Greg Denieffe: The Story Of Dublin Rowing Club 1906-1942, Part 2

Dublin Rowing Club existed between 1906 and 1942. Here follows part 2 of the story of the club, written by Greg Denieffe. Part 1 was posted yesterday.



The late W.J. (Wally) Stevens described the final months of Dublin Rowing Club as follows:

“The year was 1942, the time April/May and I was standing close to the river by the hedge separating Dublin Rowing Club from Neptune. Joe Boylan approached me and asked if I would cross to the main door of Neptune, knock, and ask if I would oblige Joe by selling him a bottle of Guinness. I believe the bottle cost 6½ old pence.

The occasion is important to me because it marked the first time I ever set foot in Neptune; the idea of having to ask for an obligement must appear strange to our members today. Then the hedges around the club houses marked the boundary of each.

By May that year Dublin Rowing Club was in trouble; the maiden four in which I was a crew member broke up. However their senior four finished the season before the club closed its doors. Eric Foster and I joined Neptune but too late to gain a place in their maiden crews. We were in time to see them win the Blue Riband of Irish rowing on our own doorstep at Islandbridge. Des O’Sullivan and Bill Frazer followed us into Neptune in 1943.” 3.

Wally Stevens went on to become president of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union and Dessie O’Sullivan president of the Olympic Council of Ireland.

The senior four did finish the season and whilst not winning any silverware they did have an eventful race at Boyne Regatta. In one of the heats the boat of their opponents, Belfast Commercial, filled with water on the way to the start. They vacated, emptied and reoccupied in shallow water before losing to Dublin. 4.

In reality it was Dublin Rowing Club that was sinking. There were discussions with Commercial Rowing Club and even suggestions that they might merge. But Commercial Rowing Club would have nothing to do with a merger and when Dublin Rowing Club finally closed, Commercial Rowing Club like a hermit crab took over their premises at Islandbridge leaving Dolphin Rowing Club alone in Ringsend and sadly, they like Dublin Rowing Club went out of business that year.

University College Dublin Rowing Club was founded in 1917 and become lodgers of Commercial Rowing Club, Ringsend. In 1919 UCD Rowing Club moved in with Dolphin Rowing Club, Ringsend. In 1926 they changed their name to University College Dublin Boat Club and in 1928 moved upstream to Islandbridge and became lodgers of Dublin Rowing Club where they stayed until their own boat house was completed in 1932.

Commercial Rowing Club occupied the premises from 1942 until New Years Eve 1992 when vandals broke in and set fire to it, burning it to the ground. Dublin Rowing Club and their former boathouse were no more.

The original picture purchased on eBay. Not in great condition but well worth preserving. The Club colours were dark and light blue. Included in the picture are F.J. Kelly (back row 2nd left), Irish Champion sculler 1930, 1931 and 1932 and Joseph P. West (front row far right) who was vice-president in 1932 and 1932 and president in 1934, 1935 and 1936 of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union.

The following photograph appeared in the Irish Independent newspaper in 1924. It is described in the National Photographic Record of the National Library of Ireland as “Ireland Soccer Team v. U.S.A.” I believe it is of a group of rowing men outside the Dublin Rowing Club at the 1924 Tailteann Games Regatta.

The dark jackets with light trim appear to be those of Dublin Rowing Club. The person with the child on his lap is probably B. Harrington, coxswain of the 1921 junior eight. I think I have also identified two others from that crew: K.O’Reilly (3rd left, standing) and B.O’Reilly (10th left, standing) both wearing Dublin Rowing Club jackets. I am however open to correction.

References

1. T. F. Hall, History of Boat-Racing in Ireland (1939).

2. T. H. Nally, The Aonac Tailteann and the Tailteann games: their origin, history, and ancient associations (1922).

3. W. J. Stevens, ‘Neptune, as I remember it’, from Neptune Rowing Club 1908-1983 (1983).

4. W. F. Mitchell, Belfast Rowing Club, 1880-1982 (1994).

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