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History of Fremantle Rowing Club 1887-1987

By Ralph Jeffreys

16. Potpourri

Reportable items from reminiscences at Annual Dinners etc. The year indicates the era of the happening.

1887 C.Y. O'Connor CMG M Inst. C.E., a foundation vice president, became Engineer in Chief Western Australia from 1891-1902 and was responsible for the design and construction of Fremantle Harbour, first used in 1897, the Goldfields Water Scheme, the pipeline for which reached Kalgoorlie on 16th January 1903. and Railways of the period.

1888 First Annual Regatta held in Fremantle.

1888 Members produced a comic opera in order to aid Club Funds.

1889 The annual regatta report included a protest in the Treacle Bun Race. The boy who finished first ate the string holding the suspended bun. There was no report however of the effect on the boy or of. the result of the protest.

1893 R. Fairbairn, President of the Club, was Resident Magistrate for Fremantle.

1897 It was reported to the Annual Meeting that there was a proposal to form a Rowing Club in North Fremantle.

1898 James Rogers, an early Secretary, Treasurer and Captain took over Richmond Hotel on 8th October 1898.

1902 Captain Russell R.N. (Chief Harbour Master) a member and regular Regatta Official returned to England 2nd June 1902.

1903 A story was related of sounds of Aboriginal Ghosts on Point Walter, heard at night.

1906 "Dolly" Christie, a successful junior Oarsman played senior football for 23 years.

1906 A very cold regatta day on the Canning River, a crew swamped. On reaching shore the crew gathered some money and gave it to the coxswain who was looking almost frozen. The coxswain dashed off to a nearby shop and returned still looking cold and licking an ice-cream.

1910 Douglas Gawler (foundation captain) elected to the Legislative Council and served there on until his death in 1915.

1911 Frank Shaw constructed as coaching aids a wooden model of an oarsman with moveable joints and a "swinging board". The correct position of the body was explained by adjusting the model and then up to eight oarsmen were accommodated on the swinging board, which was a heavy Oregon plank approximately 30 feet long with foot rests fixed at intervals along its length. All oarsmen from 1911 to 1962 will have memories of the "rack" as it was referred to. All types of seating gear were used but after swinging for some time together on the rack the discomfort was really felt. The "rack" was lost during the period of storage prior to completion of the Preston Point Clubhouse and Bob Semple endeavoured to revive the Frank Shaw Model, but the project was not received with very great enthusiasm and it lapsed.

1913 John Moss offered his launch "Helveta" for use by the Governor at the Annual Regatta.

1913 Washing down the boat was in progress but the rower with the hose seemed more intent on washing down the crew - Nothing could stop him, he soaked everyone in sight. One of the crew entered the dressing shed and returned partly dressed in the clothes of the tormentor - You wouldn't wet me in my clothes? Yes he did not taking time to identify the clothes.

1914 Rosters for teaching novices have been used from time to time and the 1914 list was quite impressive and was as follows:
Monday George Campbell
Tuesday H V Braddock
Wednesday Howard Slocock
Thursday Stan (R.S ) Jeffreys
Friday Daniel Aarons
Saturday Alf Manuelle
Sunday General Day

1914 Paul- Strelitz agreed to make his launch available for use by the Governor at the Annual Regatta.

1914 Ern Loney a member and later a Vice President swam from Rocky Bay to Perth.

1921 George Rogers was elected an honorary member of the Club for seven months on 8th November, 1921 in order to continue his sculling training.

1925 AlF Tilley agreed to place the TSS Emerald at the Club's disposal for the Annual Regatta. Other launches used were the Fisheries Dept. launch and P. Caesar's launch.

1926 The first regatta held on the new "Empire Mile" Course from Pt. Walter end of Blackwall Reach to a finishing line drawn from the spitpost off Point Roe to a point some 50 yards beyond Bicton Jetty.

1926 The Club Blazer redesigned with pocket from a pattern drawn by Fremantle Architect Claude Nicholas The blazers were light blue and replaced the dark blue ones with light blue braid. The quote received from Foy and Gibson (W.A.) Ltd. for the ready to wear article was one pound twelve shillings and sixpence (equiv $3 25).

1926 The S.R.R.C. Club Regatta held on 4th November 1926 included an invitation combination eights race for veterans.

1928 A Fremantle Crew took part in the first Bunbury Inter Club Regatta held on 29th September 1928.

1928 The first recognition of the change to swivels came on 19th June 1928, when it was finally decided to order a new racing four to be fitted with the wooden rowlocks but allowing for it to be converted to metal swivels.

1931 The starting cannon which had been used for many years and owned by Fred Hollis who was President in 1900, was used for the first time as the finishing cannon. The firing of the cannon, left no doubt in the ears and minds of the crews that the race had finished. The cannon was donated to the Club by Fred Hollis and has since been plugged and is held for the Club under a Firearm Curio Licence.

1931 The Clubhouse suffered considerable damage in the severe river flooding during the winter of 1931. The S.R.R.C. headed by Jim Lang volunteered to take part in a working bee to repair the damage. The Swan Brewery of Mounts Bay Road. Perth, agreed to provide refreshments. As usual in situations such as this, the work took longer and was harder than expected, and the refreshments required augmenting. The Fremantle oarsmen called on the Castlemaine Brewery in Beach Street, who readily agreed to prevent any possible cases of dehydration.

1932 During the summer the river was alive at weekends with aquatic exercises from the Clubhouse such as canoes, rafts, a long rope hanging from the Traffic Bridge, swimming across the river, and on one occasion a competition to find out who could swim a certain distance with the heaviest brick across his shoulders.

1932 Club Blazers reordered through Purser and Bousefieid Fremantle at a new price of Two pounds Seven Shillings and Sixpence (equiv. $4.75).

1934 Early practice boats were built comparatively robust and on summer mornings with suitable weather conditions four oared boats were rowed out through the "Heads" and on one occasion as far as the old wreck of the "SS Lygnern". A Pair was also rowed around and landed at South Beach.

1935 Jerry Haire won the State High Jump Championship with a record jump.

1937 Mrs. Richardson. the pioneer of Regatta Afternoon Teas and mother of one of the Club's leading oarsmen of the time, Jeston Richardson, was a real enthusiast for the Club. She made it known that her car required a "repaint" - yes she had it repainted and in due course arrived at a Regatta, Fremantle Blue from stem to stern. At any rowing function thereafter the light blue single seater Austin Seven could be seen in all its glory.

1938 The contingent of oarsmen from the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery stationed in the Burt Street Barracks was quite strong in 1938, and when military circumstances arose that required the men to be stationed at Kingston Barracks on Rottnest Island, a practice four was transported across and rowing continued on the lake. The intention was to hold a Regatta on the Island, but army requirements leading up to the declaration of war put an end to all rowing aspirations.

1942 John Manford, a Pilot in the R.A.A.F., awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

1946 First entered a crew in the Champion Eight (a similar crew had been entered in the 1939 event but the race was abandoned). The crew was the only one, to arrive at Point Dundas for the start. The race was eventually postponed before the Perth Crews had left their sheds. The weather worsened and the Fremantle crew swamped on the return row to Crawley. In the subsequent re-row they gained second place to the W.A. Rowing Club.

1947 A new site for the club ;reserved by the Town of East Fremantle. The site 250 feet x 70 feet was a short distance west of the Sea Scouts, Bicton.

1948 Denis Kestel Club Senior Coxswain later left for Rome to work and study as an opera singer. He had the part of the priest in the film "The Shoes of the Fisherman" and was auditioned at Sadler's Wells and at Covent Garden. He finally returned with his family to Western Australia.

1949 First Inter Club Regatta held by Murray Districts Rowing Club on the Murray River near Ravenswood.

1952 For the Annual Ball it was decided to release the balloons through a "manhole" in the ceiling of the Town Hall. The effect on the Ballroom floor was great but the balloon holders unanimously agreed that it was too intrepid to repeat.

1954 A girls crew caught in the strong outgoing tide near the railway bridge became trapped under the timbers of the bridge. The tide firmly wedged the completely submerged boat but the girls were able to clamber over the bridge to safety. It was some hours before the boat with a gaping hole in its hull, was recovered and returned to the Clubhouse.

1957 During the period in which boats had to be rowed from Fremantle to and from Regattas an eight oar crew with the Coach in the coxswains seat swamped off Nedlands on the return journey. As was sometimes the practice, one of the crew would swim near the bow of the boat to keep it directed towards the shore, the remainder stayed in the stern area and provided the motive power. The coach was elected to the bow position and all appeared to be going well until one of the oarsmen from the stern swam strongly to the bow, and enquired of the coach if he was alright. It turned out that the crew had been watching the bow body disappear under the water on two occasions but it was explained that the elastic in the rowing shorts had broken and the coach had been retrieving them from his ankles.

1957 A new site on Riverside Road being examined. The site is between Pier Street and the new Stirling Bridge. The site requires excavating back into cliff face for about 30 feet.

1958 Following an open invitation to Clubs to submit a proposal for a 2000 metre course which could initially be used for the Empire Games Regatta to be held in 1962, Bob Brealey submitted on behalf of the Club, a very comprehensive proposal for a course using the Attadale foreshore. The proposal together with a proposal submitted on behalf of ANA Rowing Club to use Perth water was not successful.

1959 The inaugural Long Distance Race was held from a line where the Stirling Bridge now crosses the river at East Fremantle to the Narrows in Perth. The race was won by the Fremantle crew of Rex Cordingley (Str), Don Lewis (7), Roy Tapper (6), Jack Hall (5), Trevor McInerney (4), Ron Hardy (3), Barry Audsley (2), Richard Lewis (Bow) and Alan Ulrich (Cox) in 1 hour 3 minutes. The fastest time of I hour 2 minutes 55 seconds was recorded by a W.A. Rowing Club Crew. It is of note that the course was the one used by Fremantle Crews when training for the three mile championship.

1960 The first indication that firm consideration was being given to the reclamation at Preston Point for the Club, was received on 30th May 1960.

1963 A bequest of 100 pounds by R.S. Jeffreys was applied to the cost of the boat trailer, of which he was one of the pioneers.

1963 Bob Higham elected to Fremantle City Council and served until he retired in 1978.

1963 At the opening of the Preston Point Clubhouse an 31st March 1963, it was recalled that in the area between the Riverside Road fence and the nearest wall of the Clubhouse was the narrow channel of water along which crews returning from a long row could, except in a very low tide escape the strong south west winds.

1964 A Rowing Camp was conducted in the Clubhouse by Peter Cleaver and Bob Semple for the Senior and Novice Eights training for the final regatta of the season.
1965 Patricia Jeffreys became the first girl in Australia to receive the Duke of Edinburgh gold award. Included in the citation was the fact that with five other Sea Rangers she rowed a dinghy towing a supply dinghy for 25 miles up the Swan River and return. The fifty miles was covered in four days and four nights camping by the river every night. The girls had practice rows from Fremantle Club in an eight oared boat under a Club Coach.

1966 The Club Senior 8, starting from scratch in the Long Distance race had passed all other crews as they raced along Point Resolution but together with many other crews swamped along Nedlands Foreshore.

1967 Owing to a gear breakage the Novice Eight were dispatched to the start with only seven oarsmen, and won the race. A protest was received and finally submitted to the Australian Council who ruled that a crew must start the race with a full complement of rowers. The crew was disqualified and local rules altered to meet any further recurrence of the situation.

1973 Jack Jeffreys was elected a Councillor for the Town of East Fremantle and served until his death on 10th April 1977.

1906 Richard Lewis a former coxswain, oarsman and secretary elected a member of the State Legislative Assembly.

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