Greg Denieffe: The Story Of Dublin Rowing Club 1906-1942, Part 1

Greg Denieffe, who has a special interest in Irish rowing, has sent a nice piece about the Dublin R.C to HTBS. Greg’s article is in two parts, the second part will be published tomorrow. Enjoy!

The Dublin Rowing Club was established at Chapelizod in 1906. The first appearance of the new club was at Boyne regatta where they competed for the Cairnes, Maiden and Kelly Cups. Their first boathouse was a primitive shelter on the bank of the river, but in 1907 a suitable site was secured and the present clubhouse erected. (It was opened the following year, 1908). In 1907 the Dublin R.C. won its first trophy, the Corporation Cup at Boyne. 1.

The site of the new clubhouse was a few miles downstream in Islandbridge on the opposite side to the Dublin University boathouse. Neptune Rowing Club which was established in 1908 built their clubhouse next door and for now rowing in Dublin was split between the clubs that remained in Ringsend (Commercial Rowing Club and Dolphin Rowing Club) and those at Islandbridge. They won the Corporation Cup for under-age fours again in 1909 and in 1910 they had a fine junior four that won the Boyne Cup and numerous other cups at smaller regattas. At the Boyne regatta of 1913 Dublin won both the maiden eights (Aspirants Cup) and maiden fours (Visitors’ Cup). The future must have looked promising for Dublin but it would be seven years before they would celebrate another victory.

The political situation in Ireland was worsening. In Dublin there was the general strike and lock out of 1913 and the onset of the First World War saw an end to almost all rowing from the end of the 1914 season until the spring of 1919. The Easter Rising of 1916 left the city devastated. The general election of 1918 was quickly followed by the War of Independence between January 1919 and July 1921. The Anglo Irish Treaty of December 1921 gave rise to Civil War which did not end until May 1923, and yet Dublin Rowing Club survived. The picture below is of the group of men who saved the club.

Dublin Rowing Club, 1921, Junior Eight, Winners at Bray Regatta: B. O’Reilly (4), F. Kelly (7), L. Richardson (Cox), L. Mooney (6), (inset) R. D. Moore, Sec. K. O’Reilly (3), P. Murphy (5), P. O’Reilly (2), B. Harrington (Cox), A. Brady (Bow), J. West (Stk).

Also winners of: Boyne Challenge Cup, Drogheda – Junior Four, Roche Challenge Cup, Dundalk – Junior Four, Bray Regatta – 2nd Senior Four, Junior Four & Junior Pairs (coxed).

This group began rowing in 1920 and repeated the club’s wins of 1913 at Boyne regatta winning the maiden eights and fours. These wins upgraded the crew to junior for the following season and the photograph shows that they were successful at that grade and very proud of their win in the junior eights at Bray. I believe that their victory in the junior fours at Boyne would top that. It is interesting to see that they also won at Dundalk. Although there was rowing in Ireland in 1921 & 1922 many regattas were not held owing to the continuing troubles. In fact Dundalk Rowing Club’s boathouse was maliciously burnt down in 1922.

Dublin Rowing Club now had a group of senior rowers for the 1922 season. Dublin Metropolitan Regatta was a victim of the Civil War but the Dublin clubs were determined to hold a regatta that year and held a “Metropolitan River Carnival” at Islandbridge late in the season. Dublin Rowing Club won both the senior eights and fours on their home water. Their journey from maidens to seniors was complete and they also helped save the Irish Senior Eights Championship that year. It was raced at Trinity Regatta on the 17 June, the first since 1914 and there were only two entries, Dublin University Boat Club winning by three lengths.

A medal inscribed on the reverse “Dublin Rowing Club, ‘At Home’ 1924”. 45cm in diameter.

A blazer Button showing the crest of Dublin Rowing Club. 20cm in diameter.

Over the next twenty years Dublin Rowing Club had successful years followed by several barren ones. In 1923 their new maiden eight won at both Boyne and Trinity regattas. In 1928 they won junior and senior sculls at Galway. The period 1930 to 1933 was rather more successful. In 1930 F.J. Kelly won the Eblana Challenge Cup for senior sculls at Dublin Metropolitan Regatta which was long regarded as the Irish Sculling Championship. He repeated this feat in each of the following two years adding the senior sculls at Galway in 1931 and the senior sculls at Galway and Trinity regattas in 1932, making him undoubtedly the best sculler in Ireland at that time.

The 1932 season was the most successful in the club’s short history. In addition to Kelly’s wins their under-age four won at Boyne and Dublin Metropolitan before winning the same event at The Tailteann Games, beating Queen’s University Belfast by ½ a length. Their junior sculler J.P. Finn won at Trinity, Galway and also at The Tailteann Games where he beat Lady Elizabeth B.C. by four lengths in the semi final and beat Newry by three lengths in the final. This was the third and final Tailteann Games since their revival and the regatta was held on the Boyne in Drogheda. The 1924 and 1928 Tailteann Games regattas were held in Dublin and Cork respectively.

The ‘Aonac Tailteann’ [literally translated as ‘Tailteann Fair’] were an ancient games held in Ireland, instituted in 1829 BC to commemorate the death of Queen Tailte. It is not generally known, and will, no doubt, surprise many of our otherwise enlightened readers to learn that the far-famed Olympic Games of Ancient Greece drew their inspiration from the still much more ancient games in Ireland. The Hellenic games may, indeed, be traced almost directly to the great national celebrations of Tailteann.2. The games ran until 1171 AD when they died out after the Norman invasion.

Following Independence in 1921 there was a great interest in reviving the games and they were held again in 1924, 1928 and 1932. In the rowing section there was international competition in 1924 and 1928.

A short article on the Tailteann Games 1924-1932 can be found here; and here is a link to a British Pathe newsreel with a rowing interest from the 1924 Games.

Gold [silver gilt] and Silver medals for rowing from the 1932 Tailteann Games Regatta – the reverse inscribed Anonach Tailteann, Baile Atha Cliath, First/Second Prize, Rowing, with provincial crests surrounding the border, the obverse depicting a young Queen and inscribed An Bainrioghan Tailte.

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