History of Balmain Rowing Club
Balmain Rowing Club was formed on 7 June 1882 at a meeting held at Dicks Hotel in Balmain. The chairman of that meeting, Mr S H Hyam, declared that he had long been of the opinion that it was absolutely necessary that the suburb of Balmain should have its own rowing club.
Things moved quickly after that. A site at White Horse Point was deemed “an exceedingly pretty one and very suitable for the purpose”; an existing boat builders shed on that site was duly purchased and presented to the fledgling club by Mr John Booth. Architect Harold Brees designed a new building, which was then built by a Mr Pritchard. On 25 November 1882, the mayor of Balmain, Mr W A Hutchinson, declared the Balmain Rowing Club open.
It was, by all accounts, quite a grand affair. The new clubhouse was festooned with flags of all colours and designs, the Albion and Coldstream bands provided music, the steamer Quandong turned up from Sydney, packed with visitors. Representatives from sister clubs arrived by water in skiffs and gigs. A flotilla of white-sailed boats passed slowly round White Horse Point, which was packed with spectators. A bottle of champagne was broken to christen the establishment, the club colours of yellow and black were hoisted over the clubhouse to applause and cheers and Balmain Rowing Club was officially opened.
The new building measured about 23m x 9m, and was built of wood, with a corrugated iron roof, dressing rooms, bathrooms and a large club room. The building remains on the original site today with sections having been renovated and restored throughout the decades.
The club very quickly thrived and began to produced many champion oarsmen and crews, successfully competing at state and interstate level by the 1890's.
It was with great pride that in 1912, three Balmain Rowing Club members – Stuart Amess, Harry Hauenstein and Thomas Parker - were choosen to represent Australia in the Stockholm Olympic Games, it was the first time Australia had entered a rowing team in the Games.
Over the 134 years of Balmain Rowining Clubs existence, there have been many rowing success stories with our oarsmen competing in local regattas through to champion oarsmen and crews competing at state and international levels. Visit our Archive page for more detailed information.
During World War I (1914-1918), numbers were depleted as 70% of the club’s members joined the forces. An Honour Board in the club house commemorates our oarsmen who served and remembers our eleven who made the supreme sacrifice. During World War II, rowing ceased in our club while the boat shed was taken over by the Army. It is documented that the club had only one member during this time, George Neilson, a member of the club since 1937. Today, George is a patron and a life member of the club. The club membership took a while to rebuild after WWII, but it did and continues to thrive to this day.
A separate Balmain Women's Rowing Club occupied a site at Elliott Street but was destroyed by fire in the early 1950's. The women were then allocated a small section of the boat shed. Today, Balmain Rowing Club's female members have an active role in the club and contribute strongly to its success, both on and off the water.
Balmain Rowing Club is proud of its history and place in the Balmain community. Visit our Archive page and learn more about our pioneers and rich history.
Photo abt 1884-1889
Courtesy of State and Mitchell Libray NSW