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History of Fremantle Rowing Club 1887-1987

By Ralph Jeffreys

13. Amateur Rowing Association of Western Australia (prior to 1958 — W.A. Rowing Association)

Upon formation of the Fremantle Rowing Club in 1887, immediately following the formation of the Swan River Rowing Club and with the West Australian Rowing Club, which had been formed in 1868. it was a natural consequence that inter club competition would take place, and in order to meet this situation, representatives of the three clubs met informally in 1887 and agreed to form an Association and this became the W.A. Rowing Association.

The chief function in its early years was to act as what could be called a "Court of Appeal" and in Fremantle, reports of the day referred to it as "The Ruling Body".

It appears that it was not necessary for the Association to meet very often as records show that the Club conducting the Regatta performed all duties and accepted all responsibilities including the conduct of races and dealing with any appeals. Meetings were apparently carried out in an informal manner and a chairman appointed at each meeting. There were no finances involved and decisions were taken directly to the club or clubs concerned by their respective representatives.

Records indicate that the most regular people involved in the Association were S.E. Underwood and H.J.G. Edwards of the W A. Rowing Club, J.M. Lapsley and Con Glasson of the Swan River Rowing Club and Douglas Gawler and Frank Shaw of the Fremantle Club. H.J.G. Edwards later joined Fremantle Rowing Club Both J.M. Lapsley and F.E. Shaw later became Presidents of the Association and Con Glasson and Douglas Gawler were the foundation captains of their Clubs.

The first W.A. Rowing Premiership was won in the year of "Federation" 1901 by the Swan River Rowing Club and it was based on the number of winning races. In 1910 it must have been agreed to elect Officials for the Association and a Patron, President, Secretary and Treasurer were appointed.

The Clubs continued to independently control their own regattas but formal application had to be made to the Association for approval of a regatta date. This continued until 1924 when the Association compiled and circulated the fixtures for the season. Premiership or Pennant Points as they were known had been varied for different grades -and in 1930's points were allocated for Novice Races. Although in the 1970's points for second and third places were experimented with, it was not really until 1982 that a system for allocation of points for the first three places was finally consolidated and effective.

The first State Championship conducted was a pair oared event in 1894 and was won by a crew from Fremantle The Club records refer to the success of the legendary Senior Eight in the final regatta of the 1906 Season as the winners of the Championship, but the Association records disclose that the first State Champion Eight event was held in 1907 and won by Swan River Rowing Club.

Since 1924 the Association has controlled all State Championship events and following the move to Canning Bridge , has gradually assumed control of all Regattas. In 1962 the Commonwealth Games were held in Perth and with Government assistance a Rowing Headquarters and 2000 metre course were constructed on the Canning River between Mount Henry and Canning Bridge . The Clubhouse was located near and became known as the Canning bridge Clubhouse. The shortfall in the finance for the Clubhouse was taken up by Clubs affiliated at the time and in return they were granted what was termed a "share-holding" in the development. This was intended to qualify the Club to participate in the profits from operating the Clubhouse in addition to a share of the capital value.

The Club still receives an annual "dividend" but the bulk of the income by necessity has been used in the further development of the Headquarters.

Until the early 1970's the Committee of the Association was comprised of an equal number (usually two) of delegates from each Affiliated Club, but at this time it was agreed that in order to give stability to the meetings, the Committee would be comprised of Twelve Members elected annually. This change, although it appeared to favour the numerically stronger Clubs was considered a necessity.

In 1986 with the injection of Government Funding the Association has been able to increase its promotion of Rowing and employs an Executive Officer and a Development Officer with plans to further extend its ability to promote Western Australian Rowing.

At the 1986 Annual General Meeting of the Association Howard Williams of the Fremantle Club was elected on to the Committee of the Association for 1987.

It is of note to record that the following Fremantle members have been elected Life Members of the Association:

  • 1925 F E. Shaw
  • 1926 R.S. Jeffreys
  • 1933 M. Miller
  • 1956 Ralph Jeffreys
  • 1969 E.K. Edwards
  • 1975 J.E. Jeffreys

P.J. Ryan was also elected in 1936 and although he rowed for Fremantle during the 1890's, he was elected whilst a member of the Swan River Rowing Club.

The Fremantle Club had also provided Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers, and Registrars to the Association over the years - in all an aggregate of 67 years service.

R.S. Jeffreys was also a foundation member of the Australian Amateur Rowing Council (now Australian Rowing Council) and was a Vice President of the Federation International des Societies d'Aviron (FISA), the International governing body.

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