History by Late Ted Boohig
On March 25th, 1899 a bunch of young men, all of them members of Dolphin Swimming Club, paused for a breather after a brisk walk at Thomas Davis Bridge. Suddenly one of them posed the question “Why don’t we form a Rowing Club?” The others agreed to a man and even decided on club colours Chocolate and White. The Cork Boat Club was founded.
Things went on apace. Premises were leased at the fisheries in Tivoli, boats were purchased and on its first outing at Cobh Regatta in 1899 the young club had its first successes. In 1902 at the International Regatta at the Marina a Junior VII was successful against eight other crews. The spectators were so enthralled by this success that a massive collection was taken up and prompted the committee to rent the old Coastguard premises at Undercliffe Blackrock which remains the club’s home to the present day. The original Boat House was a pavilion from the Cork International Exhibition and housed the clubs boats and equipment until 1939. The old Coastguard building was converted into dressing rooms and Club rooms fronted by well laid out gardens and a beautiful lawn on which band promenades every weekend considerably helped club funds.
The Club’s first major success was in 1905 when the Leander Ship was won for the first time. This Trophy had been presented in 1904 by the Leander Rowing Club in appreciation for the wonderful hospitality they had received from the citizens and Regatta Committee and Trinity were the first winners of the Trophy. All members of the 1905 crew were founder members of the Club, and apart from rowing, several of them were honoured by their country in the Rugby world (R.M. McGrath, Billy O’Riordan and Mossy Landers). The complete crew was Louis Daly, Bob Dooley, Dick Lander, Mosy Landers,Beau Hosford, Tom Power, Billy O’Riordan, Dick McGrath and N. Dowling (cox).
Over the next ten years the club was successfully represented at regattas in Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Waterford. The Great War of 1914 – 1918 virtually put an end to rowing for six or seven years and during that unfortunate period the club was held together by the efforts of one man, the late Archie Mannix. He begged and borrowed money to pay the rent, keep the rowing equipment in first class condition and ensured the club property was well maintained. This quiet, unassuming man never took any credit for the tremendous efforts and sacrifices he made but the fact that the club now owns its own property is due entirely to his efforts during those trying times.
The next major success of the club was at the Tailteann Games in Cork in 1928 where the Junior VII was successful. Happily some of the members of that crew are with us as are some of the clubs greatest supporters on Regatta Days.
In 1932, a year of great importance in the clubs history, the late Dan O’Keeffe introduced Christian Brothers College to rowing and they competed with great success at Cork and Dublin regattas in that year. the introduction of schools rowing began a great are for Cork Boat Club. When Christians departed the scene Colaiste Criost Ri took their place then Pres. and they were followed by St. Nessans who really blazed a trail of success in schools rowing and later formed the backbone of Cork B.C. crews.
In 1937 a young man from Limerick who won a senior eight Championship with Limerick Boat Club was domiciled in Cork. Max Hogan over the next eight to ten years put not only Cork B.C. but Cork rowing in general in the limelight. Not only on Regatta day but even during evening training sessions on the Marina was thronged and enthusiasm was at its highest. This man’s drive and determination was infectious and inevitably success followed in its wake. Maiden Eights, Junior Eights, two Leander wins, Shannon Rowing Cup and innumerable four successes saw the Club’s sideboard top heavy on occasions.
The Presidency of the late Dan Hurley in 1939 added another glowing chapter to the history of the Club. Aided and abetted by the astute treasurer in Martin J Hanley he undertook the building of the new clubhouse. The building of the clubhouse was taken on entirely by club members with the exception of plumbing for which a man had to be employed. Dan Hurley showed the members how to lay blocks, make roof trusses, put in a floor and plaster walls. He supervised every operation, coaxed, browbeat, cajoled and never still upset anyone. This task started in June, was finished and officially opened on St.Stephens Night with a Gala Dance. A mammoth task surely and a credit to Dan Hurley, his committee and willing helpers. The present clubhouse completed by a contractor still embodies the 1939 structure.
The early forties were the greatest years in the clubs history. In 1942 the Leander Trophy was won for the second time and hopes were high for a Senior Championship as it was to be held in Cork in 1943. Alas the weather played a big part in affairs and with inferior equipment as a result of the War – disaster befell the club, they were leading quite easily in the semi final when two oars on one side of the boat were broken leaving a disconsolate crew stranded in mid-stream. However success was not too far off, in 1944 the Club won the Leander once more as well as the Senior Trophies for Cork and Limerick Regattas.
The club’s progress on the rivers of Ireland continued into the Fifties and once again new ground was broken when in 1953 a professional coach, Ernest Barry was invited from England. While not all agreed with his style and method but there was no doubt that he considerably improved the standard of rowing in the club and the crowning point was the success in the Maiden VIII Championships in Drogheda in 1957. Under the captaincy of Tom O’Riordan and coached by Sean Mackey this first ever championship success for the club received great commendation from all connected with rowing in this country.
In the following year the same crew was narrowly beaten in the final of the Junior VIII Championship at Portadown but had a very successful season otherwise. All members of this crew were products of the club’s nursery St. Nessan’s.
Some lean years then followed but once again in 1968 the club hit the headlines by winning the Junior IV Championship of Ireland at Cork Regatta.
The building of a rowing tank was and continues to be a great asset in the breaking in of Novices and correcting of faults in more seasoned oarsmen. However the fact that it is exposed limits its use.
Into the seventies and again Cork B.C. forged ahead with the introduction of Ladies membership all very keen and dedicated. They have already made their mark on Regatta courses all over Ireland and worked on the club Committee.
In the Eighties a young and energetic committee means that club activities are well catered for with a strong emphasis on making the best of rowing equipment available to members. The dire need for coaches is one of the clubs greatest problems but prospects for the future are very bright. The club has seen some dark days in the past but like a Phoenix from the Ashes – no doubt it will do so again.