Our Proud Club History

Ballarat City Rowing Club was formed on Thursday 24 November 1870 at a meeting held at Brophy's Hotel, Doveton St., Ballarat. The club colours adopted were a blue cap with a red stripe. It was decided to take over the clubhouse of the defunct Alabama Club (est. 1864) on the shores of Lake Wendouree. The club has existed on this original site since but in three different sheds. Mr JW Graham was appointed Captain and Mr EA Little Secretary. At the second meeting of the club on the 7th of December 1870 Mr HB Chalmers, Mayor of the City and Mr Robert Lewis were elected Vice-Presidents of the club and a code of rules was adopted. 

1872 saw the first regatta conducted jointly by the Ballarat Rowing Club and the new Ballarat City Rowing Club under the auspices of the Regatta Association on Lake Wendouree. Until the formation of the Ballarat Yacht Club in 1877, sailing events were also held at these early regattas.

In 1873 Ballarat City participated in the inaugural Inter-Colonial four oared race scoring a creditable second to a combined crew from the Melbourne clubs. 'The Boys from the Rush Beds' also defeated the much-fancied Sydney crew. The race was rowed on the Saltwater River (Footscray) on 28 March. The crew of Z.Giles, W. Crampton, John Cazaly and William Stout were coached by Peter Cazaly. In the same year City's uniform changed to 'the best Ballarat flannel and designed like a double breasted coat, bound round the edges with scarlet braid while to the left breast is affixed the club's star, forming with the usual pants and cap, a very unique dress'. So for a time City was to the fore of rowing in the colony in sartorial elegance if not rowing prowess!

1874 saw Ballarat Rowing Club and City combine for a Grand Opening of the season with a procession of boats moving in two lines, Ballarat on the south and City on the north, each line headed by an eight then fours, pairs and sculls. In the centre a band played on the steamer. Both clubs also imported from England a four-oared boat with all the latest improvements viz: sliding or fixed seat, right or left hand spoke rowlocks and for steering with or without a coxswain!!

In 1882 the club changed its colours for a fourth and final time to the colours we have today – dark navy jersey with white trimming and star, dark blue cap with white cross bar and letters BCRC in white on the front.

The 1893-94 season was outstanding in rowing terms for the club. Although many men were still departing for the goldfields of Western Australia, the club had good membership and became the premier club of the Colony of Victoria.

The Coat of Arms for the club was adopted in 1928 with the motto PRIMUM SEMPER meaning 'always to the fore'. In 1932 a new clubhouse was commissioned to replace the original shed. The new clubhouse was double story federation style that cost £3000 to build and was the 'best in Australasia'. It was a remarkable achievement by the club as Australia was then in the grip of the Great Depression.

The Second World War saw a scaling down of rowing activities right across the country. Several of our oarsmen made the supreme sacrifice with many more returning unable to pick up where they had left off. A Welcome Home Dinner was tendered to all returning members in 1945 and a memorial seat was erected at the front of the clubhouse.

Tragedy struck in 1950 when the entire shed along with all the boats, memorabilia and 80 years of rowing history burnt to the water line. It was a remarkable achievement that the club was able to rebuild in time for the 1956 Olympics. During the Olympics the club hosted crews from the USA, Italy, Austria, Chile, Cuba, Poland, Sweden, Uruguay and Switzerland.

The 1980s saw City move into its most successful decade of rowing. Under the guidance of coach, Danny Elliott, the club won five Victorian Rowing Association Premierships, 43 State Championships and ten National Championships. Prior to this the club had only ever won a VRA Country premiership and one National Championship with Alan Dixon and Daryl Brown in a lightweight pair in 1966. In 1990 Tim Wise became the first Ballarat City rower to represent the club at the World Championships, and in 1996 Anthony Edwards became the first City rower to represent at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, winning a bronze in the Men's Lightweight Double Scull.

Compiled by Kate Elliott