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History of Essendon Ladies' Rowing Club

2. Establishment of the Club

The ELRC was not established until well after rowing in Australia had developed in strength and sculling had become a professional sport. According to Cashman:

Professional sculling was one of the first sports to boom in Australia in the 1850s and was one of the more popular sports of the late nineteenth century, producing a succession of world champion scullers ... Amateur rowing grew rather more slowly and took some time to emerge out of the shadow of the professional sport. (Cashman 1995, p. 64)

Rowing had been a popular women's sport for many years before the ELRC was initiated, and "Women participated, though never as much as men, in a number of pre-nineteenth century sports including cricket, stool ball, trap ball, golf, foot races, pugilism, rowing, sword fighting, swimming and dancing." (Cashman 1995, p. 11)

The formal establishment of the ELRC (on the east side of the Maribyrnong River) was not until eleven years after the first interstate women's race was held in l9l2 and sixteen years after the fnst Australian women's rowing club was established in 1907. This club was ELRC rival, Albert Park Ladies (Scott Bennett, "Rowing and Sculling", in Vamplew et al. 1994, p357).

According to Judy Maddigan and Lenore Frost (1995, p. 36),the ELRC was formed "at a meeting in the Essendon Town Hall on 1 November 1923". Forsyth, however, stated in an interview that before l923, the ELRC "started in a boat shed owned by Fitsimons ... the site is actually one hundred metres north of the Anglers Hotel (on the west side of the Maribyrnong River). That's where the original site of the ELRC was." (Bottrell & Forsyth 2000,p. l) He also pointed out that the new ELRC sheds were built on the east side by Mr. Richardson in
1923. Forsyth stated,
... a lot of the parents chipped into help ... however, some of our history ... states that it was a person from the Essendon men's rowing club that built the ELRC ... So it may well be that Mr. Richardson was a member of the ERC ... (Bottrell & Forsyth 2000, p. 1)

ln aiming to verify this, the author searched the annual reports and found that in 1923 and surrounding years, there was no mention of the establishment of the ELRC, nor any evidence of a member with the surname of Richardson.

At this stage, the year the ELRC initially and informally started remains
uncertain.

 

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