History of Richmond Rowing Club
- Table of Contents
- 1. Founding the Richmond Rowing Club
- 2. The Boathouses
- 3. Regattas
- 4. The Golden Years
- 5. Training and Selection
- 6. Women at Richmond Rowing Club
- 7. Social and Fundraising
- 8. Looking Forward: the next chapter
- Titles and Awards
- State, National and Major Title Winners
Although RRC has been in its current boathouse for 40 years, in its early years the club was not so settled, moving between four boathouses in its first 50 years.
Richmond has owned its own boathouse, rented from and shared with boat builders, and more recently shared with Monash University and now Methodist Ladies College [MLC] girls' school.
From the start, Richmond had its own fleet and boathouse, contrary to the standard practice at the time of renting boats and space from a boat builder - a practice that minimised costs should a club fold [and many did]. Richmond built a boathouse at the rear of the Sir Henry Barkly hotel, located close to the Richmond Punt. While this location was somewhat removed from the Melbourne-based clubs, it provided RRC crews with the advantage of training upstream, away from prying eyes, resulting in surprise wins at some early regattas.
Late in 1926, misfortune struck. As reported in the Portland Guardian [21st October 1926]:
"A tremendous fire swept the Yarra banks just before midnight last night. The Richmond Rowing Club was burnt out, and four other clubs suffered
heavy losses. Large crowds assembled along the banks, coming in cars from all parts of the city. Henley will not be postponed on Saturday,
but the program must be altered owing to the losses sustained. The boat sheds were under notice for removal after Henley at the instance of
the rowing clubs. Flames hundreds of feet high lit up the city. The boats lost are estimated to be worth £2,000."
A new boathouse
The club took possession of a new and up-to-date boathouse on 1st January 1928 Richmond contributed £830 towards the total cost of £3,275. The
official opening of the new club house by the Lord Mayor, Sir Stephen Morrell, on 23rd January 1928 must have been quite an event. It was reported
to be one of the largest gatherings for a club event on the Yarra at the time.
Fire - again!
By the late 1980s, the introduction of women members and the expanding MLC rowing program were placing pressure on the boathouse facilities. In 1990 discussions commenced with MLC to redevelop the rowing club, including the possibility of extending the premises. However, plans to extend were rejected by the City Council and the focus shifted to renovating the existing boathouse.
The renovated boathouse gave a boost to club activity once again. But both MLC and Richmond did not give up hope of extending the boathouse. It took another four years and the creation of the Boathouse Drive Precinct Plan before the City Council approved Richmond's plans to extend in 2004.
Born 1929: died 2010
Don joined the club as a 17 year old in 1946 and became an officer of the club in 1951. He gave more than 45 years of membership and service to the club.
Don was an outstanding sculler. In the 1950s, he took out the Victorian Open Sculling Championship title over 2 1/4 miles five times and the 2000 metres title four times. He also won the Henley Silver Sculls twice, In 1957, he won the 5 mile Best Boat Marathon and he represented Victoria in the Australian Amateur Sculling Championship.
In later years Don competed in veteran rowing at all levels. he represented RRC at the FISA Veterans Rowing Championships in Toronto, Canada, and the inaugural World Masters Games. Don won gold medals in E Division Double and Quad Sculls, as well as silver and bronze medals.
Don gave countless hours to on and off water activities, coaching beginners and training crews over the years. Following the disastrous fire that destroyed the clubhouse in 1970, Don was instrumental, with Bob Juggins, in establishing the financial structures that proved essential in allowing the club to survive and remain at its present site. Don also manufactured and designed the first sliding boat racks for a Melbourne based rowing club and, with a dedicated team of helpers, installed them at RRC in the 1970s.
Don guided the club through years of rebuilding and held various committee positions: Vice-President (5 years), Executive Vice-President (3 years),
Secretary (5 years), President (3 years) and Captain (4 years).
The Dennis Family
Three generations of Richmond Rowing Club members
Alfred Dennis (1861-1933) joined the club in the late 1880s and stroked a wining Maiden 4 at the Melbourne Regatta in 1892. The following year was 2 in the Maiden 8. He continued his association with Richmond and was a successful coach in the early 1900s.
Walter Dennis (1905-1975) rowed with success in the 1920s and 30s reaching Senior standard and being selected for the Interstate race but was injured in a car accident. He coached both before and after war service and had great success in the period from 1956 to 1970 with both club crews and University High (a school that ran a rowing program through Richmond). He held several positions on the committee including President during the rebuilding after the fire. At the time of his death, he was President of the Amateur Sculling Association.
Ray Dennis (1939- ) rowed in the 1950s winning races in all classes of boat at both Maiden and Junior level. He coached several novice crews in the late 1960s with success, rowed socially for forty years with Eric Britton and held several committee positions. Ray coached at the masters level and enjoyed the competition and camaraderie as much as in his youth.
Dennis family stories
Regattas were very social times especially the Christmas treble (Nagambie, Yarrawonga and Rutherglen) and also the Easter double, at Sale and Bairnsdale. On these occasions there was often three generations of family there encouraging the club's crews. We ate picnic style at a communal table with everyone sharing food and generally causing mayhem.
Wally was fixated on maintaining good technique especially when tiring near the end of a race, and his concentration on the crew coming down the stone wall, led to him not concentrating on the end of the Henley staging and it was to the crews delight to see Wally and his bike airborne before hitting the water.
One day Wally had a novice pair he coached racing at Preston regatta. The crew was expected to win comfortably. When they lost by a foot, Wally headed for the staging with steam pouring from his ears only to find the bow man's seat had dislodged at the start and his rear end was a mess as he had used the slide anyway. Wally soon calmed down.