Waterford has a proud tradition in the sport of rowing which has flourished on Suirside courtesy of the Waterford Boat Club for the past 131 years.
Here is an historical look back at the story of the Waterford rowing club. In early May of 1878 a meeting was held in the Council Chamber, in the City Hall for the purpose of “considering the advisability of setting up a Rowing Club”. The Chairman, Major O’Gorman M.P. said he regarded it as a shame that Waterford did not have a rowing club as Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Drogheda already had clubs. This received an enthusiastic response and the attendance at the meeting was very large. Resolutions were proposed and adopted approving of the formation of a club, appointing a committee to draw of rules, when upwards of fifty persons put down their names as members. By May 20th 1878 the club had formed and had 130 members. The Waterford Daily Mail of 20th May described it as; “one of those associations for healthy and innocent amusement which all approve”, adding “we were rejoiced to see the harmony with which it has been launched and proceeded” It was hoped that the Waterford Boat Club would “contribute by healthy and rational amusement to enliven the routine of our otherwise dull life”.
The first clubhouse was situated in a field owned by a Mr Corcoran, near to De La Salle College. The club moved across the river in 1885 and occupied two different premises in the Ferrybank area. In 1980, the Boat Club decided to move back to the city side of the river and set up it’s clubhouse in Canada Street, close to the river. Waterford Boat Club provided much needed sporting and social facilities in the area. 1978 was an important year for the club, with its one hundred year celebrations. Many events took place during the year, including a special presentation from the Mayor in recognition of the contribution that the Waterford Boat Club had made to the sporting life of the city.
The Centenary Regatta took place on the 3rd June 1978 and was a great success. This was followed by the Centenary Ball, with former members from as far away as America and Britain in attendance.Urban renewal was an important feature in Waterford in the 1990s. The area around Canada Street was redeveloped and the clubhouse was demolished and rebuilt. The present building was officially opened in October 1997. The area around the Boat Club is similar to port scenes in France with many colourful boats and long winding streets. Waterford Boat Club is very proud of its new Pontoon. It was partially funded by a grant from the Irish Sports Council. The Pontoon provides improved access to the river. The river Suir is broad and deep in Waterford City, as it nears the estuary and the open seas.
The People’s Regatta was a very popular event in the early years of the club. The event was open to everybody, and required no previous rowing experience. The People’s Regatta of 1927 is described in great detail in the newspapers. The races were both varied and colourful and included titles such as Riverside Workers Oared Gig Race, Amateur Punt Race and The Championship Cot Race for Suir, Nore and Barrow. Waterford Boat Club – Poster for a fair August 1903All the shops along the Quays from the Bridge to Reginald’s Tower were decorated with bunting with hundreds of people lining the riverside for the races. The Bridge and the public buildings were similarly decorated, presenting a pleasing and attractive appearance. With the racing over, the bandmaster Mr T.Threlfall and his Legion Fife and Drum Band helped to add to the entertainment by playing a selection of music during the afternoon. The Barrack Street Brass and Reed Band entertained the crowds until after ten o’clock as the lights faded. The fireworks started at about 9 p.m. and were watched by an estimated crowd of 15, 000 people, which left very few people at home. At the same time, a procession of illuminated boats proceeded slowly up the river, to great applause. The illuminated boat leading the procession was decorated with lanterns and coloured lights to represent the Hook House Lighthouse. A good day was had by all.
Waterford People’s Regatta August 1927
The Boat Club held Fairs in the early years to raise funds. One such Fair was held in the grounds of the Courthouse during August 1903 and was opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, His Excellency Earl Dudley. Admission was six old pennies.
Hall of Fame
Waterford has had many great oarsmen and oarswomen over the years. There are also great tales to be told. One such story concerns the Parle brothers. They were part of a team, who competed as a coxed four in 1903. The Parle brother’s claim to fame is that they were never beaten, even though they dead heated a few times. At a regatta in Drogheda, County Louth, they dead heated with the local crew and each crew was presented with half medals. The Club still has in its possession so of these medals.
Chester Head of the River Race
In the early 1960s, a senior eight crew from Waterford Boat Club travelled to England where they won the Chester Head of the River Race beating all the top British crews of the day in the process.
Waterford Boat Club – Group of oarsmen and members in 1952
In the early years the boats were in one piece and had to be transported by train. It took a great effort for the Boat Club to travel to regattas and win so many races. Today boats can be separated and assembled at regattas. Waterford Boat Club – L.P. Ridgeway and four other crew members from 1901L. P. Ridgeway was part of a winning Junior Fours crew in 1901. The team won many trophies and on one occasion each crew member was presented with a rose bowl. Nothing more was heard of this story until 2003, when a Reverent Ridgeway from South Africa contacted the club. This man was the son of L. P. Ridgeway and had in his possession the rose bowl, which was now 103 years old. The Reverent Ridgeway is now in the process of presenting the rose bowl to the Waterford Boat Club.
Waterford Boat Club 1984 Senior B Eight
Waterford Boat Club has a magnificent collection of trophies. In 2004 the rose bowl and all the other trophies from the Boat Club will be on display in the Waterford Treasures at the Granary. Sir William Goff presented a former cycling trophy to the club in the early 1900s, which became known as the Goff Shield. This Shield was won many times by Waterford crews, including a crew from 1984.
National Championships Waterford Boat Club 1985 Ladies Coxed Four, Waterford Boat Club has won its fair share of National Championships over the years.
- 1950- Irish Maiden Eight
- 1952- Junior Eight Ladies Plate in Limerick
- 1962- Junior Fours Championship in Galway
- 1980- Men’s Senior Double Scull Championship with Carlow R.C.
- 1985- Women’s Novice Four Championship
- 1992- Men’s Intermediate Scull Championship
This is only a small selection of the many talented crews, who rowed for Waterford Rowing Club. There has been many more achievements in the years since then.
They have competed in regattas all over Ireland and have worn the club colours with pride. Every type of boat has featured from single sculls, double sculls, fours and eights and some club members have gone on to represent Ireland. The club today continues to prosper and continues to attract new enthusiasts at its much enhanced facilities and fleet at Canada Street. I hope to bring you an updated story of this great club in the near future.
Go Seachtain Eile, Slan