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Short History of Horsham Rowing Club

In 1967, a drought in the Wimmera caused the Horsham City Council to employ local men who were without work on a river development project. 

Bill Humphries, then the City Engineer, whilst helping the Council and the newly formed River Beautification Committee, had at the back of his mind the possibility of a rowing club. 

In 1971, a new weir at the west end of Horsham was damming a stretch of water about three-and-a-half miles long and, on the average, six feet deep. 

On 21 March 1972, the Mayor, Brian Hutchesson, called together all those interested in forming a rowing club. A committee was elected, with Peter Gray as chairman, to find out what support there would be. This committee reported back to the Mayor that there was definite local interest. On 10 March 1972 a public meeting was called to form a rowing club. At this meeting the following committee was elected: president, Peter Gray; vice­presidents, Bill Humphries and Doug Wiles; secretary Lindsay W B Smith; treasurer Ross Both; committee; Ron Schmidt, Graeme Arnold and Bert Sprague. 

The meeting was told of interest expressed by the Horsham High and the Horsham Technical Schools. The Horsham P & A Society was approached for the use of the poultry pavillion as a boat-shed. This arrangement has continued to the present day. Six members of the committee quaranteed a loan of $3,000 taken with the ANZ bank for a five year period. This capital was used to purchase two regulation fours and a set of 10 oars, at a total cost of $2,880.50. Bill Brennan transported both boats from Sydney in time to have the craft displayed at the annual Horsham Motor Show. This was at no cost to the club, and, in recognition, Bill Brennan was made the first vice-patron of the club. 

On 27 June 1972, seven interested women approached the committee with the idea of a female rowing competition. Mrs Anne Mitchell was appointed to the club committee. The enthusiasm shown by the women rowers was one of the factors which helped the club to survive in later years when the river was drained, and crews had to travel many miles to train. On 11 June 1972, Graeme Woods was appointed first captain of the club. On 4 November 1972, the club conducted its first Opening Day. The regulation fours were named 'City of Horsham' and 'Wimmera' by the wife of the Mayor, Mrs Val Hutchesson, and the wife of the club president, Mrs Rene Gray. 

On 19 November 1972, the club held its first regatta under the instructions of VRA Officials, attracting 450 rowers. The Horsham Rowing Club had its first win in the women's novice four event. During the first year, the club bought, second-hand, two fours and two eights. In this year, a boat trailer was built with the assistance of Laurie Rudolph. In recognition of his help he was made the second vice-patron. In the club's first year, its crews attended 11 regattas. 

On 30 May 1973 the first annual meeting was held. Bill Humphries was elected president, and Ian Anderson became captain. 

Purchases of oars were made with the aid of donations from Horsham Jaycees and Horsham Lions Clubs. This was the start of an association with Jaycees, who have since assisted with catering at the club's regattas. In this season, a peninsula in the Wimmera River was removed to enable the rowing course to be extended to 1500 metres. 

The start of the season saw the river drained. Crews were forced to travel to Dimboola to train. The opening day and the second Horsham regatta were both held on Natimuk Lake. At a special meeting on the 12 February 1974, the committee of the club was extended to 16 members. A social committee was formed on 9 April 1974. One of its functions was to help in fund­raising. Peter Beyer was elected as its chairman. Crews entered regattas of Dimboola, Horsham, Wentworth and Mildura. The novice eight from Longerenong College had a win at Wentworth. 

The second annual meeting was held on 30 May 1974, when Doug Wiles was elected president, and Peter Beyer became captain. On the 10 August 1974 David Boykett visited Horsham to show films on rowing, and to conduct a rowing clinic. These events were sponsored by the Rothman's Foundation. 

At this time, moves were being made to obtain a site for a rowing shed. Junior crews from the Horsham High and Horsham Technical Schools spent a week in Melbourne training under the guidance of Peter Beyer. The crews stayed at the Albert Park sheds and used that club's equipment. Opening Day was followed up with a film night when the King's Cup was shown by J Parr assisted by R Todd and T Rodda. At the end of the season, the club held its first presentation dinner. Debbie Murch received the trophy for 

'Top Rower'. The club had wins in the Ladies' novice fours and in the novice pairs. The third regatta was held on the Wimmera River. 

At the third annual meeting held on 10 April 1975, Ron Schmidt was 

elected president, and Kevin Bolwell became captain. The City Council allocated land to the club, on a site between the Jardwa Apex Shed and Adventure Island. Thanks to the River Beautification Committee and the City Council, a slab of concrete was put on the site at little cost to the club. To complete the building, finances were obtained from the ANZ bank, and some members and friends of the club gave interest free loans of $200. Lorraine Smith, Sue Flux, Graeme Arnold, Euan Thompson and Peter Gray each donated money to the building fund, becoming vice-patrons. Plans for the rowing shed were drawn up by Peter Beyer and building materials were obtained. 

The start of the season again saw the river empty, this time to duplicate the bridge on the Western Highway. Crews trained at Natimuk Lake for the first half of the season, and once again the Horsham Regatta had to be held at Natimuk Lake. The wins this season went to the senior B women's crew, who won in SA. This crew came second in the SA Championship Lightweight fours event. At the presentation dinner for the season, Wendy Gregor was named 'Top Rower' . 

At the fourth annual meeting held on 27 May 1976, Ron Schmidt was re-­elected president and Campbell Mitchell was made captain. On 26 and 27 June 1976 the steel frame of the shed was erected by club members, with the aid of the Jardwa Apex Club. For his support in the construction of the steel frame, the club voted David Hendy a vice-patron. The brickwork was completed by 30 August 1976. At subsequent working bees, members have put on the roof and installed the doors. 

Extracted from Rowing in Victoria - The first 100 years of the Victorian Rowing Association 1876-1976 by Field Rickards.

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