History of Newcastle Rowing Club
Part 3 -Twentieth Century Rowing in Newcastle (continued)
Early Rowing Clubs
From the beginning of the new century, other rowing clubs emerged locally although most disappeared after a short period of activity.
Port Hunter Rowing Club was formed at Stockton in 1900. Some of the more familiar names of early rowing in Newcastle re-emerged, among them was C H Hannell (naturally) who was President (naturally) as well as some of the Towns brothers including J R Towns who in 1909, as member of a Sydney club, won the Australian amateur sculling champion. The club's intention was to hold races once a month catering for amateurs and professionals. Although allowing membership to amateurs and professionals did not resolve the 'amateur' question, it was a step in the right direction. Its opening regatta in April involved two races, one for amateurs, one for professionals. The club struggled to survive and ended around 1903.
A perpetual trophy for competition by Port Hunter Rowing Club amateurs was donated by the club's Treasurer, Frank Underwood. After more than ninety years since its last use in a boat race, the Underwood Cup was the prize for an invitation single scull race at NRC's first regatta of the current era, held at Stockton in February 1994.
For comparitive purposes and in the absence of any Newcastlespecific information on the subject, the cost of membership of Sydney clubs in the early 1900s may be of interest. Cost of club membership was about £3, with regatta entry 5/-plus 10/-per oar; a total of about £10.
Hunter River Professional Sculling Club was formed in 1915. Its first regatta in 1916 was held on the back channel at Mayfield [now filled in, this was the NE extension of Throsby Creek around the northern end of Bullock Island joining with the Hunter River at Port Waratah]. Contestants included the ubiquitous Hickey brothers. Events were novice double sculls; club members single sculls; mixed double sculls; allcomers single scull and allcomers double scull.
A feature of the club's life was the manner in which it supported women's rowing with races for women were a regular feature of the club's activities.
The club mainly held its races and regattas on the Hunter River near the club's boatshed (a 28' x 24' galvanised iron building with a 24' x 12'Ianding stage located at the end of Crebert Street, Mayfield) and occasionally at Stockton and Hexham. It numbered amongst its members men and ladies from some of Newcastle's top rowing families such as Towns, Hyde, Woodridge, Moncrief, Croese,Ross, Hughes, Hyde, Latham and Ripley.
Strong and active until well into the 1920s, the club disappeared from the rowing scene in 1933.
Elmbank Regatta Club appears to have been established as a sailing club at North Stockton in 1909 since its 20th year was celebrated with a gala day in 1929. With former champion rower Ben Thoroughgood as President, rowing appeared on its agenda in 1922. Its first rowing regatta was held in June 1923. There were just two races.
Elmbank seems to have something of a recurring identity problem. In 1924 it was referred to as Elmbank Sailing and Rowing Club and in 1926 held a 21-event regatta, including 19 sculling races, as the Elmbank Sports Club. It held internal races throughout the 1920s. Club member, R Hyde of Stockton, was the heavy boat sculling champion of NSW and champion sculler of the Hunter River in 1923. Elmbank, in all its forms, faded away in 1932.
Stockton RC, previously active between 1888 and 1890, was reformed in 1930 with 50 members. The opening of its boatshed at North Stockton and launch of a new 22 ft skiff (costing £32) followed in 1931. The club's rowing largely consisted of single and double sculls events for men and women held on Saturday afternoons over the half-mile "Newtownship" course. The Boatrowers Hotel course in south Stockton was used occasionally. The club appears to have functioned until 1936.
Other clubs, about which little or nothing is known, came and went. These included: Plattsburg Boat Club that held regattas at Tom ago from 1901 to 1904 with races for amateurs and professionals: Raymond Terrace RC that although formed in 1907 had its heyday in the 1920s: Cockle Creek Boating Club (1904 - 1912): Mayfield Aquatic Club (c 1914): Tea Gardens RC (c 1917): Teralba RC (1922); Maitland RC (c1920-30); Toronto RC (1924); Belmont Ladies Sculling Club (c 1929); Lower Hunter RC (Raymond Terrace) (1930); Kilaben Bay RC (1933); Port Stephens Land and Aquatic Sports Club (Tanilba Bay) (1935) and the Gosford and Brisbane Water Aquatic Club (c 1936). In 1917, three boats were bought for a proposed new rowing club at Tea Gardens. Given the war situation in Europe the timing could have been better. In any case, nothing appears to have eventuated so the purchase may have been premature. The Speers Point Regatta Club was, more than likely, a sailing club although the holding of a coxed four oared race in 1941 indicates some level of residual interest in rowing.
A proposal by Mr D Hutchinson in 1901 to erect a shed on the North Stockton Wharf "for the convenience of scullers" probably falls within this category. Anyway, there's nowhere else for it to go. Who it was to cater for, how it would function and how the proprietor would recoup his investment is left for someone else to investigate.
Like community regatta committees, rowing clubs in Newcastle just faded away in the 1930s. Clearly, rowing had lost its lustre and the great depression did not help. By that time, club activities were limited to the same few members competing against each other on Saturday afternoons in small boats only - that is, single and double sculls. Even when two clubs existed concurrently, there was no inter-club competition nor was there any attempt to test member's prowess against clubs from other areas. In addition, there was no obvious attempt to bring new people into the sport. All-in-all, an unappealing offering that was more likely to contribute to, rather than stem, the demise of the sport.
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