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History of Essendon Rowing Club, 1880-1980

5. Federation and Senior Success 1900-1909

At the meeting held on October 24th 1900, it was decided that something had to be done to get annual subscriptions paid ... “no member will receive his trophies unless his annual subscription was paid for the last season…” Nor was an unfinancial member permitted to enter club races. It was accepted at this meeting that the coxswains would receive a trophy worth 10/6d, when they steered a crew to victory. Also because of insufficient contestants in the regular four-oared regatta, a two oared regatta was held instead. The entrance fee was raised to 2/6d per oar, to be paid prior to the race.

A new Eight-Oared boat was ordered for £63.0.0 and this was delivered in January, 1901, when it was proposed to conduct a Sweep to be held on the Newmarket Handicap; 3500 tickets were sold at 1/- each. The club received the residue after paying prize money of £120.0.0 to the lucky punters. The new boat was named the "North Park" on January 14th 1902. At this time the club had adopted an additional course - using the usual one "from the bottom of the straight to the fence..." and the alternative "down to Warr's fence" for their first recorded four-oared regatta on March 1st. As usual the outside crew had half a length start. In September the E.R.C. inquired if they could borrow a four oared craft without oars from the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club covering it with the usual £3.3.0 guarantee. A points trophy was introduced. Rowers were given one point per boat won but winning crews and byes were not counted. This system was developed so all club members had a chance to win a trophy presented at the Annual General Meeting. At this meeting in 1902, Alex McCracken was presented with a "group of photographs as a slight token of esteem for the great interest he had always taken in the welfare of the Club…”.

1902 presented to the Club the problem of fund raising to purchase their first racing pair. It was suggested to sell the best four-oared craft and to organize a Garden Fete where 50% of the proceeds would be given to club funds. A Euchre tournament was held on May 21st, and on October 3, 1903 at the Annual General Meeting, it was unanimously agreed "any member not financial to be expelled from the membership rolls.” An amendment was passed at this meeting …."that the selection committee of three be elected to select the crews . The suggestion that the committee was to draw up the race program for the ensuing season was accepted but this did not occur because they were unsure of sponsors for the necessary trophies. The club was able to purchase their racing pair with oars for £9.15.0 during November 1903 after having to hire out their clinker four and pressing members to pay their subscriptions. J. Spong paid the required repairs to the existing boats and still the club had to apply for a Bank overdraft of £20.0.0.

The club began 1904, with a successful regatta complete with the usual compliments for rowers and visitors alike. A novice pair was run in conjunction with a Fancy Dress Parade concluding with a progressive Euchre Party enabling the club to combine their social commitment with the persistent struggle for funds. The club had trouble that season to man a senior four for Henley, but succeeded in winning the Steward Challenge Cup at this regatta.

1904 Henley Regatta

A race finish at 1904 Henley Regatta

Essendon won the Stewards Challenge Four at this regatta

In September a notice appeared in the Essendon Gazette stating that the Annual General Meeting of the E.R.C. would be conducted at the beginning of the new season to align with the Victorian Rowing Association. It was also decided at this time that a new candidate for membership had to be nominated and guaranteed by an existing member in order to maintain in the Club a high standard of membership and finance: blazers minus pockets became available to members.

At a General Meeting held on September 22nd 1904 the committee decided to revise their constitution, an amendment to Rule 5 was as follows…"Candidates for membership must pay half a guinea of their subscription down …". Similarly anybody who donated two guineas would be elected as a patron of the club and to those who donated one guinea, the position of Vice President; a later amendment was passed stating that patrons would be elected at the Annual General Meeting with the selection of President, Vice President and other office bearers. Rule 24 was also amended - racing boats would only be used by rowers selected to race at Public Regattas.

January 1905 saw the committee enforcing the new rule - members would be debarred from using Club property if subscriptions were not paid by the end of that month.

The new racing pair was christened “Triska” in February.

March saw McChambray win his One Hundredth race.

The Annual General Meeting as reported in the Essendon Gazette on September 7th “...the presence of representatives from Albert Park, Footscray, Mercantile and Yarra Yarra Rowing Clubs was a compliment to the Essendon Club and a source of gratification to its executive, a striking illustration of the good feelings which exists between the clubs…". The financial statement revealed a credit balance of £201.11.0 so two new practice four-oared boats were purchased from James Edwards and Sons for £62 (to be delivered in January 1906).

A.E. Young and Aitens were successful in securing a block of land for the new clubhouse from the Essendon City Council - this is the site of the existing clubhouse.

The club held their first trial pairs competition on November 18th 1905. The trophies for this event were donated by Spong. There were 211 competitors in the eleven heats and final. It was decided at this time that the newly ordered fours should be named in honour of R.J. Benson and J.R. Brown as a token of appreciation of services rendered to the club by these two gentlemen. These boats were formally named on February 10th, 1906. Essendon won their first Maiden Eight for 14 years at the Footscray Annual Regatta. On New Year's Day 1906, the club received a letter of resignation from R.J. Benson, the Assistant Secretary who was departing for America.

During March the club acclaimed the efforts of Committee members Morrow and Reidy who had secured a donation of 36 gallons of beer, as the club had always had a great affiliation for the "Great Australian Pastime". The Essendon Rowing Club organized their first combination race for March 31st. Entries were accepted from other clubs, and their names were drawn out of a hat in an endeavour to have four clubs represented in each crew; this was a great success and a record number of 39 crews entered. C.O. Poe was the only Essendon member to be in the winning crew.

The Riversdale Football Club were granted permission to train in the Essendon clubrooms on Tuesday and Thursday's during the football season. J .R. Brown, who had been Honorary Treasurer for ten years, submitted his resignation to the club on June 19th prior to leaving for Adelaide. A Complimentary Smoke night was held …"to honour one of the most popular and hardest working members that the club has ever possessed ...". In his response Brown indicated that he would donate trophies annually for paired oared races - which he did until his death in 1943. The Essendon Gazette reported "Mr Brown… has helped the E.R.C. over the struggle of adversity to its present prosperous position. He was a mainstay in the development of the Essendon Rowing Club and rowing in general." Later that year J.R. Brown was awarded Life Membership in the club.

It was during this season (1905/06) that the Essendon River League was founded - to improve and protect the environment of the Maribyrnong River. W. Wright was the first Essendon representative on this committee. The electric tram service was installed in September which made the accessibility to the river and club facilities easier for members. The club acquired two new boats at this time - the "Mary Elizabeth", a. racing four and "Alert" a practice eight.

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