NUBC is very proud of its history, stories and people. We hope you find some memories and insights into our club below. They are the stories of some very interesting and lovely people and we are always interested if you have sometime to contribute:
The Boat Club was founded in 1961 and began operations with one old regulation Four given by Sydney Rowing Club housed in a wharf shed at Raymond Terrace. Its formation began from a speech by Godfrey Tanner at the 1961 Throsby Creek race.
An opportunity came in late 1962 to purchase Richardson & Scully’s 1867 riverfront warehouse in King Street. A University Boat Club Trust was set up consisting of the late George Edwards (afterwards Deputy Chancellor), Godfrey Tanner and the late Tony Enright, a well-known Maitland Solicitor. The property, in a flood area, was acquired for 400 pounds subject to an entrenched ground floor commercial tenancy. The money was provided by Messrs. Edwards, Tanner, Harley Kloster and Frank Williams; Mr Enright performing all legal work gratis.
The kind action of the late Mr Cunningham of Raymond Terrace persuaded our tenant to leave, and Godfrey Tanner then spent 1100 pounds from a legacy on urgent repairs. He ordered a new tub pair and regulation Four at his expense from Sargeant and Burton and the Sports Union ordered another Four also, whilst providing a further 500 pounds for building a thirty-foot long ramp. This was erected to a Tanner design by the Raymond Terrace Coffin Maker Percy Boots and lasted seven years.
Haberfield Club donated an old Eight, a Four and a Pair in 1963. When the University became autonomous the Trustees vested the whole asset in the University of Newcastle.
The [Vice Chancellor’s] Regatta title came about during Professor George’s regime. Originally, return contests were held with North Coast Clubs; but Inter Faculty regattas began after 1966, when the Club attended its first I.V. [Inter Varsity] (in Adelaide). The coming of Medicine in 1975 greatly enhanced Inter Faculty—but the desire of Edwards Hall and the Rugger and Hockey Club to participate led to the name being changed to Vice-Chancellor’s Regatta in 1983.
Newcastle’s first I.V. hosting was for Women’s Rowing in 1968, where the fine local scullers Margaret Clark (then National Champion) and Bev Donald, her partner in double sculls were outstanding. In 1972 Newcastle were hosts to a highly successful Mens and Womens I.V., but we had to use the Manning Course at Taree because the M.S.B. (Maritime Services Board) would not dredge ours at that time.
At the date of foundation  the Club hoped that some College building would soon start and attract interest in rowing competition. But the rejection of an offer from the AUC (Australian Universities Commission) by the Anglican Synod in 1963 meant that Edwards Hall was set up as the sole residence.
[In 1993,] the founding of three new institutions [International House, Evatt House and Barahineban] is already proving an enormous stimulus, as is the establishment of the Central Coast Rowing Association with three other nearby Clubs and the University Club as members.
By Bob Hyde
I came to work in Newcastle in early 1964. I had rowed at school and at university in Sydney, and I was keen to continue rowing. I made enquiries and was told that a Professor Godfrey Tanner of Newcastle University had started a rowing club.
I contacted Godfrey and he organised a dinner for four at the Newcastle Club – Godfrey, Mark Williams the first Club Captain, Mark Farmer and myself. Mark Farmer was an executive with Caltex, who had recently moved from Melbourne to Newcastle. He was a very experienced rowing coach who had coached Victorian crews to national titles. At the dinner Godfrey told us of his plans for the club, and we discussed how we could turn those plans into reality.
Mark Williams was keen to relinquish the captaincy so that he could concentrate on his career, and I took over from him as Club Captain in early 1964. We had a number of big challenges. The club shed was a very old building on the Hunter River at Raymond Terrace. There were no school or adult rowing clubs operating between Sydney and Taree. Hence the only experienced oarsmen and women available were those who came to Newcastle University having rowed elsewhere. There was no shortage of students who wanted to learn to row, and Mark
Farmer and the experienced club members started an intensive coaching program.
Initially we had only one old regulation four which had been donated to the club. However, Godfrey generously paid for a new reg four, and a tub pair. The Sports Union paid for a second reg four, so by about early 1965 we were well set up for boats and oars.
We held a number of Inter-faculty regattas at Raymond Terrace. The course was an (almost) straight 1000 metres, starting at the present Williams River bridge and finishing at the Club shed. These Inter-faculty regattas were a great success, and did a lot to raise the profile of the club within the University. They did have some hairy moments – such as when we found that our starter was using a 12 gauge shotgun and live ammunition. None of the crews had any problem knowing when to take off.
One of our main difficulties was in transporting boats to regattas. In those days most rowing clubs used large trucks with frames built on the trays to transport boats and oars. (I do not know why clubs did not use trailers – maybe the road rules were different then) We could not afford such a truck, so we devised a few different solutions. One was to hire a local bus to take us to regattas. The bus company built a rack on the roof of the bus to take the boats. It did not look elegant, but it did the job. Eventually we got the two regulation fours sectioned – we would carry the fore and aft sections on car roof racks and bolt the sections together when we arrived at the regatta venue. There were a few anxious moments when race time was approaching and we only had half a boat – the other half lost or held up in traffic.
We started competing at regattas in Sydney and on the North Coast. Taree Rowing Club in particular was very helpful in the early days. They brought their whole club down for our first regatta on our 2000 metre course at Raymond Terrace. Taree Rowing Club held two big regattas each year – one on October long weekend and one on Australia Day. It was at one of these regattas that the club had its first significant win against crews from Sydney and from the North Coast – we won the Head of the Manning race.
In the early years we took as many crews as possible on Easter trips to the North Coast. Traditionally Lismore Rowing Club hosted a regatta on Easter Saturday, and Grafton Rowing Club hosted a regatta on Easter Monday.
These trips were wonderful fun. Everybody camped in local camping grounds, and the presentation ceremonies in the clubhouses at the end of the regattas became legendary. Godfrey Tanner was very popular with all of the competing clubs. He normally wore his Cambridge College jacket (cream with vertical red striping), a jaunty admirals cap, white trousers rolled up to his knees, and tennis shoes or bare feet. He would give a presentation speech, hilarious and full of quotes from Latin and Greek classics, which invariably brought the house down.
As I think back over those early days some vivid memories come back. One involved a huge fig tree which grew on the street in front of the old Raymond Terrace shed. The tree was (and still is) a Raymond Terrace landmark.
One day we came in after a hard training row to find that Godfrey had fastened a big, roughly painted sign to the tree. The sign said in red lettering “NUBC No Fornication”. I think that we were as bemused as the Raymond Terrace locals. The sign stayed there for quite a few years.
Another memory involves the delivery of our first eight. It was donated to us by Sydney Rowing Club. Our problem was how to get it from Abbotsford to Raymond Terrace. Fortunately the father of one of our members was a BHP executive. He organised for a truck bringing an enormous load of steel from Wollongong to Newcastle to divert via Sydney Rowing Club. We had arranged for the loan of a speed boat to tow the eight (which was unrigged and therefore a problem to row upriver) from Newcastle steelworks up to Raymond Terrace. At the last minute the arrangement fell through and we had a big problem. BHP wanted to unload their load of steel. We went to ask the Newcastle Water Police if they could recommend somewhere we could hire a boat for towing. It must have been a quiet day for them, for within half an hour we were speeding majestically up the Hunter River in a big police boat, with the eight being towed behind, and sitting beautifully on the police boat stern wave.
Some of the memories are painful. On the way back to Newcastle after our first Easter trip to Lismore and Grafton one of our members, James King, was killed in a car accident. It hit us all very hard. Our second reg four was named James King in his memory, at a very solemn ceremony at the Raymond Terrace shed attended by James’ parents.
Another memory was when one of our members, Ron Armstrong, was called up for National Service. The Vietnam war had been going for years, and the Australian Government had introduced the so-called “Lottery of Death”, based on dates of birth. Ron came back to see us, dressed in his jungle greens, after he completed basic infantry training. It was very sobering for us when we said our farewells to Ron.
At the end of 1966 I handed over the captaincy to Will O’Reilly. My work took me away from Newcastle and my rowing career finished. However I have followed the progress of the club over the years and I am delighted to see that the club continues to be healthy and successful. I got quite nostalgic when I saw the John Eales, our original reg four, on a rack at Berry Park. I wish the club every success in the coming years.
During 2003 and 2004 the club made plans to relocate from the old shed at Raymond Terrace to a new site at Berry Park. After significant efforts from members of the club, NUsport and the University, a new shed was built alongside two other rowing clubs.
If you wish to contribute to this record, please let us know!