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White Horse Reserve, Balmain 

A Protest - 1882


Sir - At the last meeting of the Balmain Borough Council alderman Kernin said - “they should pay the same regard to a man that paid 7s 6d a year as to another who paid hundreds. They ought not to grant anything, because this was a large company. He desired further information before deciding” These remarks, though used in the Mort Dry Dock matter, are, I presume, applicable to any other subject before the council. Assuming such to be the case, I beg to draw the attention of that worthy gentleman and the Mayor and the Council, to the boat shed now standing on the portion of the White Horse Reserve.


In September 1880, Mr Charles Pritchard, boat building and boat proprietor, applied to the Borough Council for permission to erect a shed and jetty on the Reserve; permission was given and a lease for two years granted at a ground rent of 5s per week, or 13 per annum. The rent, I believe, was promptly paid - no complaint was every made against the management. Mr Pritchard or his assistant was certainly on the premises (by day and night) to make the fares to any place in the neighborhood, and boats belonging to private parties were allowed to lie alongside the jetty and the passengers embark or disembark the same as if it had been a free wharf, and it was in every way a boom? for the inhabitants.


In May last, Mr Pritchard, finding the keeping of two establishments too much for him to attend to made application to the Council on the 23rd of that month to allow him to transfer the remainder of the lease, expiring in September next, and likewise requesting the promise to renew the lease if a suitable tenant was found. To this a negative was given, and he was further enforced that the lease would not be renewed and, on the auctioneers advertising the lease, building & etc, the Mayor told the Council he had informed that gentleman that he could only sell the materials, as no lease would be granted: consequently, on June 16, the shed and jetty were sold as materials only, and of course at a sacrifice. Thus an old ratepayer lost what ever advantage might have accrued to him by selling his rights to a living property, the borough 15 per annum, and the inhabit the convenience of a ferry and wharf always at their service.


If the building were a nuisance or in the way of parties using the Reserve, I could understand the matter; but, strange to say, sir, I find that, on June 7, a preliminary meeting of gentlemen anxious to inaugurate an amateur rowing club is held at a hotel in Balmain, when Mr A Fraser explained “That at White Horse Point there was a boat-shed occupied by Mr Pritchard at present, but which he had reason to believe would be granted to the proposed club,” and a deputation was appointed to wait on the Borough council to request that the site occupied by Mr Pritchard might be granted to them (the proposed rowing club) at a nominal rent, and that the Town hall might be granted them likewise for a public meeting to be held with the Mayor in the chair. The deputation waited on the Council - the hall was granted, the Mayor promising to preside. At the meeting at the Town Hall on Tuesday following, June 13, the Mayor in the chair, Mr A Fraser reported that the Council had favorably received the deputation with regard to the White Horse Reserve; but as the matter could not be considered unless on notice of motion previously given no formal decision could be arrived at during that sitting. However, he had no doubt the Council was disposed to meet the wishes of the club” Just so, Mr Editor; it was all nicely cut and dried. The shed was sold for the value of the materials - but not pulled down.


On June 26 another meeting of the Balmain Amateur Rowing club was held at Dicks’s Hotel, to consider the proposed rules, when, according to the “Balmain Independent” of July 1, the only clause that caused any considerable divergence of opinion was that relative to the definition of an amateur - one portion of the meeting holding that no person earning a living by manual labour, such as a carpenter, wheelwright, stonemason, or blacksmith, could be regarded as an amateur - that it would be unfair to gentlemen who gain their support by following sedentary employments such as bankers clerks, office clerks, professional gentlemen, or gentlemen of no profession. Eventually, it seems, it was carried by a small majority that persons earning a living and gentlemen who gain their support might belong to the same club; but it does’t say whether they could row in the same boat. But of that mere anon. On July 18 the first formal application was laid before the council, and of course received and referred to the reserve committee; who, on August 1, recommended that the club, being possessed of the standing shed, be allowed to remain on the site occupied at a nominal rental of one shilling per annum; that an agreement be drawn up and submitted to the Council; allowing them the use of the place on sufferance, to be kept in a proper manner, and subject to three months’ notice to clear out. At that meeting the standing orders were suspended to enable a resolution to pass for the gentlemen and persons to take possession at once.


Editor, in conclusion - was the building a nuisance during the tenancy of Mr Pritchard? If it was, will it not be equally so in the future? If not, why should the Borough lose 12 19s per annum, as well as the convenience of a constant ferry, and the public use of the jetty? Then an annual tenancy of twelve pence per annum is a tenancy, subject to three months notice! When must that notice be given - from any day or according to yearly tenancies? Again - will the public be allowed the same privileges of landing at the jetty? As the agreement is to come before the council on Tuesday next, it will be as well to be certain on these points, as well as whether any person resident in Balmain, of good character, and not actually obtaining his livelihood by professed boating, shall be competent to become a member. And last though not least - that the entrance fee and subscriptions do not exceed an amount to bar anyone to whom their reserve equally belongs from being a member of the “Balmain Amateur Rowing Club.”


Apologizing for length of communication, I remain, sir, yours obediently,




P.S. The Victorian census groups the following under the learned professions;- Organ-blowers, billiard-table keepers and markers, cricketers, merry-go-round men, conjurors, bookmakers, and betting men - as well as “clergymen, doctors and lawyers” - who gain their support.


[Since writing the above the “Herald” on Thursday last, 10th instant, report the last Council meeting, but strangely enough omits all mention of the Balmain Rowing Club at the White Horse Reserve.]

G.R.A Birchgrove Road, Balmain, August 12, 1882


Evening News - 14th August 1882


Photo curtesy of State Library NSW

Balmain Rowing Club
Click to enlarge image
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