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History of Leichhardt Rowing Club

On these Bright Waters - A Centennial History of Leichhardt Rowing Club 1886-1986
Reproduced with permission of the author Merle Kavanagh

20. Old Boys/Renunions

It was 1907 before the club made an effort to have a reunion of old members. Records do not tell whether it was successfully held or not. However a reunion was held on 14th December 1917 when 15 gallons of beer and 5 gallons of ginger beer were consumed, so we can assume that it was a success. This is probably confirmed by the fact that another was held on 21st December 1918 at the Dispensary Hall, and a reunion and Welcome Home to Soldier Members on 22nd December 1919. Two more took place in the next two years.

A launch picnic/reunion was held on 7th March 1920 at a cost of 10/6d. per head but no other functions are indicated in the records until the 50th Anniversary Dinner on 19th September 1936 at Miss Bishop's, when many old members were present.

By the forties the old boys were having boating days at the clubhouse fairly regularly, with the club members on one occasion being required to recondition boats in readiness for the Old Boys. The enthusiasm that was generated resulted in the establishment of the Leichhardt Union of Old Oarsmen in 1946 under the guidance of Geoff Reid, Col Davies, Stan Jones and J.Henderson.

1949 Old Members Reunion

1949 Old Members Reunion

From Left - Bill Ridley aged 45, Tom McGill aged 55, Stan Jones " 42, Chris Kayser " 64 Front - Frank Farrell aged 40. It was the last time Tom McGill rowed.

Not only did they continue to hold happy reunions and days at the club house, but they supported with such things as the Honor Roll (1948), the erection of a new wing in memory of Chris Kayser (Completed in 1957), having the clubhouse electrically rewired (1962), helping to refloat the pontoon (1966), the presentation of boats, and other financial assistance.

At a reunion in 1967 they boated a crew of ex-Olympic representatives, who still hadn't lost the touch after a number of years. Reunion dinners were held to celebrate the 75th Anniversary at Balmain Town Hall in 1961, the 80th Anniversary at A.P.I.A. club in 1966 and the 90th Anniversary in 1976, the latter being held at Drummoyne Rowing Club with over 150 past and present members attending a very successful function.

Stan Jones and Neil McCallum, the current office bearers, have been responsible for keeping the old boys happy and enthusiastic. That they do this so well is apparent from the lists of old boys and the support they give the club.

The N.S.W. Union of Old Oarsmen was formed in 1931 and since its inception many Leichhardt old members have been members and office bearers. Presidents have been D. G. Bathgate (1933-34), W.G. Kolts (1946-47), M.C. Kent (1948-49) T. McGill (1958-59), G. Carlson (1961-62), N. McCallum (1967-68), R.S. Jones (1970-71), J. Hayes (1984-85). The present Patron is R.S. Jones.

In the "Sportsman" of 25th February 1908 an "Old Member" wrote "Some Club Reminiscences" of "The Leichhardt's Long Ago", remembering some old associates in the club in its early years -

"Ours was probably the happiest little club that ever swung in Sydney Harbor ... ... Jack Bolman was captain in the days of which I speak, and what a clinking four we had in him, the fiery Jack Wiseman long Woolcot and Billy Larnbert. Billy was at that time amateur champion of Australia, and gee whiz! how he could make a jigger fly? Speaking about the old brigade, what a procession of them come tumbling through my mind - old Billy Hughes, who was the fun-maker; the ever-smiling Barney McNaulty, the top of whose nose was always redder than a ripe cherry, The "Merry fellow" who always used to burst into raucous song when beneath the shower. The Auld brothers, Charlie of whom became a bloomin' capitalist through striking a Tatt's sweep, Ted Phillips, dark-skinned Ted, who would have made a splendid sculler only he could never keep his boat on a straight course. Billy Crowle, the well-groomed dasher, who, when met in town, always looked as if he had just come out of a bandbox. Then again, Alec Watson, Sid Monoghan - curly Sid - little Jimmy Miles, Tommy Crowe and all the rest of them. Not a single one to the writer's knowledge follows up the good old game now. They have done their dash and shot their bolts, and are now mostly meek, middle-aged, married men with stiffened joints and fair-sized families .. "

In words that would strike a chord in the hearts of many and that are just as relevant to-day as they were when written in 1908, he recalled -

"And how we used to rattle home in the cool of the evening when the window panes of Balmain were all turned to gold by the setting sun, with a cool nor' easter chasing us from behind. How we went swinging past Drummoyne, darting swiftly as we knew how beneath the Iron Cove Bridge to dodge the bits of blue metal dropped over at our heads from the d---d young boy imps above; what a gem Rodd's Island looked in the twilight as we spun past in a final spurt for the shed! How, after giving the old boat a wash down, we ducked, all of a sweat, beneath the icy shower, had a brisk rub down, then stepped out jauntily for home, feeling as fit and frisky as spring lambs. Ye Gods! It was great!"

A century of Leichhardt rowers would agree!

THE END

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