History (to 1984)
Carrickfergus Rowing Club, founded in 1866 by Charles H. Crawford, is the oldest sporting club in Carrickfergus and one of the earliest rowing clubs to be established in Ireland. By early 1867 membership had reached thirty and a four-oared racing gig had been delivered by Matt Taylor, boat builder of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at a cost of £35. Crews from Carrickfergus competed with great enthusiasm in many northern Regattas, achieving their first win at a local event in 1870.
Prior to the completion, in 1874, of the first Clubhouse boats were stored in premises belonging to the Antrim Artillery, on the site of the present Town Hall, and carried across the rough shingle beach for launching. This Clubhouse, a wooden structure supported on piles, was erected behind the East Pier with the consent of the Carrickfergus Harbour Commissioners. Work was supervised by Paul Rodgers of the shipyard, at that time a member of the Club, and cost approximately £150. The building was replaced in 1888 and again in 1902 following storm damage.
Until the establishment in 1891 of the Carrickfergus Sailing Club the Rowing Club’s Annual Regatta included sailing and swimming events as well as rowing. Judging by the Secretary’s remarks in his Annual Report the introduction, on the occasion of the coronation in 1911, of Ladies Rowing Races was not universally welcomed and it was not until 1921 that ladies were admitted to Club membership. Tennis was then introduced and in 1922 the Rowing and Sailing Clubs amalgamated. The Club, then known as "Carrickfergus Amateur Rowing Club incorporating Carrickfergus Sailing Club", continued to promote rowing, sailing, swimming and tennis. Membership however continued to decline and it was not until 1934 that the Annual Regatta was again held. This year also saw the launching of a new Clinker Four named Fairey II and the beginnings of the Open Eighteen Foot Centre Board Class. Crews from Carrickfergus continued to enjoy considerable success at Regattas until the early fifties when competitive rowing ceased. The last Clinker Four to be purchased arrived in 1950. Named "Castle Dobbs" it was little used and remains in the Club’s possession to this day. Tennis also faded out after the Second World War and Snipes took the place of the old eighteen footers.
The building in 1957 of three flying fifteens by members of the Club introduced a class which is still popular today with up to twenty boats competing. GP Fourteens and Optimists were raced for some years before being superceded by Scorpions and Mirror Dinghys. A strong Mirror fleet still exists but Scorpions are no longer raced as a class.
In 1966, the Club’s Centenary Year, an ambitious project involving the construction of a two storey extension and improvements to the interior layout of the building was completed. The provision of a bar in 1968 was the last major alteration to be carried out on the East Pier site.
Although cruising boats had from time to time been owned by members of the Club it was not until the mid-nineteen seventies that cruisers began to appear in any number in the Club’s handicap series. The cruising fleet has grown rapidly over the past decade both in size and number with upwards of twenty boats now competing in the IOR, SL and Ruffian 8.5 Classes.
Lack of finance, small membership and the frequent need for repairs to the building and supporting structure have caused successive Committees concern since the earliest days of the Club. In 1980 with repairs to the front platform urgently needed and further development on the East Pier site to meet our requirements not possible the Committee again considered the alternatives and at the Annual General Meeting of the Club in March 1981 recommended the acceptance of a 2.2 acre site offered by Carrickfergus Borough Council on reclaimed ground adjacent to the West Pier. The Members unanimously agreed and construction began in early May. Three years later with the Council’s Yacht Harbour taking shape alongside our new premises the future of the Club and of Carrickfergus as a major boating centre seems assured.
G.J.E. ALCORN, Hon. Secretary
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