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History of Essendon Rowing Club

6. The War Years - 1910-19

Essendon won the Championship Four early in 1910 and Horace Stevens won the Champion Sculls. After this victory he was selected by the Victorian Rowing Association to represent Victoria in the Interstate Championships in Sydney in May 1911. From all accounts this was the first record of an E.R.C. member representing their State at a National Title. Horace finished third at the Interstate Championships which was won by Cecil McVilly from Tasmania who went onto race at the 1912 Olympic Games.

At the Barwon Regatta, on March 4th 1911, Essendon won the Maiden Eight. With this victory went with it the Carlyon Challenge Cup which was held for the ensuing twelve months.

In October 1911 at the Henley Regatta, Essendon won the Junior Eights.

1911 Junior Eight Henley
Cch: J Blair, Str: W Evans, 7: F McGregor, 6: A F Wishart, 5: J O’Meara, 4: T Morrow, 3: F Reidy, 2: C Mitchell, Bow: W Birkenhead

During the 1912-13 season the club captain A.F. McGregor, was a State representative when he rowed No. 5 in the Victorian crew in the Interstate eight-oared race held on the Port Adelaide River. This season was one of the highlights of the club's history in the Victorian Rowing Association competition. Essendon came third in the Senior Premiership, and fourth in the Junior Section. This, according to available records, was the best the club had scored since the introduction of the Premiership points system.
The club had several wins which placed them in this record high position - the most notable of these being the double victory for J. Richardson (Stroke) and W.S. Kelly (Bow) in the Junior Pair; this being the first double ever, and the first Junior Pair to be won by anyone in the club. At the Henley Regatta, Essendon were successful in the Maiden and Senior four events.

The Senior Four event carried the right to hold the Steward's Challenge Cup for the next year.

Stewards Challenge Cup Henley Regatta October 1912
Cox: L Ennis, Str: H R Newall, 3: A S McGregor, 2: AF Wishart, Bow: W Evans

They also won the Maiden Eight at the annual Barwon Regatta, this now making their second win for the Carlyon Cup - the only club in the competition to achieve this success. Essendon organized a Henley Regatta on the Maribyrnong on February 17th, 1913 unfortunately a motor boat collided with a four oared craft, thus cancelling the four oared competition but the pairs competition was still held.

With increasing costs, repairs and building expenditure, the committee found that subscription fees were inadequate and as a result it was decided at the Annual General Meeting on September 2nd 1914, to raise these to 30/- per racing member and 25/- for non-racing members. The club has always had a staunch following, especially with the "fairer sex" for whom a great deal of amusements and entertainments were included in the Open Regatta, the club Pay Pairs and the Annual Picnic. Although the ladies were non contestants in the Club, they were a great asset as members of the Social Committee which was very active in fund raising to pay for the spiralling costs. This was another successful season for A.P. McGregor who was selected to row No. 5 in the Victorian eight-oared race on the Yarra.

Finish of the 1914 King’s Cup race – A P McGregor in five seat of Victorian crew

The Club had a quiet season and during the winter a number of football matches were arranged between the rowing clubs - to develop into a (lightning) championship in later years when rowing virtually ceased. The club joined the Victorian Amateur Sculling Association and on the 24th July a new Club four - "F.C. Wishart" named in honour of the elected captain was delivered.

At the Annual General Meeting a special vote of commendation was passed in honour of the members who were enlisting in the Armed Forces. Messrs. C. Morgan, H. Bonney and W. Young were the first men to apply and by the end of 1915, 30 members had enlisted.

The club continued to work at raising funds and contesting; both Senior and Junior crews gained second place to Albert Park and Footscray respectively and were successful in launching a senior eight which won at Barwon after being defeated by a very small margin at Ballarat. The Elswick Challenge Cup was won by the Essendon crew in the new "F.C. Wishart" at Henley on the Yarra.

Essendon – winners of the Elswick Challenge Cup at Henley 1914
Bow: R Jackson, 2: J Grieves, 3: W A Kelly, Str: J Richardson, Cox: W Smith

The club also won the Senior Four and the Junior Pair at the Nagambie Regatta on December 26th, 1914. The Carlyon Challenge Cup became the property of the E.R.C. after their third win at Barwon, the Committee decided to ask A.P. Watson to hold the Cup as trustee.

At the Annual General Meeting Watson was elected as President, Wishart and J. R. Brown were added to the Honorary Vice President list although Brown was still in Adelaide and Wishart was elected as Captain.
Obituaries for the season were: Mr. Alex McCracken, an esteemed foundation member, and two war fatalities, the first recorded by the club when Ted Salamon and Ellis Middleton were killed in action.

During the 1915-16 season, rowing was almost non-existent. Most racing was confined to the Club vs. inter-club contests in the metropolitan area. The V.R.A. cancelled their premiership regattas, but some country fixtures were staged. From records the E.R.C. did not compete in any, and for the first time in the club's history, the opening day regatta of the season was "Brown's Pairs" because of depleted active membership and the annual combination fours had to be cancelled as insufficient extras were received.

Essendon members had the opportunity to compete in a total of five races - three of them were organised by the club and the rest were inter-club races.

The 1917-18 season found inter-club competition in recess and it was resolved that a pair and four oared regatta be held by the club on the third Saturday of every month in an endeavour to promote member participation. There were no trophy donations so a sweepstake was held amongst members. The maximum charge of £1.0.0 and minimum of 10/6 per oar was collected. 10% of the total to be maintained for funds.

A sub-committee was established later on in 1917 consisting of Captain, vice-captain and two committee members to select crews which were to participate in Challenge races conducted within the Club for novice and experienced rowers.

In May 1918 the committee held a special meeting to discuss the erection of the new clubhouse on the site granted to them by the Essendon City Council in Maribyrnong Park. An application was sent to the Council for a building permit and the confirmation of this was received on December 17th. A fete committee was formed and Dodswell accepted the position as Secretary of Amusements.

A by-law was introduced in an effort to receive subscriptions or part thereof from members "….that no competing member be allowed to take part until he has paid the sum of 10/6 to the Honorary Treasurer… ". For re-affiliation with the V.R.A., the club committee were unable to cover registration and passed another by-law whereby members had to pay 3/6 increase in subscriptions to cover this commitment.

At the end of the season a Smoke Night was held to welcome the returned soldiers home.

“The Annual General Meeting of the E.R.C. last week was probably the largest and most enthusiastic in the history of the Club, the feature of the evening was the large number of soldier members present, most of these have returned from long periods of service in the A.I.F." (Essendon Gazette. Sept. 22, 1919)

The Club had 56 names on the Honour Roll, 8 of which had· made the 'supreme sacrifice.' Rowing news was received from England intimating that Lieutenant H.R. Newall, an E.R.C. member was selected Stroke of the Number 2 Australian AIF Eight which competed in the Waldon Regatta. This they won and went on to make rowing history by twice defeating the Number 1 crew in trials prior to the Royal Henley Peace Regatta held in London. Incidentally, after the trials, three oarsmen from the Number 2 crew were included in the Number 1 crew which won the Kings Cup at the Royal Henley Peace Regatta. This cup is now the perpetual trophy for the Australian Eight Oared Championship.

AIF Number 2 Crew

Lieut. H. R. Newall is seated second from the left

The Club held their fete at Queen's Park on the afternoon and evening of November 15th which was a great success; the net profit was £626.0.0. which enabled the building of the Clubrooms to commence almost immediately. The final cost of this building complete was £1052.0.0; £152.0.0 of which was spent on extra necessities.


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