We currently present two overviews of club history. The topmost one entitled Brief Chronology - the first 150 years is taken from the souvenir programme for the club's Sesquicentennial Dinner on 16 December 2002.
The second more discursive one Tyne Amateur Rowing Club in its 112th year was prepared in 1960. Apologies if you want something more recent, but it's on the way. This web site is of course chronicling things as they happen now, but dates only from mid 2009.
1852 16th December - Tyne Amateur Rowing Club founded.
IN ITS 112TH YEAR
"A meeting of Gentlemen interested in the formation of an Amateur Rowing Club was held at the Crown and Thistle yesterday evening, when it was resolved that such a Club be formed, and upwards of sixty gentlemen immediately entered themselves as members".
The first boathouse was opened at Low Elswick on Whit Tuesday, 17th May 1853, with a procession of the club's boats. The boathouse was capable of holding sixty boats and "was pronounced to be one of the most perfect in the kingdom". The new club had a successful first year, and won the University Plate at Durham Regatta. The following year it organised the Great North-of-England Regatta over a 14-mile course from Scotswood Bridge to Benwell Fishery. The Club records proudly state that it won the senior fours event, but newspaper reports reveal that the win was not as great as it might seem since the club supplied all four of the competing crews.
One hundred years ago in 1861, the Grand Challege Cup at Durham Regatta was won for the first time, the losing finalists being Durham Amateur Rowing Club which was then in its first year; the Grand Challenge Cup had replaced the University Plate as the senior trophy at Durham in 1854. Also in 1861, the Naworth Challenge Cup at Talkin Tarn Regatta was won outright, having been won in two successive years. James Wallace, one of -the originators of the clubs great sculling tradition, was a sculler of national status, and came third in the Wingfield Sculls (the Amateur Championship of England) in 1863. During this period, both amateur and professional rowing seems to have attracted much public interest since "nightly large groups of admirers of this noble sport witness trials at the Tyne Amateur Rowing Club and Clasper's Boathouses".
Little is known of the club's history during the following thirty years, apart from its continuing to win events at local regattas and venturing abroad to win at Hamburg in 1870. In 1891, however, it started the rowing season with only three oarsmen and was on the verge of closing, but additional oarsmen were found and several events were won. The general popularity of rowing seems to have declined at this period, since the Newcastle Chronicle remarked that "to those who remember the palmy days of sculling on the Tyne, it appears somewhat difficult to realise the decadence which has taken place in this most healthy exercise within recent years".
The eclipse of the club was short-lived since only two years later the Elswick boathouse was found unsatisfactory and a new building was erected at Scotswood Bridge,, The boathouse cost £350 and contained "the latest appliances for shower baths". Its opening on 15th July, 1893 was celebrated by rowing the first eight-oared race to be held on the Tyne. The race, between the Nomads, Ryton, South Shields and Tyne Amateur Rowing Clubs, was won by the home club. Lt. Col. James Wallace, who was a member of the club from 1859 until the first World War and was a Vice-President for many years, presided at the opening and said that the race was intended to inaugurate a movement to establish eights' racing on the Tyne.
The club continued to be very active, and shared in the general resurgence of the interest in rowing. In 1910 it was "becoming plainer day by day that there is a revival of interest in boat rowing on the Tyne'. In that year, Mr.Joseph Cowen, the proprietor of the Newcastle Chronicle, came upon the "Newcastle Chronicle Challenge Cup", which had been presented for the professional sculling championship of England in 1877, but won outright by J.Higgins the following year. Mr.Cowen presented the cup to the Tyne Amateur Rowing Club, and the "Joseph Cowen Challenge Cup" is now the premier trophy at the club's annual "At Home "Regatta.
Rowing was in abeyance during the 1914-18 war, but the Club affairs were looked after by the Secretary, Frank Kirby, and the boathouse was re-opened in April, 1919. The next ten years were very successful, under the captaincy and coaching of Magnus Mail who died in 1960 after 58 years with the Club. The senior four crews from 1922 -to 1926, in which Brian Brown, Rex Lowry. Alan Robson and Alex Thompson often rowed, were consistently successful, and Alan Robson was virtually unbeatable in senior sculling races. Wins during the 1930s were more spasmodic but 1935 and 1938 were particularly good years and Dick Thorp was successfully upholding the club's strong sculling tradition.
Activities were again stopped by a world war, but were restarted in 1946, under the captaincy of Alan Anderson. The first two or three years saw several major wins, mainly by oarsmen who had rowed before the war, but when these retired the club had to build up its strength again and for a few years was not so successful. The sculling traditions were maintained however, this time by Alan Beveridge who represented the Club at Henley Royal Regatta.
Members celebrated 100 years of the Clubs existence with a dinner on 16th December, 1952, the anniversary of the inaugural meeting. The President, Viscount Runciman, who had rowed in successful club crews in the 1920s, was in the chair. The centenary celebrations were continued with regattas held during the 1953 rowing season, and included the Club's first entry in the 4 1/4-mile Head-of-the-River Race rowed over the Boat Race course on the Thames.
The Scotswood Boathouse was now almost beyond repair and as early as 1938 alternative sites for a new building at Scotswood and Newburn were being considered. The question was further discussed after the war and in 1952 the Newburn site was approved. Land was purchased just upstream of Newburn Bridge and work started in 1955, The clubs third boathouse was opened on the 6th April, 1957, by Viscount Runciman. The 1853 celebrations were re-enacted when, before the opening, the club's boats - an. eight, fours, and sculling boats - were rowed in procession from Scotswood.
Although much of the members' effort had been devoted to the new building, rowing had been carried on with moderate success. The brunt of organising the building of the new boathouse and the move from Scotswood had fallen on Jim Nisbet, who was Captain from 1954 to 1959, but he had at the same time laid some solid rowing foundations and cups were regularly won by the less experienced oarsmen and by scullers. His successor, Maurice Jackson, continued his work, and in 1960 senior fours from the club won eight events including the Palmer Grand Challenge Cup at Tyne Regatta. 1960 saw the first year of a league championship between the twenty-four clubs of the North-Eastern Division of the Amateur Rowing Association, and because of these wins and the consistent rowing of other crews, the club was the first to win the League pennant. 1961 was even more successful, when eighteen events were won. The club's record since then has been good, and the League pennant has been won every year.
Club eights now regularly take part with 300 others in the 4 1/4 mile Mortlake-to-Putney Head-of-the-River Race which is rowed every March at the end of the winter's training. For the last six years, two crews and their boats have travelled to London for several days practice on the Thames before the race. The summer rowing season starts in April, and there is a regatta almost every week until mid-August. At the club's "At Home" Regatta in early June, rowed over a straight mile course from Stella to Newburn, the senior fours event for the Joseph Cowen Cup is rowed on a repechage basis with four crews abreast. Although this form of racing has been used in Olympic and other international rowing for some years, the Newburn Club was the first, in 1957, to introduce it to an English regatta.
The club also holds its private regatta every year at which the main racing is for two sculling trophies. The Chipchase Cup was presented in 1876 by the Messrs Taylor of Chipchase Castle, and only previous winners are debarred from competing; the Colombo Cup a beautiful carved silver bowl standing on ivory elephants was presented in 1922 by "Three Old Tyne Men in the East" and is contested by club members who have never won a sculling event.
The Tyne Amateur Rowing Club is probably more healthy now than it has ever been in its 112 years. Membership is increasing, but new members are always very welcome at Newburn, whether they have rowed previously or not.
Crews are now in training for the Head-of-the-River Race next Spring, and hopes for continued success in the coming seasons are high,