Grafton Rowing Club History: GRC History Page 1
Australian Rowing Professional
Flooding Grafton
Early Shipping on the Clarence

Grafton Rowing Club History - Early Days

Early settlement of the Grafton area started in the late 1830s as timber getters sought out the prized cedar trees of the area. Some land was also used for grazing whilst the only other industry was centred on ship-building. A village was established in the 1850s and grew quickly in the 1860s and 70s to become the main settlement in the area as it was on the main road north and was close to nearby gold deposits.

Prince Street Grafton, 1870 (this photo is of the eastern side of the street between Pound
and Fitzroy streets – the old School of Arts building is visible in the background)

Even with this development, however, roads were few and poor and the bush was thick, but the river was wide and suitable for transportation, so most people became adept with an oar. Many lived on the host of islands that dotted the Clarence, and were especially conscious of the need to be able to row. Children rowed themselves to and from school, while farmers made periodic visits to Grafton for provisions, trips that often took the best part of a week to complete.

Flooding of the Clarence River also produced a need for boat transport as roads were completely covered across the town and surrounding areas.

This photo taken during the March 1890 flood suggests the prevalence
and variety of boats used in the area during that era.

The Grafton Water Brigade was established in response to this need.

This photo shows the Grafton Water Brigade Flood Boat Shed sometime in the 1800s.
The boats in the water are flood boats, whilst the one on the ramp is a butcher boat.
This photo is possibly a boat christening or the official opening of the shed.

Many Grafton Rowing Club members also rowed in flood boats at Grafton and South Grafton right up until the 1970s when the pulling boats were replaced with power boats.

This is a later photo of the Water Brigade Shed (probably 1892), showing a couple of crews on the water in flood boats. Beards were apparently popular amongst rowers at that time.

Deliveries of foodstuffs and other goods were often made by boat—the butcher boats that were so popular in rowing circles on the northern rivers in the early years of the twentieth century were direct descendants of the craft rowed by butchers on their delivery runs. Even funerals took place on the river with the leading boat carrying the coffin. With such an emphasis upon the river, rowing quite naturally became a district pastime. It was not surprising then that the Clarence became famous for its rowers:

The famed river Clarence in Eastern Australia,
Has borne on its bosom, capacious and vast,
A few foremost scullers, in striking regalia,
Prize winners all, in days that are past.

Amidst this era of rowing popularity, the Grafton Rowing Club was established in 1882.

Grafton Rowing Club History - Page 2