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A History of Yea Rowing Club

The concept of a rowing club at Yea arose during a shooting expedition at Yea in 1950 by life-long friends Jack Donald (now president of Yarra Yarra Rowing Club) and the late JC (Pat) Harrison. 

Pat and Jack were looking at the river, and idly commented on how many crews could row abreast on the Goulburn River at Yea. Jack Donald said three and Pat Harrison said two. The idea of founding a club was then born. 

Pat Harrison, who was a member of the Victorian Police Force, and had been transferred from Melbourne to Yea, established the club. 

Gathering together Cecil Keys, Everard Sundblom and Talbot Davies, this small body, with volunteer help, erected a log hut on the present site of the club­house. Jack Donald and a number of members of the Yar:ra Yarra Rowing Club cleared a straight mile section of the Goulburn River, and, after two years of hard work, the river was finally cleared of snags. The course is at Killingworth, a few miles from Yea. 

The fleet commenced with two tub-fours obtained from Melbourne Grammar through Charles Donald (Wesley coach) and Wally Ricketts (Melbourne Grammar coach). Later, a racing four and racing pair were added. 

Among the original oarsmen were Alan Allcock, Dick and Harold Cumming, Ron Murphy, Ernest and David Vivian, Peter Betts and Lenn Orth. Later, their ranks were augmented by Dennis Slavin and Neville Walker. 

Worrall Jones, Kanumbra grazier, former Geelong College Head Prefect, and oarsman, became secretary (and a most efficient one). It was largely due to his experience and ability that the standard of rowing rose at Yea, so that the club was soon taking an active part in VRA regattas. In 1956, Neville Sundblom and Worrall Jones put Yea on the map by winning the senior pairs. The club staged regattas and the Yea regatta became a permanent fixture on the VRA calendar. 

A snow storm caused damage to the clubhouse, and this was replaced by a recreation hut obtained from Eildon Weir. 

Originally, the course was rowed down-stream from the present start, but this was changed after 10 years, the crews now rowing against the current. 

The clubhouse and course were in a beautiful bush setting. Snakes were prevalent in the early days, and there is a story told of an oarsman, Oswald Davies, who, in picking up his track suit top saw a tiger snake fall out of it. 

The transfer of Pat Harrison to Ballarat and the death of Harold Cummings were considerable blows to the club. Joe Coe had given valuable help as well as Maurice McLeish, the owner of Killingworth Station. 

With the decline of oarsmen from Yea, the last regatta was held in 1973, for the VRA withdrew permission to hold regattas on the grounds that the club was unable to boat crews. 

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

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