|.The Hoogly roing crew of 1929 www.calcuttarowingclub.co.in|
|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.