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WHALEBOAT RACING & THAMES ROWING CLUBS

 

BACKGROUND

Whaleboats were a means of transport in early New Zealand and were also raced in regatta’s around the country. Whaleboat teams travelled long distances to race in these events; one can only imagine the difficulty in getting the crew to events, let alone the large boats. One such regatta was the Auckland Regatta held on Anniversary day (as it is today) where Thames would enter in the sailing and rowing races. One report states “It was not until more recent years about 1884 that Thames Crews entered for the “Whale boat events” (2) but Papers Past (1) have details of Thames entering races as early as 1877. The 1884 date appears to relate to the first official entry by The Hauraki Rowing Club from Thames, that formed in 1884.

 

 

THAMES BOATBUILDERS

Mr Hammond (2) names the ROBINSON brothers, who built a 4 oared gig racing boat and raced it. Also Mr Valentine (Tine) SAVAGE, who had a boat building business at the Hape Creek end of Fenton Street. Mr Savage is described as “a first class craftsman, and built many boats for the local fishing men, and racing boats.” In 1877 he built two whale boats for the New Plymouth Club (30 foot & built to go in the surf) and one for the Waitara Club (35 foot). The HAURAKI was a famous racing boat built by Mr Savage; and he also “acted as steer oar in the big whaleboat race” which they won against Waitemata. Other Whaleboats built in Thames included the OUTSIDER, the TOTAL and the JUBILEE by Mr Val Brown & Mr Charles May. (2)

 

In Thames Street Directories, four men are listed as boat builders, their names and years are as follows. (5) Robert FIELDER, Boat builder, Beach Road,  Thames (1878, 1880, 1883 & 1885), Horace NORGROVE, Boat builder, Grey Street, Thames (1909), Samuel SMARDON, Boat builder, Thames (1890) and Valentine SAVAGE, Boat builder, Thames (1883, 1885, 1887).

 

 

ROWING CLUBS

Papers Past has references to two rowing clubs from Thames; The Thames Rowing Club and the Hauraki Rowing Club. The Club that formed 1884 (2) is not named, but should be the Hauraki Club, given they raced in a boat called HAURAKI and the base was at Shortland Wharf. A further report in 1887 has crews from Hauraki and Thames competing at the Auckland Regatta. (1) There is further contradiction when the Observer Newspaper 1888 announces the formation of the HAURAKI ROWING CLUB,  earlier in the article it announces that “Thames Rowing Club intends joining the Auckland Rowing Association. (1) Could some of the confusion be based on amatuer and professional status, or the affiliation to the larger Association. Until clarification can be sourced it would appear that the earlier racing events were entered under different criteria and formal registration of the Thames and/or Hauraki Rowing Clubs occurred in 1884/1888.

 

The following paragraph is on the Rowing club (assumed to be HAURAKI ROWING CLUB) from Mr Hammond’s notes.(2)   The Club stored it’s boats in PARKERS Stables (between Mitchell St and Shortland Wharf), later they built a rowing shed at the western end of Shortland Wharf (with it’s own slip). The Rowing club would hold races on Saturday afternoons (when the tide permitted) and these included whaleboat, four oared gigs and swimming races. Sometime in the 1890’s the club bought a 4 oared gig; the coach was Mr HOSKING, crew: W HAMMOND, Vivian MORGAN, Tom MULLINS and Jack CRAWFORD. They raced unsuccessfully at the Ngaruawahia Regatta and an Auckland race.  Mr Hammond describes one race day about 1894 when two four oared gigs were racing, got swamped by waves and required rescuing.  The crew members that day included: WGANLEY, T FINLAYSON, W HAMMOND, J MCLEAN, G DALTON (cox) & G RYAN, R RUNCIMAN, F MULLINS, Tom SOMMERVILLE and Geo GORDON (cox). The same day there was a whaleboat race between the Hauraki and the Total boats. “The Hauraki was steered by E Gibbon, among the crew was Alf BILLING, Harvey CURTIS, Chas LLOYD & Bob INGLIS.” (2) The Total was steered by Tom ROLTON. The race remembered as the day the Total crashed into the Hauraki, causing considerable damage, which was thankfully able to be repaired.

 

The Thames Museum (7) has the original photographs of two winning Whaleboat crew’s, copies are provided here, 1894 and 1902 Hauraki Rowing Club Whaleboat Teams . (names listed in Timeline section below)

 

The Hauraki Rowing Club is mentioned in Street Directories (5) 1899-1903 (T E MULLINS, Sec) and 1906 (A E HOSKING (Sec).  It would appear that interest in the club decreased over later years, in 1901 an article (see Newspapers below) suggested the club was under going a revival. Following this it appears the club tried to get it’s “best” event reinstated at the Auckland Regatta, but this was declined. Despite this in 1902 a Whaleboat race was held in the Regatta and Hauraki (Thames) did win! Nationally Whaleboat racing appears to have over the years been involved in controversy, gambling has been suggested; for whatever reason more regatta’s moved to promote sail events. Maybe this then led to the decline of the club’s at Thames, or could it have been the falling population?  The Rowing club went out of existence sometime after1906 and their boats found new homes. “Mr Fred GIBBON, on the staff of the Thames Post Office was a keen yachtsman, and rower, and on leaving Thames became Post Master at Kawhia, and was responsible for the coming of two Thames whaleboats to Kawhia.” (2)

 

The Hauraki Rowing Club is recorded in the 1902 Cyclopedia (4). The 1900 officers were; Commodore: Mr A M MYERS; President: Mr J M FOY; Captain: Mr T SOMERVILLE, Secretary & Treasurer: Mr H G GILLESPIE. “It owns a large shed at the Shortland wharf, and has a fair plant, chiefly whaleboats.” (4)

 

Whaleboat racing may have ended at Thames but it lives on at Kawhia, who in 2010 are celebrating 100 years of Whaleboat racing at their Regatta. In 2008 a cup was discovered that reminded everyone that Thames once were Whaleboat champions. (See newspaper report below & Photo here). Whaleboat racing and Thames Rowing clubs’ just another golden era in the history of the Thames.

 

 

TIMELINE of EVENTS

·        1877: Mr Savage built whaleboats for New Plymouth & Waitara (2)

·        1877: Thames Whaleboat DANGER won Nelson Regatta’s Champion Whaleboat race (1)

·        1884 January: Auckland Regatta, in the Champion Whaleboat race there were 6 entries, Hauraki finished 5th and Thames 6th; although Hauraki were at times looking like they could win. (1) (See Newspaper reports below)

·        1884 September: Meeting held Exchange Hotel to form a Rowing Club in Thames . Mr Val BROWN elected Secretary and 50 people wanted to be members, subs £1. (2)

·        1884 October: A new 35ft whaleboat, called the Hauraki was built and launched, in readiness for the January 1885 Auckland Regatta; thus allowing the crew time for practice. (2)

·        1885 January: Both The Hauraki & Thames Rowing Club had an entry in the Auckland Regatta Champion Whaleboat race.(1)

·        1886 January: Thames entries in the Auckland Regatta covered several events, including the the Champion Whaleboat race, the Junior Whaleboat Race and the Naval Brigades’ Cutter Race (1) (See Newspaper reports below) Hauraki were 2nd  in the Champion event.

·        1888 December: Newspaper reports formation of The Hauraki Rowing Club and that Thames Rowing Club became affiliated with the Auckland Association (1)

·        1889 January: Auckland anniversary regatta “the sensation of the day was the Champion Whaleboat race between, essentially Nelson, the Waitemata Rowing Club boat and OUTSIDER from the Thames Rowing Club. This developed into a running battle of oars, oaths, and fisticuffs between the two crews with the result that the Auckland boat was disqualified. There were all sort of charges, of professionalism and corruption, but was obvious that this particular “sport” had got right out of hand. Never again would the whaleboat racing take the regatta limelight in Auckland.”(3) (See Newspaper reports below)

·        1889 January: Thames was declared the winner of the Champion Whaleboat race following Waitemata’s disqualification (1)

·        1889 March 11th: Hauraki Rowing club held series of club races (1)

·        1890’s: Whaleboat racing continued to have a place at the Auckland Regatta, then interest declined. (3)

·        1891: Hauraki Rowing Club won champion and amateur races at the Auckland and Thames Regatta’s (1)

·        1894: Winning Crew of the Champion & Amateur Whaleboat Race at the Thames Regatta were; E GIBBONS (Steer oar), A OTTER (Strike), Jas TOWHILL (No 1), H FISHER (No 2), H WOODS (No 3), P WILSON (No 4),  A NEWDICK (Coach) & Jas LOUGHLIN (Captain H R C) (7) (For Photo Click Here)

·        1895: Hauraki Rowing Club purchased four-oared gigs from the Star Rowing Club. (1)

·        1901: The Hauraki Rowing Club asked that Whaleboat rowing place be placed on the programme; the request was declined. (1)

·        1901 November: Report in papers that the Hauraki Rowing Club was again doing well (1)

·        1902: Hauraki Rowing Club were winners of the Whaleboat race at the Auckland anniversary Regatta held 29th January 1902. Crew: G A HUDDLESTON (Stroke), T SOMMERVILLE (Steer oar), H T A STEPHENSON (No 1), J CROSBIE (No 2), T A MULLINS (No 3, Hon Decy & Treas), D ADAMSON (No 4), A NEWDICK (Vice Captain, Coach), A A KIVELL (Captain). (7) (For Photo Click Here)

·        1903 January: Hauraki Rowing Club entered three whaleboats in the Auckland Regatta. (1)

·        1903: Hauraki Rowing Club, Thames purchased a new four-oared racing clinker (1)

·        1906-1910: Thames Rowing Clubs ceased to exist

·        Two Thames Whaleboats went to Kawhia in the late 1900’s. (2) There is a whaleboat at the Kawhia museum, whether this is one of the original Thames boats can’t be confirmed. (6)

 

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES RELATED TO ROWING & WHALEBOATS

1877:

“..Nothing daunted by their want of success last year, the Thames crew have had a new boat built by their coxswain, Mr Savage. They pulled well last year, though their boat, being a local production, was not up to the standard of the English boats. If they win the race more credit will be due to them from the fact of their having had pluck enough to build a boat to contest the race…”

Full report in: Nelson Evening Mail, 9 January 1877(1)

 

“The whaleboat for the Thames and Auckland crew at Nelson will go per Wellington tomorrow” Reported in multiple papers including Otago Witness Issue 1312 20/1/1877 page 14 (1)

 

The Interprovincial Regatta at Nelson was held 17-18/1/1877. The champion whaleboat race was won by Danger of Thames; the prize was £50. BOP Times, Volume 5, Issue 454 20/1/1877 page 3 (1)

 

1884:

“..directly the boats heads were turned homeward, then the Hauraki’s crew put on a game spurt, and passing the Thames closed up on the Manukaus and Nelsons.” “When about half way from home it was evident, bar accidents, that the race was the Waitemata’s, and consequently some little attention was now given to the other competitors.  The North Shore were second, and pulling a determined stroke, Nelson came third, and they were pulling such a race as to merit frequent and most hardy applause, and the same may be said of the Manukaus, who came fourth. The Hauraki crew were close upon the Manukaus, while the Thames were obviously fated to bring up the rear.”

Full report see Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXI, Issue 28, 3 February 1887, page 3(1)

 

1886:

Champion Whaleboat Crews for the Auckland Annual Regatta

Outsider (Thames Rowing Club): W PAYNE (11st 12lbs), stroke; G FISHER (13st 3lbs), No 4; S FISHER (14st 8lbs), No 3; A FISHER (15st 2 ½ lbs), No 2; D FISHER (12st 12lbs), No1; J A BROWN (10st 11lbs), coxswain. Hauraki (Hauraki Rowing Club): S LAURIE (12st 8lbs), stroke; T JOHNSTON (14st), No 4; R LAURIE (12st 8lbs), No 3; C ROLTON (11st), No 2; C MCPIKE (11st 7lbs), No 1; V Savage, coxswain.” The Hauraki Club also had an entry in the Junior Whaleboat Race and the Thames Naval Brigade had an entry in the Naval Brigades’ Cutter Race. “The junior crew is as follows: A ROE (9st 13lb), stroke; P LEITCH (11st 1lb), No 4; A KENRICK (10st 7lbs), No 3; W MORRISON (11st 4lbs), No 2; T DUNLOP (10st 8lbs), No 1; C MAY, Cockswain.”

Full report see Observer, 30 January 1886 (1)

 

Full Regatta Results in Te Aroha News, 6 February 1886 (1)

Hauraki 2nd in Champion Whaleboat race, Hauraki did not start in the Junior Whaleboat and the Naval Brigade finished 3rd.

 

1888:

“The Thames people are to have a rowing club at last, thanks to the energy of Jack POLAND and one or two others. It has been decided to call the club the Hauraki Rowing Club, and blue and white are the colours chosen. The election of officers resulted as follows: M W PAYNE; Hon Sec S ASHER; and Treasurer , M P MCGREGOR. The club now consists of 60 members.”

Observer, 8 December 1888 (1)

 

1889:

THE CHAMPION WHALEBOAT RACE. Extraordinary Fracas. (By Telegraph) AUCKLAND, THIS DAY.

In he Champion Whaleboat Race yesterday, when the foul occurred at the buoys, the Waitemata and Thames crews excitedly seized hold of each others boats’ oars, &c. A member of the Thames crew received a violent blow on the head from an oar. He tried to retaliate, and a general fracas was only averted by the approach of the third competing boat. It is expected that the race will be awarded by the umpire to the Thames crew.”

 

THE WAITEMATAS DISQUALIFIED. AUCKLAND, THIS DAY.

In the whaleboat race the Waitemata crew has been disqualified, and the umpire has awarded the first prize to the Thames crew and the second to the Auckland Navals.”

Evening Post, Volume XXXVII, Issue 25, 30 January 1889, page 3(1)

 

LATEST FROM THAMES. ROWING MATCH – THAMES V AUCKLAND. THAMES, last night.

The Thames whaleboat crew, who won the Champion race at the recent Auckland Regatta, have challenged the Waitematas to row a match in Auckland for £300 within six weeks; or for £250 within a fortnight if the Waitemata crew will come to Thames.”

Te Aroha News, Volume VI, Issue 339, 2 February 1889, page 2(1)

 

“Hauraki Rowing Club intend holding a series of club races on the 11th of next month.”

Observer, 13 April 1889 (1)

 

OUR THAMES LETTER:

“Messrs J POLAND and R ASHER, Captain and Secretary respectively of the Hauraki Rowing Club, tendered their resignations at a committee meeting last night. The former leaves for Auckland at the end of the present month, while Mr ASHER contemplates proceeding to either Sydney or Melbourne. General regret was expressed by members at the loss of such popular officers, and a hearty vote of thanks was accorded them for the valuable services they have rendered to the Hauraki Club.”

Observer, 22 June 1889 (1)

 

OUR THAMES LETTER:

“Mr Ralph ASHER has been presented with a gold pencil case by the members of the Hauraki Bowling Club, as a slight recognition of the valuable services he rendered as secretary. He intends leaving for Melbourne at an early daye, and will be greatly missed in athletic circles.”

Observer, Volume 9, Issue 550, 13 July 1889, page 12 (1)

 

1891:

OUTDOOR SPORTS.

“The Hauraki Rowing Club has just had its annual meeting, and the balance sheet and report show the club to be in a most flourishing condition. Mr Jas LOUGHLIN has been elected captain and Mr T ROLTON, vice-captain. The receipts for the year amounted to £100 12s 3d and the expenditure to £93 12s 2d leaving a cash balance in hand of £7 0s 1d. the assets are valued at £190 18s 6d, and the club have been most successful in rowing this year, having won the champion and amateur whaleboat races at the Auckland Regatta. At the Thames Regatta on the 17th March they also won the champion and amateur races.”

Observer, 17 October 1891 (1)

 

1892:

NEW ZEALAND AMATEUR ROWING ASSOCIATION

A meeting was held and one of the clubs elected was “Hauraki Rowing Club, Thames”

Full report in Evening Post, Volume XLIII, Issue 50, 29 February 1892, page 4 (1)

 

NEW ZEALAND AMATEUR ROWING ASSOCIATION

“The secretary was instructed to write to the Hauraki Rowing Club with reference to the reinstatement of the crew which won a whaleboat race in 1891.” (1)

Full report in Evening Post, Volume XLIII, Issue 50, 29 February 1892, page 4 (1)

 

1895:

‘The Star Boating Club has sold the whole of its four-oared batswing gigs to the Hauraki Rowing Club, Thames.”

Evening Post 27 April 1895 (1)

 

TIT BITS and TWADDLE

“Shortly to be published at the Thames, an interesting and amusing work by leading members of the Hauraki Rowing Club, entitled ‘The first spin in our new craft.’ To be edited by Schoolmaster Christie. Illustrations for the frontispiece: No 1 – The capsizing of the gig, with the pedagogue and the naval petty officer sprawling in the water. No 2 – Their heroic efforts to right the boat, Jim’s scull careening around like the sails of a windmill. A leading incident – Gallant rescue of the endangered pair by Tom ROLTON and his crew. The book is sure to be funny. Give your orders in good time.”

Observer 19 October 1895 (1)

 

1901:

AQUATICS (By Neptune)

“The Efforts made to resuscitate the Hauraki Rowing Club have been attended with great success. The club has obtained a new lease of life, and its prospects are now brighter than they have ever been”

Evening Post, Volume LXII, Issue 120, 16 November 1901, page 6 (1)

 

AQUATICS (By Neptune)

“The Hauraki Rowing Club, Thames, has approached the Auckland Regatta Committee asking that a whaleboat race be placed on the Anniversary programme. The committee however do not view the suggestion with favour, for whaleboat rowing is long out of fashion amongst us.”

Evening Post, Volume LXII, Issue 154, 28 December 1901, page 7 (1)

 

1903:

AUCKLAND ANNIVERSARY REGATTA

“Hauraki Rowing Club have brought up a number of crews for to-day’s proceedings. In the whaleboat race they have entered three crews, which should be hard to beat.”

Observer, 31 January 1903 (1)

 

“A fine specimen of the boatbuilder’s art in the shape of a four-oared racing clinker gig on the lines laid down by the New Zealand Amateur rowing Association has just been built by Mr George NORTON, of Wellington, to the order of the HAURAKI ROWING CLUB, Thames. The boat is of cedar, and is finished in first-class style. Mr Norton is now building a similar gig for the Waitemata Boating Club, Auckland.”

Evening Post, 7 September 1903 (1)

 

AUCKLAND, Jan 28

“Eighty-one entries were received yester-night for the 16 events at the Auckland Regatta. The following are the entries for the Champion Whaleboat Race: Hauraki Rowing Club…..Thames Rowing Club…£120 was received for entrance fees for all events.”

Wanganui Herald, Volume XX, Issue 5529, 28 January 1885, page 2 (1)

 

2008

Hauraki Herald 11 November 2008, page 2 (9)

MYSTERY TROPHY SURFACES by Mathew Grocott.

How does a trophy discovered in Canterbury and carrying a picture of six men rowing a whale boat link back to Thames? That is the mystery the Hauraki Plains Rowing Club is trying to unravel after it was sent a silver trophy which dates back more than 100 years. The club was sent the trophy by members of the Canterbury Rowing Club which had discovered it while preparing for a prizegiving. The trophy has an engraving of five men rowing a whale boat with “Presented to Hauraki Rowing Club by W J Constant” printed on it. It is 100mm in diameter and stands 250mm high. The trophy also carries five small insignia around its base which may explain where and when it was made. Hauraki Plains Rowing Club committee member Mike Speedy has been tasked with researching the trophy. Mr Speedy said he discovered whale boat racing was once popular around the country, particularly in the Waitemata Harbour. Enquiries with organisers of the Auckland Anniversary Weekend regatta revealed that the Hauraki Rowing Club was based in Grahamstown, Thames in the latter part of the 19th century. Mr Speedy said he was keen to find out as  much as he could about the trophy’s history, and if a rightful owner for the trophy cannot be found he would like to see it housed in a museum. He suspects the trophy was last competed for in the 1880’s or 90’s when it was most likely won by the Canterbury Rowing Club who found it. The one record found so far of a W J Constant is that of a bread-maker who set up shop in Auckland in 1863. A boat builder called Valentine Savage has been linked to the Hauraki Rowing Club. At the end of  the 19th century Mr Savage was a famous boat builder and oarsman who built most of the club’s boats and manned the steer oar.”

NB. Concerning the above article and reference to Mr W J CONSTANT.

Mr WILLIAM JOSEPH CONSTANT settled in Thames during the prosperous gold mining years. Mr CONSTANT was a publican at several hotels including the CAMDEN and THAMES Hotels during the 1870’s to 1890’s. (8)

 

References:

(1)   Papers Past at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/

(2)   “Whale Boats at Kawhia” by Toss Hammond c 1867. Unpublished Papers held at THE TREASURY, Queen Street, Thames

(3)    “Southern Breeze, Story of yachting in New Zealand” by H Kidd, R Elliott, D Pardon. Viking 1999

(4)   “Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Auckland, Volume 2” Published 1902

(5)   “Street Directories” at Thames Genealogy Web-pages by Althea http://freepages.school-alumini.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~althea/index.html

(6)   Kawhia Museum contact: Kawhia_museum@xtra.co.nz

(7)   Thames Museum, Corner of Cochrane & Pollen Streets, Thames

(8)   “Hotels of Thames” at Thames Genealogy Web-pages by Althea http://freepages.school-alumini.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~althea/index.html

(9)   “Hauraki Herald” Newspaper, Sealey Street, Thames. Copy held at THE TREASURY, Queen Street, Thames

 

© Althea Barker 2009