The Porirua Rowing Club marked its first 50 years in 2017, but whereas most of the memories go back to the founding in 1967, rowers in Porirua could actually lay claim to over 125 years of establishment, though it seems there was a 67-year recess, which is possibly one of the longest in New Zealand sporting history.
Read the 2017 stuff Article on 50th celebrations here.
Prior to the clubs 25th jubilee a casual discussion with Colin Shields, secretary of the Wellington Rowing Association, prompted Life Member Terry French to start researching newspapers of the 1980’s, and confirmed a start date for rowing in the area back in those times.
1891 – for a few years (Porirua Rowing)
Mr Andrew Honeyman Bennie, licensee of the Porirua Hotel at Porirua Ferry, a settlement at the mouth of Kenepuru Stream, took a very active and practical interest in sport in what was just a local village. On 13 June 1890 Mr Bennie approached the Star Boating blub with the idea of forming a sub-branch at Porirua. It seems that did not progress, so the following year the code’s supporters joined Bennie in founding the first Porirua Rowing Club with a membership of 25.
Shortly after, at the 6th Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association in February 1892 Porirua was elected to membership along with 7 other clubs – City, Ponsonby, North Shore, and Star of Manukau (Auckland); Hauraki, Port Chalmers, and Waiwera. Porirua’s colours in those days were green with yellow stripes.
Speculation surrounds the location of the first Porirua shed. There were boats sheds at Porirua Ferry at the Kenepuru Stream, but a better site would have been Jimmy Gear’s boatshed on what was a point then just below the Gear Homestead. It would of given good access to clear water.
The word amateur is used, but in fact rowing along with other sports was seeing the early signs of prizemoney. Wellington regattas had such rewards for some races, and Mr Bennie who was also involved with Porirua athletics put up 7, 2 and 1 for the top three places in the Bennie 100 yards in December 1893. Later in 1892, on 22 October, Porirua rowers took part in the opening season regatta of the Wellington season, alongside the three other clubs in the capital, Star, Wellington, and Oriental.
Although Terry French couldn’t track down the final days of the first Porirua Club, it seems that sometime in the 1890’s it went into “recess”. The patron Andrew Bennie moved into Wellington to take over the Caledonian Hotel, and by 1901 when a history of Wellington rowing was written there was no mention of Porirua. Perhaps the 5-guinea affiliation fee for the New Zealand Association became too much!
19 June 1967 – Present
The modern Porirua club is the result of concerted efforts by supporters of the sport who believed in 1967 that it was time the district had a rowing club again. Strong support was given by the mayor Whitford Brown, and on 19 June 1967 the club was founded with the office bearers – Owen Weenink president, W T Jury vice president, J Winsor captain, Alan Jones coach, Vail McLachlan secretary, and Alan Goldsmith a driving force in the search for a club shed. The club was affiliated to the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association on 6 December 1967, registering its colours as white with red and blue braces.
In 1967 the club had two fours and one eight and used whatever storage they could find. In December that year they put scratch crews into supporting races for the Australia-New Zealand tests, and on 9 December the club held its first regatta, the Goodwill, which is still a regular event on the Wellington calendar.
The search for a shed was rewarded in 1967 when Mr Henry May the local MP made a successful approach to the Minister of Health for the club to use Ward 7 at Porirua Hospital, a building that was due for demolition. For two years the eight was housed there and crews carried it down to Kenepuru Stream. In 1969 the building was moved to the Onepoto site, formally opened in 1970, then to be the club’s base for the next 22 years.
Work started on the current shed, next to the original temporary shed in early 1992. Nearly all the club’s fifty members at the time, having pitched in at some stage during construction to provide free labour, this helped to keep the cost down.
Major sources of funding for the shed came from the proceeds of coal sales, rubbish bag and telephone book deliveries over the previous 10 years. Other funding sources included grants from the Porirua Licencing Trust, Lotto Grants, Hillary Commission funds, and money that had been held in trust from the former PRC women’s fundraising committee. The shed was officially opened on 26 September 1992 with the launching of the Wellington Rowing Association season and the Redding Shield regatta held on Porirua Harbour.