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History of Fremantle Rowing Club 1887-1987

By Ralph Jeffreys

1. The Early Years 1887-1897

Chapter One page 1 2

The original rules of the club contained two interesting items. Firstly the entrance fee for Membership was one half guinea with the Annual Subscription one guinea payable six monthly in advance. Secondly the Club Colours were described "White guernsey trimmed with Cambridge blue, a peaked cap and flannel coat of Cambridge blue and white knickers".

With regard to the colours chosen it is recorded that the Swan River Rowing Club had been formed in Perth shortly before the Fremantle Club was formed and they had chosen as their colours the English Oxford University colours of navy blue. It must have been seen appropriate at that time to use the colours of the other participant in the quite famous annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

It is interesting to note at this point that Yacht Clubs existing around the mid 1880's generally included in their Regatta Programmes a Gig Race and it is reputed that the Swan River Rowing Club was formed by Con. Glasson following one of these such races held in November 1886. Also it is fairly safe to presume that Douglas Gawler when he won that Gig Race on 9th November 1886 received the spark which led to his initiating the movement to form the Fremantle Club in 1887.

From the records available of the earliest members there is no doubt that A.G Fyson was probably one of the first active rowers. He had come from South Australia where he had been one of the founders of the Adelaide Rowing Club.

The Fremantle crew that raced against Perth Crews in the first Regattas was A.G. Fyson (Str), W. Beisley (3), J. Hossack (2) and F.A. Trigg (Bow). It was not long however, after the Club was founded that Harry Adams, Harry Blinco and Ernest Fordham became members and were very prominent with A.G. Fyson in four oared rowing. They were the Club's Senior Four oared crew and a very strong combination.

1888 Senior 4

1888 Senior Four Winners Swan River Rowing Club Regatta 22 October 1906

From left: J Fyson, H Adams, H Blinco, E Fordham, T Blinco (Cox)

Amongst other members of 1887-1888 were Bennett Tom and Ted Blinco, R. Fairbairn, Len Harry and Jab Hicks, Fred Hollis, Jack Prince, F. Russell, E.A. Williams, J. and W. Willis, D.C. Wood and G. Wriford.

In all the 1888 Annual General Meeting recorded 95 Members. During this early period the Club Coaches were experienced oarsman in D.G. Gawler and W.F. Evans. The results of their coaching are revealed in the report that at the first inter club Regatta held in Fremantle. The local crews were successful in all except one of their races.

The first boat acquired by the Club was a pair oared or double sculling outrigger built by J.C. Butson of Fremantle and was placed on view at the establishment of Douglas and Co. of High Street and was described in the Press of the day as "It. has been built of Sydney cedar of the very best quality imported by Mr. R. Honey for the builder." The following are the dimensions - length 26 feet 3 inches beam 2ft. 6ins. Outriggers 16 ins. Slide lines 16 ins. All the fastenings have been made of copper, riveted every two inches. The timbers are of very best hickory and the inside fittings have been made of Chan and Kauri Pine handsomely polished and well finished. The iron outriggers have been painted Cambridge blue, the colours of the Club, and the craft is fitted with one pair of oars and two pairs of sculls. These are also the work of Mr. Butson who has finished the work in a satisfactory manner and equal to anything imported into the Colony.''

The first craft was followed immediately by two inrigger stagger seat fours; one was built by J.C. Butson and the other by Sam Lawrence of Riverside, Mill Street, Perth.

In the early days of the Club, as also in the Colony, maiden oarsmen, including scullers rowed their races on fixed seats inrigger boats. The junior class used similar boats but sliding seats, whilst the Seniors indulged in an outrigger with sliding seats but heavier than the boats used in 1920s, 1930s and on.

The Senior and Championship Sculls were always rowed in pair oared boats rigged for sculling. The same boats were fitted and used for double sculling events, a class that was very popular in the early 1890's. Sliding seats were an American invention and were first used by an American crew in 1871. being adopted in boat construction in Australia in 1874.

The first recorded eight oared boat was launched in 1819 and the first appearance of an eight in Australia was in 1875 when the Civil Service Club Victoria imported such a boat from England. Actually the first eight oared boat built in Australia was in 1869 by James Edwards of Melbourne, it did not have sliding seats and was never launched.

1875 Civil Service crew

1875 Civil Service crew in the first eight oared boat in Australia

The first eight oared boat in Western Australia appeared in 1901 and the first eight oared boat in the Fremantle Rowing Club as recorded elsewhere in this history was in 1906 when the "Fleur de lis" was purchased from Ormond College, Melbourne University and renamed "Frank Shaw".

The first eight oared boat built solely in Western Australia was built by William Ninham in Victoria Park and was delivered to the Fremantle Rowing Club on 20th March 1939 at a cost of 119 pounds. The boat was used extensively by school boys. service crews, club crews and a Kings Cup Crew until it was finally dismantled at the end of August 1961.

Chapter One page 1 2

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