Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Calcutta Rowing Club, oldest ouside England !!

.The Hoogly roing crew of 1929 www.calcuttarowingclub.co.in
 The term recreation is believed  to have been used in English first in the late 14th century, first in the sense of "refreshment or curing of a sick person". Later it covered a variety of  leisurely activities engaged for fun and free from social needs. People normally take to recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, rowing, playing tennis, etc for enjoyment. Recreation being a leisurely activity, it is an important element of human psychology to have fun and pleasure. It is a way to revitalize and energize our body and mind to re engage  ourselves in our  chosen profession in the succeeding days. Far away from their mother land, the employees of British East India company needed  some kind of recreational  activities to keep themselves engaged   during holidays and vacations.  Various social  and recreational clubs were started during the British rule. One such club was The Calcutta Rowing Club started in mid 1800.
The Calcutta Rowing Club,.first club outside the UK 1858. puronokolkata.com
The Calcutta Rowing Club. puronokolkata.com

 The Calcutta Rowing Club founded in 1858  by a small group of boatmen based in Calcutta  and is presumably the oldest club out side the UK. An interesting fact is that it  was started at a time when the East India company was rattled by the worst revolt against the British in 1857 and the control had just changed hands to the British Crown.The Calcutta Rowing Club had a humble beginning with  with a thatched roof structure near Chandpal Ghat from where it functioned from  1860 to 1864. The history of the club, records, documents, etc  along with boats, as ill luck would have it, were lost  for ever with out any traces in the  disastrous cyclone of 1864 that struck this part of Bengal. The only consolation was  some details that escaped the fury of cyclone  were the accounts  of 1858-59 signed by John Cowle, then Honorary Secretary and Treasurer  and  thus he makes  history by being the first officer of the club on record.  A temporary thatched roof boat house  came up  near Fort Point in 1865.  Up to this time, all the boats had fixed  seats, but in 1872, one  Charles Newman introduced  a sculling boat fitted with a sliding seat from England.  The advantage about the sliding seat was it would be a lot easier to row the boat comfortably and easy rowing maneuverability would give better forward thrust to the boat. According to Calcutta Rowing-Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News  of April 21,1877,  rowing events were conducted during succeeding years, however the rowing became more and more difficult over the later period on account of increased operations  of steam ferry boats and tugs on the river. The boat-house at Fort Point  in 1888 had to face closer because the inmates of the fort felt rowing on the river would affect the field of fire from their side in case of enemy attack and  accordingly moved over to a new location  on Strand Road  opposite to Eden Gardens, now a famous ''test'' cricket ground.  On record were numerous  anxious  instances  related to rowing in the  river where the  boats  were being swamped and their crews having to struggle for their lives, against the strong under-currents in the river. Consequently  regular rowing on the Hooghly had to be given up for good. As a last resort to avoid such instances,  a final and suitable  alternative course had been offered in 1897 by the Port Commissioner on the Dock Basin at Kidderpore, which is now occupied by the Coal Dock.
 

At the new site   a boat house  was  built and the Club now  had an advantage of  almost straight 3/4 mile  course that could  allow  three crews racing abreast with any hindrance. This comfortable position led to participation in racing events at many places and  the club won the event at Poona in 1877 amongst other things It was in 1902  an event then called ‘Class Fours’  was introduced from which  the present Merchants’ Cup has  grown. Also in 1902, a Four was sent to Madras and its members succeeded in winning the Fours, Pairs and Sculls.

The Port Commissioners office in 1906 needed the the Basin at Kidderpore for additional building, coal dock, etc and in  1907 place on the boat canal near Majerhat Bridge was alloted for rowing. In 1928, another  shift was made to Dhakuria Lakes, now known as Rabindra Sarobar. During the period the club actively participated in several events except during the war time 1914-1918. Rowing activities resumed after 1923. It was in 1926 Merchants’ Cup was donated by the Partners of Messrs Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. The championship rowing had continued since 1926 with big break during WWII (1942 to 1946).

The CRC' growth is quite interesting  with a humble beginning, it has come a long way from the early colonial period till 20th century. 

Ref:
http://puronokolkata.com/category/gallery/establishments/public-institutions/club-houses

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcutta_Rowing_Club