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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 6 - To Triumph Untarnished 1920-1944

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These were non-interest bearing and redeemable only at the option of the committee. Altogether 78 members, companies and prominent citizens bought the debentures. However, it was still necessary to secure a bank guarantee of £850 for the balance owing on the building.

It was decided by popular vote that the new clubrooms should be dedicated to those members killed during the war. On Saturday, 15 November 1921 the clubrooms were officially opened by the President of the Returned Soldiers Club, the Rev. Charles Neville, in a deeply moving ceremony.

No greater reminder could be given to the realities of the war than the spirit of devotion which has led to the construction of these clubrooms, on the spot where those who will not return learnt the true meaning of 'playing the game', the spirit which carried them unhesitatingly into the greater game for the good of their fellow men.

Rev. Neville dwelt upon the wonderful response to the call to arms of Australia's oarsmen and in particular to the 91% enlistment of the members of the Barwon Rowing Club. The clubhouse was proudly described as probably the best of its kind in the Commonwealth. The total cost of the building was £1361/15/- and insurance was set at £2000. Framed portraits of the members killed during the war, supplied by the mens' families, were prominently displayed in the main hall. After the official opening ceremony, afternoon tea was served, followed by trial four races and the presentation of trophies. The program was concluded with a dance in the new main hall in the evening.

By now the river had become the central point fora number of sports. The Barwon Football Club, Christ Church Harriers, Guild Harriers, South Geelong Football Club, St. Mary's Athletic Club and the Police Football team all trained courtesy of Barwon in either the Connewarre shed or the new rooms. In the two years from 1920 to 1922 membership of the club increased from 83 to 221, making Barwon one of the largest rowing clubs in Victoria. Not all members however were rowers. In October 1921 rules fora proposed athletic section drafted by H. E. Hurst had been approved by the general committee and an athletic club affiliated with the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association was established. Trial races were held in the reserve with the course being from the temporary bridge over the river to within two yards of the west side of the iron fence near Yarra Street. Within six months a harrier's club was included in the athletic section which competed regularly at the Stowell Gift carnival. The B.R.C. Harriers were based on an English rowing club which had adopted the idea as a means of keeping the members together during the winter months. At the same time a boxing ring and wrestling mat were purchased for £70 and coaches appointed: Mr. Tyron for boxing, N. McGuire and Ben Shields for wrestling and G. Bojeski for physical culture, all receiving not more than £1 per week. Open boxing contests were held in the Myers Street drill hall in December with admission prices at 5/-ringside, front seats 3/- and two bob for up the back. Competing in the blue and white colours of Barwon was Ray Jones who went on to become Australian Amateur welter-weight champion in 1923. The club executive also conducted the State Championships in both boxing and wrestling during Easter of 1922, with a valuable cup donated by Senator J. H. Guthrie as first prize.

Barwon Rowing Club's Football Team 1920s

Harold Hurst was the young man. behind this expansion of the club. At 30 years of age he was a leading figure in Geelong in amateur athletics, rowing, boxing and football. He organised the training programme for the Geelong contestants for the 1924 Empire Games and became the first commissioner for scouting in Geelong.

The club's ambitions at this time were not confined to sporting activities. Early in the spring of 1921 the Barwon Jazz Band, numbering 50 strong, began regular practice in the new rooms. It was commented at the time that if noise was any criterion then the band showed a marked musical ability. It was also rumoured in the local press that depending upon public support, the club would consider forming a group for the study of music. However, the seriousness of this was revealed when the band, under the baton of H. Hurst, made their first public performance in the Best Burlesque Display at Gala Day, atop A. Collins' decorated truck. The local press reported that the strong band of rowers delighted the crowd by the performances on indescribable "instruments". The wonder was that the instruments were able to produce music, but nevertheless selections of the latest rags and songs were played. The costumes (or in some cases the lack of costumes) of the bandsmen were a treat in themselves. However, perhaps there were some musicians amongst the rowers for at the annual general meeting that year a motion of thanks was passed to a Miss Coombs for the direction of the club orchestra.

Despite the presence of some musical talent it was the orchestra from the Palais de Dance that provided the entertainment at the club's first ball in the new rooms. Held in October 1921 it was described as a "marked success" as the local press reported:

Members of the Barwon Rowing Club with Mr. H. Hurst and Mr. Keith Baird at the helm, launched a popular scheme when they decided a few weeks ago to arrange a bail in the new athletic club hall for the purpose of extinguishing the debt thereon. Being of an entirely informal nature, the function went with a swing from the first waltz to the bars of "God Save". It is not since pre-war days that the club has held such a jollification, but it is more than probable that dances will be arranged at frequent intervals in the future.

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