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Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club

Wendouree Rowing Club History 1883-1983

The Wendouree-Ballarat Rowing Club is Indebted to the Wendouree Permanent Building society for their help in the publication of this book.

The President and Committee of the Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club gratefully acknowledge the time and effort of our life member and long serving past President, Mr. Jack Barnett, who compiled the history of the Wendouree Rowing Club.

An indignation meeting of the Ballarat Rowing Club was called on account of certain members of the Club not having paid their annual subscriptions for many years, and it was at this meeting that the dissatisfied members decided to sever their connections with the old Club and form a new club together. The first meeting was held on October 15th. 1883. at "The Nag's Head" Hotel in Armstrong Street South. and on the motion of Mr. Frampton. it was decided that the name of the new club be Wendouree.

The then Mayor of the City, John Hickman. was elected first President. Vice Presidents: Major Smith, J. G. McDonald. W. H. Hennah; Captain: H. Oxlade; Vice Captain: H. Whitelaw; Secretary-Treasurer: O. E. Wilson; Committee: Messrs. J. McDonald, F. McGeary, C. P. Bennett, J. Murray, G. Robertson. G. Armstrong, R. Chinnery. D. Mann.

The Committee at that time were handicapped by not having a boat shed. so Mayor Hickman offered for £40. the shed used by the Union Foundry for housing their Screw Steamer. an offer the Committee gladly accepted.

Many obstacles were overcome by those pioneers who worked hard to make their Clubhouse comfortable, and at the same time laid a foundation in the Rowing world that was soon to make your Club one of the foremost in the Colony.

As early as November. 1884. it was recorded in the Courier that the draw for the scratch fours event would be held at Shillington's City Bngade Hotel. Medals were offered by Mr. E. R. Cutter; 60 Members were entered for these events.


The season passed without a win to the new Club.


Four pioneer representatives were successful in winning the Senior four and Sunbury Cup at Ballarat Regatta. Senior four at Geelong. Senior four and Nicholls Challenge Cup at the Upper Yarra Amateur Regatta. hence it will be seen that the Club was winning Senior races before it had recorded a win in maiden or junior events.

In the first five years of the Club's history. winning crews were as follows: Maiden fours 2. Maiden eights 4. Junior four I. Senior four J. Senior eight 2.


The first of what was to be the annual contest for the four oared Championship of Victoria was held on the Saltwater River (Lower Yarra. The Club entered a crew on the inducement of an advertisement in the Press some months before the event, that the prize for the Centennial Fours would be £100.

The crew selected was seated W. Gheirk, stroke, who had an excellent reputation as a stroke with the Williamstown Club's Senior Eight, J. Mathieson (.I), W. Archibald (2). S. Wilson (how), H. Kampf (cox).

The course was from about 200 yards below the Williamstown Ferry to a point opposite the Stanley Arms HoteL on the Saltwater River. a distance of .11,4 miles. Wendouree took the lead shortly after the start and went on to win by 10 lengths to Banks and 10 lengths to Corio Bay, in a time of 19 mins . .12 sec. At the social evening held at Young and Jackson's Hotel that evening. the crew was presented with not a £ 100 prize, hut medals to the value of .10 shillings.

Season 1888 it became necessary to increase the size of the shed. It was decided to build a large dressing room, on the south side of the shed, the work being carried out by Messrs. T. Egginton & Co. at a cost of over 5~ 100. The total value of the Club's property at the time Being over £538.12.0. Thus from nothing. the Club had come to occupy the leading position amongst the Ballarat Clubs in just 5 years.


Your representatives in winning the Maiden Eight event at Ballarat Regatta were to start a run of success unparalleled in the Club's history. The crew seated J. Donald (str.), T. Lingham (7). C. Donald (6), J. Mahar (5), F. Clennel (4)' Arch Dawson (Jl. F. Hassell (2), H. Linllham (bowl. A. Watson (cox).  The crew was to become known as the "Wendouree Snipes". They went on to win twelve races. including six Senior Eights and trophies to the value of \~J9R.. The crew had an average weight of less than 10 stone. The heaviest man in the crew was James Donald at 10 stone.

James Donald justly deserved the title of "Prince of Oarsmen". His record in eight oared events is outstanding. He rowed in eleven of these races stroking ten, winning on eight occasions and second on two.

Charles Donald rowed in eight crews in the Australian eight oared titles being successful in seven and second once.

Both the Donalds transferred to Albert Park R.C. and would have won most of their races with that Club.


The three heavier men, Jack Blake, Jim Rogers and Wally Dawson were added to the "Snipes" crew to win the Champion Eight of Victoria.


From the Club Annual Report -"It is with great pleasure that we draw attention to the fact that in the Intercolonial eight race. held in Adelaide in May last. the winning crew Victoria and the third crew Queensland were stroked by two former Wendouree Club oarsmen, James Donald and Arthur Watson"'.

1901 Saw the appointment of Alfred Clarke as coach at a fee of £2 a week: his services were terminated after only 5 weeks, suffering the fate of an unsuccessful professional coach.


Two new practice pairs were purchased at a cost of LIH. Also purchased were 20 new (oars. at a total cost of £27.2.0. Members' attention was drawn to this expensive item and the members asked to exercise care in their use.


Mr. Andrew Taylor who had served the Club as Committeeman and Treasurer for many years. had the foresight to realise that if the Club was to progress, a new Clubhouse was needed, and to this end he started a fund to build and update the boat shed without having to borrow money. 1:200 was raised in the first year, but funds were hard to raise: in


the funds stood at only £265. The target to start the new shed was £400. It was not until April 9th. 19m. the following tenders were offered:

  • H. Armour £615
  • Mills & Harris £675
  • A. Hattrick  £698
  • H H. Swain £795
  • E. Doherty £607
  • R. Ludbrook £589
  • H. Brown £645

Mr. Taylor presented a financial statement showing the sum of for the erection of the new shed.

Not only the success of the 'Club in the past. but its very existence today is due to the work of men like Andrew Taylor.


The start of the European War which was soon to have our members involved in 'hat terrible conflict. Seventy six members of the Club enlisted for active service. Nearly all the young me n of the Club were soon to be on their way to the fields of Flanders. the mud of the Somme, the Battle of Pozieres. where -Major Eric Brind. a successful oarsman and Secretary of the Club for many years. lost his life. In all. eleven of our members lost their lives.

With so many many: away at the War. regatta racing was abandoned for the duration of the War. Activity at the Club was confined to Club braces.

On the return of the Troops at the end of the War, and with new oarsmen recruited in the past few years, Wendouree was to enter the 1920's and create a decade of success, the like of which we have not seen before or since.


"The Golden Age". During the 1920's, Wendouree experienced a period of success that is unparalleled in its one hundred year history. The club won races at all levels of competition. the most notable successes being those of the senior crews.

Many well known and experienced oarsmen competed for · Wendouree during the 1920·s. hut the dominating influences were Jack Jopling and Ray Todd whose names became synonymous with excellence in the sport of rowing. As a pair-oared combination. Joplin and Todd won the State senior title on five occasions (1921-22. 1922-2]. 1923-24, 1925-26 and 1926-27). Whilst winning these five titles. they were also winning races in senior fours and eights. Indeed. between 1921 and 1927, Jopling and Todd each figured in ten State title wins.

Wendouree won the Victorian Senior Four title during the 1922-2] season with a crew which comprised Harry Hawkins (str.), Ray Todd (3)  Jack  Jopling (2), Fred Walshe bow and Joe O'Keane Cox!. They repeated the win during the 192.1-24 season with a crew seated Jopling (str.). Todd (3). Gordon "Clarrie" Hutchins (2). Walshe (how) and O'Keane (Cox).

In each of the seasons 192]-24. 1924-25 and 1925-20. the Club won the Champion Senior Eight of Victoria race's.

The 1920-24 crew was seated J. Jopling (str.!. R. Todd (7). G. Hutchins (0). F. Yates (5). A. Hall (4). R. PiL·rc.... 1.11. R. Merriman (2). F. Walshe (bow) and D. O'Keane (Cox ) Alex Hall Sen.. formerly of the Ballarat Club. was coach.

Immense local pride was generated by the Wendouree eight's win. One staunch supporter. "Aunty Taylor". wife of Boh Taylor. "The Harbour Master of Wendouree". presented the crew members with gold medallions to commemorate their win. She probably found the exercise rather expensive because' there is no record of her repeating).! the presentation in the the following years.

This Wendouree crew represented Victoria in the King's Cup of 1924 in Adelaide. It is recorded that in the King's Cup race. "the boat sank at the mile post on the~ Port Adelaide River course hut they were.' leading at the time". The boat this crew' \\ used was the "Norman Booth". a streak eight which is still in the shed. To help raise the £25 needed to buy the Norman Booth Gus Edwards. the boat builder. a raffle was held. Tickets sold at threepence each.

When Fred Walshe, the bow man of the 1923-24 crew shifted to Adelaide, Stan (Sandy) McGorm came in to the boat for the next two seasons. McGorm had transferred from the Sandhurst Club after winning the State sculling title in 1923. He later joined the Ballarat Rowing Club. Alex King of the Ballarat Rowing Club also came into the 1925 and 1926 crews. He replaced Dan O'Keane as coxswain.

Wendouree was again represented in the 1929 King's Cup. In that year the Victorian Rowing Association decided that the selected King's Cup crew should be subject to challenge for the right to represent the State. A challenge was issued by a combined crew from the three Ballarat Clubs and on Saturday the 13th April, the race was rowed on the Lower Yarra. Apparently the Ballarat crew won, "as they pleased". and the sole selector, Mr. McVilly, informed the V.R.A. that the Ballarat Club's crew would be the Victorian representative. This crew consisted of G. Hutchins (str.). W.R.C S. McGorm (7). B.R.C., H. Grace (6) B.R.C., F. Yates (5) W.R.C., 1. Beattie (4) B.R.C., L. Zillies (3)  B.R.C., E. Panther (2), B.R.C., J. Andre (Bow) B.R.c., A. Wilson (cox), J. B. Suffren (coach) B.R.e.

Two other State titles came the way of the Club in the 1920's. Gordon (Clarrie) Hutchins and Alex Hall won the senior pair title in 1927-2H, whilst in 192H-29 Hutchins combined with Fred Yates to win the title again.

After the Club's string of successes in eights, fours and pairs it was little wonder that a Wendouree crew comprising 1. Jopling (str.), R. Todd (J), G. Hutchins (2) and R. Merriman (how) was selected by the Victorian Rowing Association to represent the State in a series of races in New Zealand. The crew borrowed a boat and coxswain from the Avahmo Club at Wanganui. In the first race over two miles at Wanganui, Wendouree finished second and then on the same day won over 1 1/2 miles against the same crews. They then went on to win the senior four race at Wellington and a few days later finished second over a two mile course in the New Zealand championships. On the same day they won the consolation race.

Ray Todd described the tour thus: "Two wins and three seconds from five starts -a very successful tour".

Altogether during the I 920's, the Club won twelve State titles and four Victorian Senior Premierships; the latter titles were won in the 1922-23, 1923-24, 1924-25 and 1925-26 seasons.

There were amongst the oarsmen, some outstanding achievements. Jack Jopling stroked more than 40 winning crews for the Club and no doubt Ray Todd was in the same boat for most, if not all of these wins. These two oarsmen rowed in ten of the State titles out of the twelve that the club won during this period.

Another outstanding oarsman of this period was Gordon· "Clarrie" Hutchins. Amongst his wins were "The Champion Sculls of Ballarat". and Champion Senior Eight and Pairs races. All in all he won twenty-nine events during his career before taking up coaching with the Club. His career as an oarsman with Wendouree spanned seventeen years. At the 1915 Ballarat Regatta he won the Maiden Sculls and in 1932 he and Ray Pierce, with L. O'Brien (cox). were successful in the Senior Pairs at the Ballarat Regatta of that year.

Ray Pierce rowed for at least ten years with the Club. It is interesting to note that Ray won a novice four race in January 1922, and then went on to row the following season in the Club's Champion Senior Eight.

Of the coxswains of the period, several shared the honours of steering the top crews. J. Halliday. J. O'Keane, J. Gercovich. 1. Creelman and T. Hewitt steered Jopling and Todd to wins in State Senior Pairs titles. Dan O'Keane steered the 1923-24 Champion Senior Eight. whilst Alex. King. then of the Ballarat Club. steered the Senior Eight in the two following years.

Other Club crews competed very successfully during the 1920's. Unfortunately it is not within the scope of this booklet to detail their successes, however. a look at the Ballarat Regatta results for the 1920's will serve to show the type of success the Club was experiencing. Wendouree crews won 24 events at Ballarat Regattas during the decade. More than any other Club.

Travelling to regattas in the 1920's was not just a matter of loading the boats on a trailer. hitching it to a vehicle and setting off. as is done today. Wendouree travelled to many regattas on Taylor's bus which was fitted with solid rubber tyres. On other occasions the Railways provided special trains for travel to Barwon and Colac regattas. Boats were taken from the lake to the Railway Goods' Yard. stacked. one on top of the other on a hand truck. They were then loaded on to open rail trucks for the journey. At the other end the boats had to be collected from the Goods' Yard and carted once again on the hand truck to the regatta: the whole procedure had to be repeated at the end of the day to get the boats home. This method of transporting boats was, however. an improvement on the pre World War One method of carrying the boats by hand to the Station.

From 1901 to 1926 the Club was led by the Hon. Alexander Bell. M.L.C.. This highly respected President was presented with an illuminated address on the occasion of his retirement from office. The address. which still hangs in the Club house. expressed the strong feelings that Club members held for their President. The Hon. Alexander Bell was followed as President by Mr. Norman Booth who held office from 1926-29. Although he was President for a relatively short period of time, Norman Booth had by the time he was elected, become a highly respected member of the Club. Indeed he was held in such esteem that the boat used by the champion senior eight of 1924-25 and 26. carried his name.

Working with these men was Mr. Jack Rawlings who was Secretary from 1924 to 1935. Mr. Rawlings was also responsible for organising most of the social activities which took place in the Club during that period.

Many others were involved in the administration side of Club activities, during the twenties. These people, together with those who have been mentioned, combined with skilled oarsmen and knowledgeable coaches to create "The Golden Age" of the Wendouree Rowing Club.


Annual Report. "Interest is being taken in the young sons presented to Messrs. Jopling and Todd during the season. We trust that history will repeat itself. and that in years to come Jopling jun. and Todd jun., will make a name for themselves in the Rowing World".

During season 1930-31, your Club suffered a severe loss with the death of the Hon. Alexander Bell, M.L.C. Mr. Bell had occupied the position of President for 25 years.

The 30's were difficult times with many of our members without constant employment, but that great disadvantage seemed to bind the members closer together in their effort to keep the Club active and successful in regatta racing.

A well organized Social C1ub, that not only looked after the social activities of the Club, but also gave: wonderful financial assistance to the Club was a great asset to the committee in those difficult days.


Jubilee Year. January 21 Sl. the occasion. the Champion Pair race, rowed on Lake Wendouree. Bob Taylor's "Gem" was chartered for the use of the "old timers" to follow the race. What a great occasion. when friendships were renewed after many years. That evening they gathered at "The Wattle". 180 past and present members from every State in the country: one can feel the atmosphere of that reunion dinner when old warriors met after time had separated them from their deeds of 30-40-50 years ago.


Saw the Club return to winning of championships with a great win in the open lightweight eight: E. Greed (str. ). A. Welsh (7). A. Sarah (6), J. Taylor (5), G. Bright (4). A. Heighway LI)' M. Dunstan (2). E. Powell (how). L. Edwards (Cox).

A transport problem was solved by an invention of Club member Jack Bannon, whereby a frame fitted to a motor bus enabled crews and boats to travel to regattas. saving the Club financially and the members a lot of hard work. It was not surprising to see most of the other Clubs follow our example.

Once again the world was to be plunged into War.

25 members were to enlist for active service as in the First World War -the Club was to lose its Secretary. Sgt. Max Whiteside, who lost his life during the operations on the island of Crete in May. 1941.

Only a few regattas were held during those war years. the Club being run by a few stalwarts under President J. R. Jopling.


Most outstanding success was the winning of the Blue Riband Maiden Eight event at Ballarat and Barwon Regattas. at Ballarat. 18 crews faced the starter: what a sight as this huge field of crews fought their way down the Lake. with Wendouree winning by a clear margin at the finish. The crew coached by Jim Weston and stroked by Jack Nevett was: George Jones (7). Jack Reynolds (6). Bill Williams (5). Jock Heys (4). Don McKenzie (.11) Ron Curnow (2). Bob Carroll (bow), Doug Mayberry (cox).This crew was to repeat a fine double in the junior eights in 1949. coached by Clarrie Hutchins.

The test race for Olympic selection was held on Lake Wendouree on January 3rd. 1951. The Victorian crew coached by Club member. Ray Todd. was successful. gaining the right to represent Australia at the Games in London.

The same year saw the connection of the sewerage and a new shower room  no more cold showers with cold wind blowing up through the floor. This room was soon to be put to better use in the dispensing of refreshments on Sunday mornings and on regatta days.

It was decided to change from fixed poppets to swivels in readiness for the ]949-50 season.

Early 1950 saw a change in boat housing to enable a badminton court to be used by Club members and also by other Clubs of the Badminton Association. This court proved a big financial boost to the Club's fund for many years.


Obituary was recorded with deep regret, the passing of Mr. P. D. F. Elliott, our late President and Life Member. Mr. Elliott was a successful oarsman at the turn of the Century and very popular and efficient administrator for many years. The name of Elliott has figured prominently in Wendouree's history, still carried on today by his son Ted, a highly respected Life Member of the Club.


Wendouree won its first Championship for many years when a Junior Four won the Championship on the Lower Yarra against a field of ten crews. The crew comprised: J. Jopling (str.), J. Barnett (3), B. Menzies (2),J. Thomas (bow), R. Widgery (cox), G. Hutchins (coach).


Olympic Games at Ballarat. Wendouree members were to the forefront in helping to stage the greatest rowing event ever to grace Lake Wendouree. Once again, one of Wendouree's most famous sons, Ray Todd was appointed Manager of the Australian team. All the members were proud to see Ray return as an Australian team member to the lake he loved so much. Wendouree were to organise the Olympic Ball at the Civic Hall at the close of the games rowing events -a social occasion enjoyed by members of competing nations as well as Club members and supporters of rowing in Australia.

1956 Olympics Photographs


Our first motor boat was built by Club President Charlie Rimmington, a man who devoted a lot of his time and talents in the administration of the Club for many years.


The first of Australia's National regattas was held on Lake Wendouree with success coming to our coxed pair, P. Fraser and V. Gingell. With one exception, we have competed at every National regatta with a good deal of success.


Years that your Club won the Victorian Country Premierships, due to the efforts of a crew that was to become known as the "Cockies Eight", in winning a number of maiden and junior events, and even to row its way to the final of the Champion Eights of Victoria: John Menzies (str.), John Coutts (7), Bill Coutts (6), Ken Fraser (5), Alan Swindon (4), Peter Duffy (3), Melville Charles (2), Graham Wright (bow), Tony Bryant (cox). Eric Waller and Ron Widgery, Coaches.


An interesting achievement was at the Colac Regatta when our crews won every event in which they were entered; five entries, five wins.


The first of our 48 hour rowathons whereby sponsored crews would row for two hour intervals around the lake day and night; a very successful way of raising money.

Projects, 1964 to convert the balcony to a social room and Committee room, with an excellent view of the lake.

Our boat transport problems were solved by the building of a tandem wheel trailer.


A very difficult year; because of the low level of Lake Wendouree our crews had to transfer their training to Lake Burrumbeet.


Saw the incorporation of the Ballarat Rowing Club with the Wendouree Rowing Club. Thus forming the Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club, together again after 89 years.


National Regatta on our home course. Our Junior Four rowed a magnificent race to come from behind to win the final. The Australian champion crew were: A. McKinley (str.), R. Blanchfield (3). J. Faulkner (2), W. Rickard (bow), R. Young (cox), B. Sarah (coach).


During this year a start was made in restoring the Clubhouse. Over the years the shed was slipping off its foundations. A big job to re-block the entire shed and replace floors at an estimated cost of 525,000.

The ladies of the Club formed the Wendouree Ballarat Associates, and in the years since have not only raised a lot of money for the Club but have helped in the conduct of social evenings for everyone's enjoyment.


For the first time since the 1920's a Wendouree crew was to represent Victoria, coached by Jock Heys. The crew was: B. Horney (bow) -Barwon, J. Burzacott (2), P. Shorten (3). R. Tomczak (4) -Barwon. P. Scott (5), G. Gullock (6), A. Heys (7), M. Cunningham (Str), M. O'Brien (cox), D. J. Cunningham (emergency).

They rowed well both in the Junior Eights and the Youth Eight Championship of Australia. but unfortunately without success.
The most notable performance for the season was that of Andrew McKinley. in his first year of sculling he recorded two Maiden Scull wins, a third in State Single Scull Championships, won the Victorian Lightweight Scull title and the Australian Lightweight Sculling Championship in Perth.

Andrew was to successfully defend his title on the Huon River in Tasmania in 1978, and in so doing, was selected to represent Australia in the Lightweight Scull at the World Championships in Copenhagen. Thus becoming the first Wendouree oarsman to represent his country as a competitor.


Our scullers continued their successful run from the 1977-78 season. Bruce Sarah had graduated from junior to senior ranks, winning nine senior races for the season and was selected as Victoria's No.I sculler for the President's Cup.

Andrew McKinley was selected as the No. 2 sculler and recorded a creditable third placing in the President's Cup behind Ted Hale and Dick Reddall of N.S.W. He then went on to win his third Australian Lightweight sculling championship in the National Regatta.


King's Cup and National Regatta at Ballarat. capped off a good year for Club sculler Gary Gullock, in winning the Junior Sculling Championship of Australia. In all, Gary won nine races for the season, including the South Australian Junior Championship, . and was selected to represent Victoria in the Colts team to race against New Zealand in Penrith.

Stuart Moreton was also selected to row in the Colts Eight at the same regatta. Stuart also represented Victoria in the King's Cup crews of 1982-1983.


Gary Gullock won the Champion Scull of Victoria at Lake Wendouree and was selected to represent Victoria in the President's Cup in Perth. Gary finished third in a great race.

If the example set by men like the Hickman's. Dawson's. Donald's. Mahar's. Taylor's, Elliott's, Todd's. Jopling's. Hall's, Hutchin's. Trahar's, Rimmington's. Waller's, Widgery's. Rawling's, Gingell's is followed by the present day members. then perhaps the brightest page of Wendouree's history has still to be written.' J. Barnett.
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Updated on: 11 Jun 2018
WBRC Address:
Shed 29, Lake Wendouree Foreshore, Ballarat, Vic, 3350
PO Box 162 Wendouree, VIC, 3355
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