Ron Mahony was born in Brisbane, Queensland on 20th November 1928. He is the oldest “Old Boy” of the Toowong Rowing Club, joining in 1946. This is the story of his association with the club:
“In January 1946 my brothers were home from the war and one of them had been a champion cyclist before he went away to the war and the other fella, Jack, he’d done some cycling too but then he’d rowed the last couple of years before he went into the Army. So, one wanted me to cycle and one wanted me to row, so I went down to the rowing club this one Sunday morning, as I thought to have a look and that was the first time any of them had got together since the war and – so I went down for a “look see” and as it turned out there were eight people there and me. So they decided they’d go for a row. Bill Dowd, he lived on Coronation Drive, he had a lovely house there that overlooked the river and there was a set of oars up there underneath his house, that had been there through the war. So somebody went up and got those and we, the club had an old heavy eight that was a training eight, was very wide and so then they decided it would be the first eight on the river since the war so they’d go for a row. So they said to me “You can cox it.” Well, I hadn’t been close to a boat before let alone – I had seen them but so they put me into the coxswain seat and they rowed down to Grey Street Bridge and back and then they rang up the newspaper and got it put in the paper. And Bill Dowd was the stroke, Doc Whitehouse was seven – he was Professor Whitehouse, Doug Cook was six, Eddie Pearce was five, Cec Grimley was four, Ron Hampson was three, Reg Hill was two and my brother was bow. And it says:
Toowong Boats First Eight Since 1940
Toowong Rowing Club has resumed activities and on Sunday last boated the first eight seen on the river since the club closed up early in 1940 due to all members being absorbed into the services. An eight composed of Jack Mahony (bow), Reg Hill (2), “Tiger” Hamson (3), Cec Grimley (4), Eddie Pearce (5), Doug Cook (6), “Doc” Whitehouse (7), Bill Dowd (str), Ron Mahony (cox), was on the water, thus starting the club off on what is hoped will be a successful re-establishment. All members of Sunday’s crew are returned soldiers ranking from Lt-Colonel downwards.
The club is holding a general meeting to appoint officials and inaugurate club rowing on Thursday at 8 pm, in the Oddfellows’ Hall, Toowong.
[From The Courier-Mail January 1946]
“So I went to that meeting and I was the first one signed up. There were only two. I took a fellow from work along too. There were two of us who were signed up that night. So that’s when I joined. So that was early February, because I think it was the end of January when we had the row – so beginning of February some time.
“At that time we had one four – I’m talking about oarsmen – we had one four and the pair and then another couple of guys came down so that was another pair. So we had two novice pairs and one four when I joined. They had a – Commercial held a welcome home regatta on 30th March for everybody – that was the one and only regatta in the ‘45/46 season but there was – there was only that one regatta in what was ’46 season. I won the – and my mate – we won the novice pairs. I think our other crew, they ran into a – there must have been a bit of a fresh in the water – they ran into a bit of hyacinth coming down – they got their oar tangled in it a bit. So Commercial crew ran second, I think. So then gradually the club built up. It took a while – in those days they didn’t row in winter except Sunday mornings – we’d go down on Sunday mornings but otherwise, there was no rowing, no racing, there was no anything during the winter months. The season went from about September through to April and so anyway I used to get down there every chance I could get because I had really taken to rowing – never thought of cycling after that. So, the club went along quietly for a little while. We got some intake from BBC – College that came across and joined the club so that gave us two or three extra sort of seniors. They were at that level rowing and I plodded along. At one time I was rowing two in a novice four and three in a trial four and the trial four won so I didn’t ever win a novice four because it went up novice pairs, novice fours, trial four, maiden fours and maiden pairs and then juniors and then seniors. So I never won a novice four because I won this trial four. Then the club gradually built up. I was going to say about those fellows that were there. In that eight, there were only four of them that rowed in the season. The other four were all retired and some of the founders. Eddie Pierce was secretary of the Sugar Producers Association and Bill Dowd was managing a chain of butcher shops and Cec Grimley was the State Government Insurance Commissioner and Doc Whitehouse was professor of geology at the Uni.”
In those days, a lot of effort was involved in raising money for the club including running a stall at the Brisbane Exhibition.
“We had an Exhibition stall of course – refreshments stall out there. If we got ₤200, we were doing pretty well – anything from ₤150 to ₤200 maybe to ₤250. One year and this was quite some years on, we got ₤300, something just over ₤300 and that was the best year they’d ever had, in between they’d had some bad years. The year before, they only got ₤90, I think. So that was our mainstay.
“We’d do anything else that we could. One year the scouts were coming through to go to a big jamboree on Fraser Island and some of them were coming off the train here. That was 1950 – and it was around Christmas time. So Doc Whitehouse, he was a nob in the scouts – he arranged for them to come by train to Toowong to come down and we fed them lunch. We had it all organised with the Ladies’ Committee and us as well. We gave them cold meat, sausage and stuff and salad for lunch and I think we had a sweet too. Out of that we made ₤70 and then another year, I think. I don’t know whether it was the same year or the year before, Doc Whitehouse – there was a science conference up here and Doc got us the job of providing meals for the ones who were going out for a field thing. We’d go to Mrs Ward, over to her place at night and we’d make the sandwiches and some fruit cake and milk and I’d got hold of a heat sealing machine. So we used to seal the bags so the stuff wouldn’t be stale the next day and that all had to be delivered to the university down at the bottom of George Street. We’d take it down at night; leave it there for in the morning, for them to pick up in the morning when they were ready to go. Then at the weekend, we – they were going down to Dunwich – there was a crew of them going down to Dunwich so there was Les Keefer, he was the captain. There was Ron Ormand, he was the vice-captain. There was myself, I was secretary at that time. We were on the boat – I think there was only three of us and we had a couple of the women from the Ladies Committee with us and we went down – we gave them morning tea on the boat – we went down on the Mirrabelle and gave them morning tea, we got down there and they all got off the boat and went their different ways – cause they were going to get lunch when they came back. And we got off too. We thought we’d have a bit of a look. Anyway, all of a sudden we saw the boat pulling away and it anchors off shore – the captain’s doing some fishing! We were stuck – we intended to go on and get everything ready for when they arrived back. Well we couldn’t get back on board till they did, so lunch was a little bit delayed, but that wasn’t so bad. Anyway we got another ₤70 out of that.
“So anything that we could do – of course we’d try to run a stall at our regattas. Mum used to do pickled onions and she used to crochet the dolls, the pixie dolls that had the fluffy skirt and the camphor balls hanging around them. She used to do those and somebody else would make some jam. Of course, they’d make cakes and that sort of thing. So we’d try and get at least something out of every regatta that we had. Later, at this time anyway, that’s all that we had. We had enough to run the club and pay for repairs although captain and vice-captain they were marvellous with repairs that they used to do. By the time we’d get to Exhibition time again, we’d be out of money. Ron Ormand used to pay for the tea himself and then he’d get the money after the show and there was one year we got down, we didn’t have any money left and we needed money for the gas meter. So they said to me “What about going along to the bank manager and have a word with him, tell him we’ll have some money in a week or so.” So I went along and he said “You’ve got some fixed deposits with us.” And I said “Yes.” And he said “You can draw up to ₤75 against those at any time you like. You can have it in your ordinary account.” Oh, manna from heaven! I went back and told them. Everybody was pleased.
“The story about the fixed deposits was that in World War I, the trustees sold up the boathouse because there was no money left so they sold it up. So they – the ones that came back again and set it up in ‘20s, what they call “The Founders” they decided that it would never happen again so they gradually – and don’t ask me how they did it, because none of them were what you call millionaires or even thousandaires. They managed to get 2 x ₤75s and a ₤100 in fixed deposits so that it could never happen that the place could be sold up and because there was no money. So that was a godsend for us which we found out then. But otherwise we scraped up whatever money we could here, there – run a few raffles and things.”
In 1948 the club has a new eight freighted up from Sydney. There was a lot of controversy over the freight costs which was reported in the newspaper:
Fantastic Freight Rocks Rowers
When Toowong Row Club bought a second-hand racing eight in Sydney for ₤95, they thought they had bought a bargain, but they reckoned without the Railway Department.
Price quoted to send the craft from Sydney to Brisbane by rail was for ₤225—well over twice the purchase price.
Unable to pay such a charge, and unwilling to pay it even if they had the money, Toowong turned to the shipping people.
Their luck was out there, too. Shipping companies wouldn’t accept it, as seamen object to handling such cargo, even if it is crated.
Toowong need that eight badly. Their only racing eight had the bottom ripped out of it on rocks at the end of last season, and their crew are now rowing in a heavy training boat.
The Club won the Brisbane River Championship last year and hoped to repeat the performance in the coming season.
[From The Courier-Mail 1948]
“We bought it for ₤95. What happened, prior – ‘47/48, we smashed a boat the night before the championship. I was standing on the bank watching. They ran it up the stormwater drain that comes out there. There had been a bit of a concrete apron in front of it but that had all sort of broken away over the years and it built up a lot of silt and in that silt, there was also quite a large number of rocks and some of this broken cement and they were coming in – at a good pace into the ramp and they finished up on the rocks, tore all the bottom out of it.”
Rowers Own Carriers
Twelve brawny Toowong Rowing Club members gave their new racing shell, “Daphne Barnard,” a triumphal procession through city streets last night.
Between 5.30 pm and 6 pm they carried the 62ft shell from Eagle Street wharf to Commercial Club’s shed, about one mile, after it had arrived from Sydney by the Ormiston yesterday in perfect condition.
Shipping it from Sydney cost ₤16 against ₤225 by rail. The shell itself is worth about ₤95.
It was explained last night that the high rail cost would have been caused by the stretch of the craft across more than one railway truck.
The club will now be able to get down to serious training for their regatta on February 7 and the Head of the River regatta on February 21.
[From The Courier-Mail 1948]
“We got it on board a cargo ship as deck cargo on one of the AUSN company’s boats and we got down there at about 5.30 to pick it up and bring it back. They already had it off, of course, and had it sitting on banks of sawdust on the wharf. In the jeep he had the riggers and the – our bags and things. They carried it through Brisbane streets then took it to the Commercial Rowing Club to store it in there overnight and we came back the next night to pick it up and take it to our rowing club. It was a deep U-shape and we were not heavy enough crew to put her down into the water where it should be. It was named the “George Osbaldiston” later.”
“In 1947 I was still trial oarsmen. I finished up oarsman, I was still a trial oarsman but the under 20 four was short of somebody:
Brisbane “Eight” Will Be Solid
“The Brisbane eight has shown signs of becoming a solid combination and I have no doubt that it will be every bit as good as the 1939 crew that won the State championship and later the King’s Cup.”
Thus stated Frank Avery, coach of the district eight that will contest the State championship at Rockhampton at Easter.
Although the crew was as yet a tentative selection. Avery said that he was not contemplating replacing any of the oarsmen. There would be changes in the seating.
He considered that youth was a great asset to the crew and he liked the average weight of 11.11. The crew was rowing in a heavy training “eight” and in a week would go into the light shell they would use in the championship.
The Toowong Under 20 Four that will represent Brisbane in the Under 20 Championship should take a lot of beating. Three members J. Cameron (stroke), N. Holland (3), and R. Hartley (2), have had valuable experience in the successful Toowong eight. The bow, R. Mahony is of novice status but Frank Avery has given him the opportunity of rowing with the eight in training rows and races.
[From The Courier-Mail 1947]
“It wasn’t a case of giving me, it was grabbing me to fill up a hole. But it did stand me in good stead, I must say that. I didn’t mind, that was the club. We went out and won every race. Well we started in the Monteith which was like a three plank clinker boat, bit heavy but a fast racer and then John and Neil, they got together – Toowong had an old Best & Best racing four there, the Macdonald and it had a weak bow, somehow or other its bow had been busted back at the cutaway. So they got to work on that and they strengthened it up as best they could which would have been pretty good and we won every race. Cause we used to race in the open fours in those days. Instead of having seniors, senior eight, it was an open four and then if you were a trial oarsman and you wanted to row in it, it didn’t affect your status. Well those three guys were good enough but as I say, I was still a trial oarsman. But we never lost a race here in Brisbane and then we were selected of course to go to Rockhampton for the championships up there and we got up there and on the day of the race the river was rough.
“But the rowing in Brisbane, I really enjoyed that. I couldn’t get over it – to go out to a regatta and not be nervous, knowing that we were going to win, and that’s what happened. Well, not every Saturday, but every time we raced cause in those days they’d only have a regatta about once a fortnight or something like that. The club’s only had two regattas a year. The next year we won every under 20 race and we didn’t row in the state titles that year and I can’t remember why. Anyway, we didn’t we rowed in the eight. “
The training regime was different to what it is today:
“Our training week was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – Thursday we went to gym. Friday was training, Saturday afternoon was training, Sunday morning was training. So the only night we missed out was the night we went to gym which gave us overall fitness, as well as just rowing fitness.
“As the Queensland crew, we’d go out and do a few miles and then there and back, few miles out, a few miles back. Initially we would just do straight rowing – distance, but then after that, we’d get on to doing two mile course and then we’d do another couple of night’s rowing perhaps and then we’d do a “mad mile” which was a mile as fast as we could and then we’d all get the nerves then because we’d know that sometime in the next few days, in the next week anyway, would be doing a three mile course and they were pretty draining. And then we’d drop back then to a – particularly after a three mile course – we’d only have an easy row the next night – we’d only do a three mile course every so many weeks. I got caught one night, I was up in bow seat and we were down at Kays Rocks and Eric stood up in the coxswain seat and said – and I thought he said “We’ll take it over the two mile” and I thought – that’s not too bad. Away we go and we’re getting up there by the Foggitt Jones factory and I’m still feeling pretty good and I thought – this is great. I started to pound down a couple or put a bit more into it and we kept going when we should have stopped and I thought – he must be taking us through the bridge. Anyway we went under the bridge and round the corner. I thought “He must be taking us to Victoria Bridge.” We got to the Victoria Bridge and kept going – I thought “Oh god, three miles.” And I said to him after we came back to the shed, I said to him “I thought we were doing two miles.” “Well, it didn’t make any difference, did it.” That last half mile, it really used to drain out of you all that you had.”
“In those days there wasn’t much beyond trial, there wasn’t much maiden until about ’51 or something like that or might have been ’50. James Cameron was our chairman – he put up some pewter mugs and he bought enough for eight races, I think and put them in a bank vault. That was so as it wouldn’t fall away. He didn’t want it to be one year and nothing the next year. Then everybody wanted those and that was big deal rowing for those. And by that time Toowong had built up quite a good contingent of young oarsmen, like the junior oarsmen, and not too bad a set of senior oarsmen either. And we won quite a number of senior pennants, Brisbane district pennants. And then a whole heap of the junior ones. And then some more senior and juniors. And Toowong would go to a regatta every now and again and they would win say five out of eight races or something like that. You’d come away from the regatta on top of the world.”
In 1950 Ron’s crew won the Brisbane River Championship:
“The Brisbane selector had been watching the crews because for the first time for many years they were going to have a composite crew to see if they could clean up. So until that race, we hadn’t won a regatta, eights race, and we’d been rowing woefully. So the last regatta before the championship, we’d had a bad row at the regatta and the next morning, the Sunday morning the eight of us sat round on the benches in the dressing area and we’d decided something had to be done and we arrived at the conclusion that we needed a different coach. So Lloyd Hinckfuss he volunteered to ring this fellow up and tell him we didn’t want him coaching us anymore. And I’m not sure who contacted Doc Whitehouse and asked him would he come down and coach us for the week before the river championship. Lloyd had been stroking the crew and Jimmy was rowing in two seat. So Lloyd got the flu or something or other. He was missing for two nights, the first two nights of that week. So Doc put Jimmy into stroke seat and we had fairly good rows, better than we’d had before at any rate. So then Lloyd came back so then Doc put him up into two seat so then we had good rows. Doc took us over a two-mile course each night and he worked out with us what was our best start and we found we were most comfortable starting at 41 strokes a minute and our best two-mile was at rating 32. Well, on the Thursday night coming out, I’m not sure if it was Thursday night or Friday. I struck a bloke that used to row with the club who used to see Eric Evers quite often and he said “Oh, Eric Evers has given you blokes away, not even considering you for selection for the eight.” I thought “Oh, yes.” I couldn’t wait for the race to come up then on the Saturday because we also had a good row on the Friday night when we went out, just did starts and that sort of thing. We did the two-mile row on the Thursday night in a really good time and I thought to myself “If we can do that, it’s going to take a good crew to beat us.” So I was feeling quietly confident without having any reason, but I knew if we could do that, produce that again, it would take a good crew to beat us. Well, we started off, we were rating, we did a good start, then we were rating 34 for the first ½ mile, ¾ of a mile and then we’d dropped back to the 32 and from there we just went straight past the other crews to the finish some lengths in front. So that was good.
instead of not considering us, he then had to change his mind
completely and then call some of us down into his selection crew but it
was funny because one of the blokes, he called out on the Sunday
morning, late we were just about leaving. He
said “Eric Evers wants to see you blokes on Monday night down at
Commercial or GPS rowing club” I think, anyway down the other end of
the river and they thought “Oh, yeh, we know all about that.” Sort of you know. I
thought everybody’s joking so I didn’t turn up and the next day I got a
ring from our secretary, Jack Brett, he said to me “Eric Evers wants
to know why you weren’t down there last night.” I said “Well, I thought they were joking. I didn’t think he wanted us.” And he said “Yes, he rang me up and asked me were you reliable.” So
anyway there was Jimmy and I and all the other blokes that went into
the crew, they considered Jimmy to be the best stroke of the other
strokes. They tried out with University stroke, and Commercial stroke and so on and they all reckoned Jimmy was the best stroke. So there was Jimmy and I and Neil went into the crew.”
However the Queensland crew was unsuccessful in the 1951 King’s Cup:
“That day was the greatest low for me. I didn’t believe all of the publicity that was put out. Because the NSW crew – There’s the race:
Cup was easy row to N.S.W.
New South Wales completely outclassed the opposition when they won the 1951 Jubilee King’s Cup on the Hamilton Reach yesterday from Victoria by one and a half lengths.
Their going in the rough water about half way through the course was classic. They never shipped a drop as far as anyone outside the boat could see.
After a fair start, N.S.W. and S.A. showed out early, with the Tasmania, W.A., and Victoria well up. Queensland dropped back and tailed the field for almost the entire course.
[From The Courier-Mail 1951]
“We started down below the Abattoir or right at the abattoir and we actually turned around further down and we came all the way up to here to Cameron Rocks – that was the finish, that’s just near Breakfast Creek. That’s three mile. In the morning, they were waiting for slack water so we wouldn’t have tide advantage, that’s what they used to do on tidal rivers but they could never get slack water so they used to say well – anyway the tide had been running against the wind, the wind had been blowing against the tide, the tide had been running out and there’d been a sou-easter, strong sou-easter blowing. So it was all a bit lumpy. Cause we were boating from down here somewhere. We did see it looking a bit bad cause we were in a boarding house here somewhere so we’d gone down by tram to go across and, it was still very bad at the top end, the Cameron Rocks end and they delayed the start and then they decided, okay they let us go and we started off reasonably well, we didn’t expect – well I didn’t expect for us to win and I don’t think any of the others did because this crew here, this NSW crew – they had won the British Commonwealth Games in New Zealand just a while prior to that, the year before, I think and they were still the same crew and they were like silk compared with this crew – they were the South Australian crew. So – Victorian crew were very good, of course, and then I reckoned we were the best of the others. And that’s the way we’d been rowing.
“Anyway we started off and the other two – well NSW played it very smart. It was calmer down our end when we started and you started to get into a few bumps, but then it was very rough and what they did, they cleared away in the early stages and they left us, then Victoria were way over the other side. They were getting the better of the – because the current was coming around on our side or had been. And Western Australia who finished third, they were off here from us, we were in front of them and holding them quite capably and we hit the really rough water and the sand hit the fan. We were floundering all over the place – everybody passed us, the boat was filling up with water and we got to Brett’s Wharf and I thought “God, if we could only sink.” That’s the first time I’ve ever thought I’ve had that thought.”
Ron considered there were a few members of the Club who made a major contribution including:
“There was Les Keefer who was captain all through that period. He gave up his own rowing. He was a very neat little oarsman, he’d have been a lightweight when lightweight came along and Ron Ormand was his vice-captain. And see in those days, it was captain of boats and the vice-captain was the assistant. Les gave up his own rowing because there were so many then and we had – everything had to be organised. We only had, we had one regulation four to start with, we had two heavy clinkers and they used – terrible old things. We had two tubs, one eight and the old heavy eight Simon and then later we got another regulation but he had to work out a roster whereby if we had the one regulation, the “Doug Davey”, if you had this this night then you had to have one of the heavies another night and he kept the whole place turning over and organised. There was never anything that fell apart through any lack of attention that Les could give. He and Ron used to do all the boats, do all the repairs on them, they’d varnish them up, all the good stuff and Les was a perfectionist. Ron has said to me, sometimes I’d be sitting there and it would look perfect and he’d be still touching up little bits and it would be about 9 or 10 o’clock at night. To me, those two were legends, particularly Les, because it was due to all his organization that we were able to get those results at that time. Lloyd used to have a good trick, we’d come in in the eight, that’s seniors, you know and seniors never do anything around the place. And Lloyd’d say to Les, “Les where can I find a hammer?” Les would say – hammer in a rowing shed – Les’d say “What do you want a hammer for?” He said “There’s something wrong with my slide, I want to fix it.” Les said “Don’t worry, I’ll look at it after.”
“Other legends, well you’ve got Cal Malouf, when he was chairman and all the things he’d done, Jim Dowrie, Jack Hutchinson, from the administration point of view and their own personal input later on. Well, while they were at the club, I suppose you’d have to say Jim Nunan was one from a rowing point of view, Lloyd was another one, Lloyd was a very good fours stroke, John Cameron would have to be another one.”
Ron was involved in organising the Toowong Old Oarsmen Association:
“That was when Dave Magoffin came up as full –time coach when he moved to Brisbane. He was looking after the seniors and we had a hell of a lot of juniors and so Ron Ormand and I, we both gave up rowing and started coaching all the juniors. I took over the novices, particularly new ones that were coming because I had had such a good introduction to rowing – when I was a novice, with the fellows that were around – sometimes Frank Avery would take us out, sometimes Doc would take us out. As a matter of fact, first time I went out in a novice four, Doc Whitehouse took us out – god was that a learning curve because the old tubs were slow and you get in the four and everything’s four times as fast. So anyway I’d had a good introduction into rowing as a novice so I wanted to pass some of that on otherwise you see novices taking out novices – and that’s no damn good so I was getting in with the novices and then I thought none of the other old fellows come down so I don’t know how I started it up but I managed to send out a newsletter and we Toby, he helped me and we had a sort of get together and the first one was at Her Majesty’s Hotel, a room upstairs and I don’t know how many turned up. Then I used to send out a newsletter all the time and managed to get them down to rowing some of them, then the very first time an eight went out with Jimmy stroking it, an eight of these older fellows, I’m going out in the club’s eight. They rang me up and said, we need somebody to fill in, you’re fit – I was still going to the gym, so I was fit but I didn’t have the wind. And they said, it’s only a mile and a quarter cause by that time, it’s cut back to 2,000 meters. So I thought a mile and quarter, that’s not too bad. Not after two miles and three miles. So I went down and I filled in an eight, I should have been sitting for exams and here I am rowing – again. So anyway it gradually fizzled out and then that was it. We never got it going again. I coached on for a quite a while.”
The Ladies’ Committee was an important feature of the Club:
“The original ladies committee, they were elderly women – like there was my mother and Mrs Ward and there was Mrs Doherty, Mrs McVinish – Mrs Ward’s cousin and there was Mrs Winterflood – anyway they were older women – the women that used to do the stall at the Exhibition, make the sandwiches and the tea and that sort of stuff. One of the very first times, in the early days, I went to a regatta out at Toowong when my brother was rowing and the women used to make tea in the little committee room, it had a wooden window that swung up and you’d prop it up and you got your afternoon tea out of that window and they used to have stools for you to sit on along the bank to watch the regatta. And it was funny – the first Toowong regatta that I was at, that would have been in the end of 1946, beginning of the ‘46/47 season, for the afternoon tea and I was only a novice. I can remember going over, don’t ask me who with or who told us to go – we went over with a lump of oar handle like this and through the gateway there was like a ordinary wooden big gate, at the side of the Regatta Hotel. We went down there along a grassy section and up some small steps, small set of steps, onto a small veranda and then at the end of the veranda there was a kitchen with an enormous big range, it was about from that wall to here, and about nearly to other wall there and on it was a kerosene tin of water on a gentle boil, so we put this on the oar handle between us and took it back across the road for the women to make the tea.
In 1953, a Social Club was formed:
“A couple of the guys wanted to form a social committee. And that was about ’53 or so. I got the okay from the general committee for them to set up as a sub-committee and then I was the representative of the general committee on that. I must have been club secretary at that time – anyway, so we got a group of young girls, people knew people who knew people and we were a bit lucky too that we got to know the girls, and some of the girls knew the girls that were the GPS football club, their rugby union social committee. So they used to come to our do’s and we used to go theirs. And then we’d, after a regatta, we’d organise a dance at the O’Connor boathouse and put a keg over in the GPS rowing shed. In fact, Daisy McLean who had the best band in Brisbane, we used to get her and pay the extra to play till 12 o’clock. One night at about 9 or 9.30 she sent a message across that if somebody didn’t come over there and dance she’s going to take the band home. We used to have these so-called cocktail parties at various places – and of course it was all kegs with beer. We’d put on a supper with cheerios and savouries and all that sort of thing and we got a bit of money that way from them. It was quite good and they funded themselves by raffling a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label at their meeting – it was about 23/6d in those days and they’d sell 15 x 2 bob tickets and get 30 bob for it so that extra few bob was enough for stamps and things.”
Later a clubroom was installed:
“Jim Cameron, old JH, he always wanted us to have a clubroom, sort of thing, cause otherwise there was just the rowing bit. You came down, got undressed, got in the boat, went for a row, come back. And there was nowhere to sit or do anything. So he wanted to do something on those lines. One committee member said “The old man couldn’t buy us with his money.” We’d have to do something – so anyway it all came to a compromise that he’d provide the materials and we would build the room at the back. So we got deliveries of big heaps of rock and – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that river mud but we had to dig a foundation in that river mud and it’s so thick and it’s so heavy. I can remember being in it with gum boots on up to half way up my calves and they’d stick in the mud and you’d step out of them and anyway we got a lovely foundation down with rock and then all cemented and level at the top and everything and Doug Cook was a carpenter so he helped with the timber frame and then he gave us a template. He made a template for us to put the weatherboards on so that all we had to do was put it in place and hammer the nails in and that was right. So we built that up and then we put a concrete floor in and then at McWhirters they were getting a new carpet into the fashion floor so I asked the manager could we have a bit of it. Some of it had been promised here and there. He said “Yes, but we’re not doing any laying for you.” I said that’s okay. So we got hold of this great big lump of carpet and put that down on the floor. It was too big of course. We had it folded under and then somebody got a lounge suite from somewhere and then somebody else made a bit of a bar – not that we ever used it as a bar and so we had a room there. It wasn’t what he’d envisaged. I think he’d envisaged leather chairs and all that sort of thing but we’d never run to that. So that all went of course when the shed went. The one corner of the shed had been sort of loose. The front right hand corner hadn’t been connected. The place wasn’t a very robust construction either. They said that it was built to take another floor on top for dancing and if you asked me it was built so it couldn’t take another floor on the top because I heard some comments like, what would it be like with the Regatta Hotel across the road and the river bank just there if there was a dance on. So to my way of thinking it was built so there could never be another floor go on it.”
Ron is optimistic about the future of the Club and rowing in general:
“Rowing in general is stronger now than it ever was. When I was coaching Kerry and Terry, at one stage there – there was just that four and the senior four that Graham Hussey was coaching. There were only the two fours and then there were a couple of odd blokes hanging around but they were the only two serious rowers. Well look at the club now! It’s got a great future. I just can’t sort of praise highly enough the amount of work that must be going on there by dedicated people for it to be like the way that it is. I think that it’s beyond my wildest dreams and any of us that were down in the old place. The old flood might have done us a real favour. But there’s no doubt about it some people have put in some good work on that.”
(Ron Mahony was interviewed in August 2003).
Ron Mahony died 12 March 2022.