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History of Essendon Rowing Club, 1880-1980

11. Seniors Rise Again 1960-1969

The Club improved, by one place, to third in the Junior Championship over the 1962-63 season. The Senior Four and the Maiden Eight scored doubles at Nagambie, Rutherglen and Yarrawonga respectively.

Ben Murphy and Graham Haynes had a great season winning seven maiden pairs in eight starts. The Club made a clean sweep at Henley on the Maribyrnong winning both the A.J. Shaw Pairs and the Moonee Valley Fours. Sponsorship was withdrawn from the Essendon High School due to non-support from the school. The club was suffering financial difficulties especially after the clubhouse was painted for the cost of £448.0.0, eight fluorescent lights were installed upstairs and a new racing eight was purchased and named "K. Pratt and G. Ilkin" in memory of the two club members who died as a result of a motor accident whilst travelling to the Christmas Regattas, December 1961.

A Club committee was appointed, on the suggestion of J. Simmie, to formulate and consider a long range building, program. The Secretary contacted the Hawthorn, Ballarat City, and Melbourne Grammar Rowing Clubs requesting copies of their building plans. A fund raising venture was held every Sunday morning towards this rebuilding program. By the end of 1963, the committee had organized a working Building Extension Fund and to ensure their annual income from subscriptions, Rule 8 was reinforced on November 21st.

The Club won the state Junior Premiership by a clear margin in the 1963-64 season - a motion of appreciation was entered in the minutes to Sandy Hurst
“…who arranged a three year plan, forecasting that results could be expected in that period, and over this time a fourth, third and a first in Junior Premiership, in three years has borne out his judgement…".

The Junior crews scored a double in the Junior Fours at Yea and Albert Park, the Junior Pair at Ballarat and Henley and the Novice Pair at Mildura, and Wentworth. A triple was recorded by the Junior Eight who won at Nagambie, Yarrawonga and Rutherglen. Three from this crew - Bruce Smith, Alan Darker and Ray Smith were invited to join a composite Lightweight Eight with members from Yarra, Hawthorn and Mercantile which raced at the Australian Championships in Canberra on the very new Lake Burley Griffin.

After the racing eight was damaged in January 1964 the Committee staged a raffle for a car to cover repair costs. A motor boat was purchased, and the club had to forego the proposed boat trailer until later on in the season.

The 1964-65 season was one of notable success, the club was placed second in the Junior Premiership of Victoria; the club won a total of 24 races, the most notable was the decisive win in the Victorian Four Oared Championship - Essendon's first success in this event since it's induction in 1951. The Junior Pair won at Scotch Mercantile and Wentworth and a Junior Eight triple at Footscray, Upper Yarra and the V.R.A. Regattas.

The new speed boat which cost £255.0.0 was first used early in 1965. C. Chalmers was elected as Life Member to the Club and was made a permanent trustee of the Clubhouse.

Reasonable success was achieved during the 1965-66 season. The club finished fourth in the Junior Premiership. Doubles were gained in the Lightweight Four events al Rutherglen and Nagambie, the Maiden Pair at Yarrawonga and Rutherglen, the Lightweight Pair at Barwon and Henley. W. Ward won the Maiden sculls at Albert Park and Yea.

The Senior Eight were unsuccessful in every start although they entered a number of regattas throughout the season. John Stuckey, an oarsman from this crew was selected to row in the Victorian crew at King's Cup held in Franklin, Tasmania. This crew came from behind to win the Cup, therefore Stuckey became the first Essendon Rowing Club member of a Victorian crew to race in a winning combination. A silver coffee service and tray were inscribed “…in recognition of his success in the 1966 King's Cup…” by the Club and presented to him.

Bruce Smith with John Stuckey

Bruce Smith with John Stuckey right with the King’s Cup

John Stuckey went onto be in the Australian eight at the World Championships in Bled Yugoslavia. This crew finished in tenth place. He became the Club’s first member to race at the World Championships.

1966 Australian Eight training

The 1966 Australian Eight training on the Lower Yarra –John in four seat

At the Opening Day fours, two new racing fours, the “Jim Taylor” and “T.L. Mannix” and a new racing pair the “W.A. Bandon” were christened. Club members I. McBain and B. Murphy won the State Championship Junior Pair New Years Day 1966.

Club crews competed in the N.S.W. Championships for the first time. 28 Essendon members, were guests of the St. George Rowing Club, the regatta was contested at Penrith on Easter Saturday 1966.

Club ties were introduced early in 1966 and subscriptions were converted to decimal currency and stood at $10.00 per member.

The Secretary wrote on behalf of the Committee to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works to obtain permission to have concrete staging erected at the Clubhouse. From club funds, the Committee allocated $80 to have the speedboat equipped with controls.

Essendon, during the 1966-67 season, recorded several successes in regatta racing. These included the State Junior Pair title - the third time in four years. They also finished third in the State Junior Premiership. Vice-Captain Ian McBain was selected in the Victorian crew which contested the King's Cup at Murray Bridge in South Australia.

1967 Australian National Rowing Championships program cover

The Social Commitments of the year involved the usual annual functions including Opening Day, the Smoke Night and the Children's Christmas Party; Barbeques were held in the homes of members, and the “Forty and Over” Gathering, which proved very[popular with many ‘old’ members, were very successful.

1968 Victorian Crew

1968 Victorian Crew with Club Member Ian McBain

Unfortunately the 1967-68 season proved to be disappointing, however a number of crews won their races. Among these was the Champion Pair - Ian McBain and Don Patterson who also won this race last season. Ian was again selected in the King's Cup crew which competed at Penrith, finishing a close second to the New South Wales crew.

Financially the year was difficult, new equipment, increasing maintenance costs and the failure of a large number of members to pay their subscriptions severely handicapped the Club.

A new four oared boat the "Bonar Jones", a new convertible racing pair double sculling boat, the "Bruce Smith" and n set of 10 oars were added to the fleet.

Socially the Club was quiet although the annual ball, Smoke Night and the Children’s Christmas Party were organised.

At the A.G.M. the committee accepted J. Simmie's suggestion that a toilet block be built at the rear of the shed with a view of having sewerage connected.

The quote of $2,113.80 was accepted in the following year. J. Taylor was elected as a Life Member of the Club.

M. Wilkinson generously provided all thee transport for boats free of charge to all regattas during the season.

The 1968-69 season was reported to be a "Difficult one". The club was represented at all regattas and the "keenness displayed by the crews deserved a greater measure of success.”

There was a further decline in financial members. The Committee regretted it's inability to hold all their "Time Honoured" functions and hoped these restrictions would not continue in the future. To bolster membership the Club captain was given authorization to approach the Principals or the Flemington and Essendon High Schools to determine the schools requirements for rowing. After an encouraging response, it was decided that club boats could be used by the students during normal training hours and these boys became members of the Club.

A liquor permit was applied for after the Annual General Meeting held on May 29th 1969.

1969-70 saw evidence of recovery throughout the club; some valuable regatta wins were recorded and new enrolments increased. All members were asked to pay their subscriptions and other fees as the heavy expenditure for the new toilet block was making liabilities substantial. Great appreciation was felt by the club to the Essendon City Council who arranged for the sewerage mains to be brought to the premises and defrayed the cost of this work.

The Annual Smoke Night, Opening Day and a Supper Dance were successful functions during; this season. At the A.G.M. Gordon Tyshing was elected Life Member of the Club.

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