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Adelaide Rowing Club - The First Hundred Years

A Narrative History 1882-1982 - Compiled by R W Richardson

2. I Zingari: The Origin of the Club

(The Adelaide Rowing Club was called I Zingari Rowing Club from 1882-85)

In July 1845, Messrs. Spencer and Frederick Ponsonby, Baldwin and Lang, at supper at the Blenheim Hotel, Bond Street, London, formed a Club and called it I Zingari, the Spanish name for "The Gypsies". They framed the rules and informed Mr. W. Bolland that he was perpetual President, and twenty of their friends that they were members of the Club. They were all Cambridge undergraduates who spent their leisure time in cricket and theatricals, and these were the original objects of the Club. The colours chosen were black, red and gold, to mean "Out of darkness through fire into light".

By 1935 there were a thousand members, and very few knew the working arrangements of their Club or the name of the Secretary. It had never had premises or headquarters, but its officers met once a year. The officers included the Governor, First Wicket Down, the Chancellor, the Liberal Legal Adviser, the Mutual Military Messman, the Chaplain, the Nominal Naval Navigator, a Post-Prandial Precentor, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Secretary and a Biennial Committee.

The committee was empowered to elect members, sibenes and attaches, the three categories of gypsy, and there was no entrance fee or annual subscription. Every member had the privilege of playing one match during the season when, upon his producing five names of members in addition to his own, who were willing to take part in such a match, five other members were bound in honour to make up a team.

The motto of the Club was, briefly, "Keep your promise, keep your temper and keep your wicket up".

I Zingari Club was associated with the Marylebone Cricket Club in that Sir Spencer Ponsonby, one of the originators, was honorary treasurer of the M.C.C., and by 1935 the Governor was a past president; his son had also been a president. The number of official Zingaric matches that year was thirty, their opponents including Public Schools, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, Oxford and Cambridge Colleges, Woolwich, Sandhurst and other military teams. Sir F.E. Lacy, a member, was the secretary of the M.C.C.; another, N.C. Tufnells, captained Eton, and a Major Macrae enjoyed putting a batsman on to bowl sometimes. Both ex-auditor and ex-assistant secretary of the M.C.C., country cricketers and owners of cricket grounds were then members, Lords and Brigadiers and members of the Stock Exchange, importers of champagne and "bon viveurs" made up the rank and file.

It would have been hard to live up to in colonial South Australia in 1882, but the butterfly which emerged from the I Zingari crysalis endured trauma in darkness in 1889 when the flood struck at night, through fire in 1931 into the light of 51 more years of comradeship through rowing instead of cricket in a distinctly non-gypsy headquarters, replete with equipment, supported by members' subscriptions; but every so often with an incursion into theatricals, and entering into contest on the water in races ordained by an Association - all so different from the original concept of a Gypsies' Rowing Club.

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