painting and general maintenance of the clubhouse which commenced in November 1950. It was decided to raise money in an endeavour to have hot water shower facilities installed in the clubhouse.

The newly named craft "C. F. James", a new racing eight was damaged in it's first inter club race. The committee declared a number of boats redundant although they could not replace them immediately. The capsized “A. P. Watson" was made into splashboards. The two paired oared boats "Middleton" and “Salamon" were scrapped and the "J. Adams” and "N.S. Muir" both four oared boats, were offered for sale to country clubs - the price negotiable.

A beginners race was held in conjunction with the Opening Day Fours for the first time. This was sponsored by Messrs Mudge and Anderson to foster competition amongst the junior members of the club and in accomplishing this, improve rowing standards.

The club gained wins in each regatta they entered during the season thus scoring well in Premiership Points and Essendon finished third in the Junior Premiership. First place was scored by the Junior Pair at Wentworth, the first in 28 years. The first treble victory scored by a Junior Four was won at Nagambie, Rutherglen and Yarrawonga. All crews except the Senior Pair won doubles over the season. The Moonee Valley Challenge Cup was won by Essendon at Henley on the Maribyrnong in February 1954.

The Club ran only two club races over the 1953-54 season - the Opening Day Fours and the Novice Pairs. Alan Ryan of Young and Jackson presented the Opening Day trophies for the fifteenth successive year. This day, two new boats - the repaired racing eight was christened "C.F. James" and the racing pair "I.K.W. MacIntosh” this craft housed railway seats, flat stretchers and swivelling 5 arms. On December 15th the Committee decided to approach Brien's Bus Company with the suggestion that the club would use their busses to all country regattas, if they would build a frame to carry the boats.

Arthur Shepherd

Arthur Shepherd

On May 27th 1954 Arthur Shepherd died and bequeathed £1,000.0.0 to the Essendon Rowing Club. ….
“his interest in the Club dated 70 years ago. He was Secretary of the original Maribyrnong Rowing Club. The Club disbanded within a year of it's foundation and in 1885 formed the Essendon Rowing Club. He was a keen advocate of swivels in the days when all Victorian clubs used fixed thowls. He coached the first Maiden Eight win at the Richmond Regatta in 1892. In the 1890's he joined the Banks Rowing Club and rowed in the Victorian Crews in the Inter-Colonial eight oared races in 1891-92. He coached the Victorian crews in 1911-12 and came second and first respectively. He was elected to the V.R.A. in 1892 and was President from 1944 until his death ….”

In recognition of the late Mr. A.J. Shepherd's association with the E.R.C. the Committee directed that the Club's racing four oared boat should always be named A.J. Shepherd". The generous bequest …"put the club in a very financial position", the hot showers were installed and the committee procured steel doors for the boathouse. Two new practice fours the "T.R. Barrell" and the "W.H. Nicholaison" were christened at the Opening Day Regatta; this was the first of six races the club held during the season. The club was not very successful at Premiership points regattas, but the Senior Pair won a double at Bairnsdale and Sale.

Mr. 0. McKay donated £25.0.0 in January 1955 for trophies to spread over a period of five years. This competition was open to all members eligible for maiden races at the beginning of each season. Three points were allocated for a regatta win, and one for a combination or club win.

An amplifying system was donated to the club by V. Hynes during March, and in July, the club purchased a new electric hot water system for £185.0.0.

In the next season three new boats were purchased - a racing pair, the “G. Tyshing” and two new Tub Fours - the “O. McKay” and “A. Ryan". A refrigerator was procured in March 1956.

The club's Maiden Eight crew won a double at Yea and Albert Park over the Australia Day weekend 1956. This was the first double the Maiden Eight had ever won. Outstanding performances were given by the Pratt brothers when they won the treble Maiden Pairs at Ballarat, Barwon and Henley on the Maribyrnong.

Bert Prouse, Club Captain for the 1954-55 season, gained distinction by winning a scholarship entitling him to attend Cambridge University in England.

At the 1955-56 A.G.M. Cotter James was elected Life Member. The award to the Clubman of the Year (formerly the Tom Morrison Memorial Award) was altered from a majority vote at the open meeting to selection by the committee prior to the A.G.M. Subscriptions were increased to £3.0.0 for new members and all subscriptions had to be paid by September 1st unless members wished to have their names posted up in the sheds and forego the privileges and activities of the club.

Essendon High School students were instructed in a rowing program so that the Club could select and sponsor a crew to be entered into the “High Schools” Regatta - this proved very successful and the crew selected performed creditably.

The Committee was disappointed in their members performance over the season …”Many crews were selected and entered, but a number of crews failed to start in their respective races….”. The only inter-club victory was the win in the A.J. Shaw Challenge Pairs at Henley on the Maribyrnong. Opening Day for the 1956-57 season was postponed until January 13th 1957 because the river was flooded.

The Essendon Rowing Club won the Junior Premiership - the first since 1932-33 …”Success of Essendon crews at Sale and Wentworth regattas were felt to be the deciding factor in the Club's victory over our nearest rival, Banks Rowing Club ..”. Physical fitness too was another, when oarsmen were able to row up to five races at one regatta. This was attributed to the introduction of early morning rowing sessions.

The Essendon High School crew won the Yihuch Fours at the Combined High School regatta on the Yarra. Additionally some of these students represented the Club in open regatta but with varying success.

At the Opening Day regatta - now the John Coleman Fours, two new tub pairs were christened, the "C.M. Chalmers" and “F.A. Gathercole". As finances were very low, a sub-committee was appointed to be responsible for boat maintenance. A special Effort Committee was set up on January 16th 1958 and due to their efforts £838.7.05 was raised.

Early in January of this year a sewerage system was installed in the Clubhouse. During the 1958-59 season Essendon, for the first time annexed the Lightweight Premiership by a margin of 28 points from Yarra Yarra. This, with the Junior Premiership 57/58, was the second successive premiership win, a worthy first in the Club's history. Essendon crews won races at every registered regatta except Wentworth, Mildura and Colac. G. Pratt won the Five Mille Marathon Sculling Championship of Victoria.

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