Albert Park Rowing Club
The Albert Park Rowing Club was founded on 26th January, 1875. The original clubhouse was based at the southern end of Moray St, along what is now Aquatic Drive.
The Club’s original colours were white with a red sash, but soon changed to black and royal blue. The Club was a founding member of the Victorian Rowing Association, established in 1876.
The Club’s first win was in a Maiden Gig in 1876 crewed by R Buchanan (bow), LJ Bracken (2), W Reardon (3), WH Hall (stroke) and P Buchanan (cox) at the Geelong and Barwon Regatta, and its first Victorian representative was WJ Leverett who rowed in the Inter-Colonial Eight four times between 1883 and 1886, winning three times.
Success came to Albert Park as a club when it won the first Victorian Champion Eight in 1889 with a crew containing SH Gowdie, Alec Chamley and Edward Powell, who went on to win the both the Victorian and Australian Champion Sculls in 1895.
Gowdie was part of the crew between 1885-88, becoming stroke for the winning Victorian crews in the 2 races held in 1888.
Chamley, however, did not stay at Park, and there weren’t any Championship wins in sweep boats for the Club until 1898 when it won that year’s Champion Four, after Chamley had returned from Yarra Yarra. That crew, which contained CH Powell (bow), Charles Donald (2), Chamley (3), James Donald (stroke), J Counihan (cox), and coached by Jim MacFarlane, formed the basis of a squad which won four Champion Pairs, 12 Champion Fours and Eights, and 14 Senior Premierships between 1898 and 1915.
Many members of this squad represented Victoria in the Interstate Eight-Oared Championships, including James Donald (called ‘the Prince of Strokes’), Charles Donald (the Prince of Coaches), Alec Chamley (regarded as Australia’s best bow-side oarsman), MG Scott and Jack Cockbill, whose grandson John was a prominent coxswain in the 1950s.
Albert Park thus became one of the most celebrated Australian rowing clubs before the First World War.
It was during this time, in 1907, that a young Harry Duncan was minding horses during a South Melbourne Football Club match at the South Melbourne Football Ground, and was called upon to steer a boat. Formally joining the club in 1909, Harry brought his brother Roy along with him, and the two became highly sought-after coxswains before the war, and very active clubmen after.
Success again came to the Club in 1929 when the club won the Junior Premiership, and again in 1931 and 1932 with the successful crew of Alec McLeish, George Plant, Reg White, and Vern Axup. These men formed the basis of the club’s success throughout the 1930s and at the committee level in the1950s. Alec stroked the winning Victorian King’s Cup Eight in 1932 and represented again in 1933, and it was around this time that Stuart Elder and brothers Max and Jack Gaskin joined the club.
All three represented Victoria in the King’s Cup in the1930s and both Elder and Max Gaskin were part of the Men’s Coxed Four which won gold at the 1938 Sydney Empire Games. The Club again won the Senior Premiership in 1937, 1938, and 1940.
In April 1945, in the last months of the Second World War, the Albert Park clubhouse was destroyed by fire. During rebuilding, the club was hosted by the Melbourne Grammar School which had an old shed on the Lake. The post-fire rebuilding of the club was led by the enthusiasm of many pre-war members including Ken McAlister, Alan Lyne, Tom Warburton, George Plant, Dave Murray, Pat Harrison, Alec McLeish, Harry Duncan, and Charles Donald’s son Jack.
The new clubhouse, however, was not rebuilt on the same site, but was located at the bottom end of Clarendon Street beside the South Melbourne boathouse. This move heralded in a new era: Albert Park, the heavyweight senior club, was now next door to its rival South Melbourne, the lightweight junior club.
In 1946 Max Shaw joined the club, and was soon followed by Don Christie and Harry Duncan’s son Bob. These three, along with Bruce Dickson, Ernie Stranger, Paul Lynch, Kevin Eddy, Don Dunkinson, Rod Tresize, and Murray and Wallace Jones won the Senior Premiership in 1954 with fewer than 10 active rowers and without boating an eight.
Bob and Bruce went on to win 5 successive state pair-oared championships (1952-56) and the only two National titles (1955 and 1956) held in their time. The same two plus Don Christie and John Summers won the State Champion Fours in 1954.
Albert Park tied with Mercantile for the senior premiership in 1955, and in 1956 sent six competitors and two coaches to the Melbourne Olympics. Bob Duncan (bow), Bruce Dickson (stroke) and John Cockbill (cox) were coached by Harry Duncan in the Men’s Coxed Pair while Mick Easton coached Kevin McMahon (2), Reg Libbis (3), and Ian Allen (stroke) in the Men’s Coxed Four with Hawthorn’s Gordon Cowey in bow and Yarra Yarra’s John Jenkinson as cox.
As there wasn’t a Senior Premiership held that year, the club won the Junior Premiership.
The 1970s saw a resurgence at the club with Rod Tresize coaching new members which included Rod Florence, Russell Green, Ian Christie and Allen McCowan.
Alec McLeish had gone on to serve as the Victorian representative on the Australian Amateur Rowing Council (now Rowing Australia), after becoming an umpire in the 1960s and team manager for the Australian rowing team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
The Club won the Junior Premiership (Div 2) in 1976 and Allen McCowan, who joined the club in 1970, was becoming a successful sculler, representing Victoria in 1974 for the President’s Cup. After winning the Victorian Champion Sculls in 1979, he competed for the President’s Cup a second time.
Since that time, Allen has served the club as captain coach, and until the mid-1990s, as president.
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