South Shields Local History Group

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South Shields Amateur Rowing Club

The South Shields Amateur Rowing club was formed in 1869 though the Amateur element does not appear until 1871.  They originally were based at the Coble Landing and Marsden then in 1938 they moved to Comical Corner near where North East Maritime Trust is now.  The club lapsed during World War 2 then revived after the war but started to decline after 1947 and ceased to exist about 1957.  A more detailed history by Ian Whitehead and Dorothy Fleet is after the photos.

These photos were originally from George E. Smith a member in the 1930s who later became the club treasurer who passed the photos onto Thomas Vasey club member, treasurer 1937-39, chartered accountant and great-nephew of the Vasey in the well known Vasey and Reed company in South Shields.

George E. Smith’s envelope containing photos below (note Captain McNulty address, about 1955)

Thomas Vasey then passed them onto his daughter Pat Rigg.  The world famous South Shields born clarinettist Jack Brymer was a member of the rowing club according to Tom Vasey in the 1930s and appears on the photos. Some of the photos have no dates or names, but are in rough date order, any additional information on the club or photos is most welcome!

1869 start for “Gentlemen”
Robert Ingham M.P. donates £2
Uniform white flannel with blue trimming
Meeting at the Golden Lion Hotel King Street
Name changes to include Amateur
1894 or 1895 at the boat house at the Coble Landing

Photos above 1894 or 1895 at Marsden

(Photo from Brian Appleyard of John Johnson)
(Photo from Brian Appleyard of John Johnson)

Photos above from Brian Appleyard of his Grandfather John Johnson taken in 1907 by William Henry Warren photographers of South Shields

1921? M. R. Wann boat launched (M. R. Wann (Matt) was chairman of Shields Football Club)
1921? M. R. Wann in the water
1930 June
1930 June
1931 with Low Lights North Shields in the background
1931 Coble Landing (their whites look ‘manky’)
1930s Scotswood?
04/07/1936 Tynemouth Regatta
04/07/1936 Tynemouth Regatta
Scotswood Boat House, Tyne Challenge Cup, Berwick crew left & South Shields right, Tom Vasey far right, Jack Brymer 2nd right???, Shields won the heat, for maiden oarsmen, (W Tate photo?) 6th June 1936??
Same person as above 2nd right? Jack Brymer (Wiki)
1936 August Bank Holiday
1936 August Bank Holiday
George E Smith (back 2nd right)
George E Smith, Arnold Rankin at left
1930s Dr Arthur De Redder, John Turnbull, S Carr?, Burndson?
11 April 1938 at new boat house at Comical Corner
11 April 1938
Jobling (T), Ritzema (T), Smith (G E), Berndsson (M) (Northern Echo)

Sam Fay moved to the North East in 1935 to take up a position with A. Reyrolle & Co. Ltd as a Student Apprentice.  He remained with the company until his retirement in 1978, except for the war years when he served as an engineer in the RAF.  Shortly after moving to Tyneside he joined South Shields Rowing Club and was closely involved with the Club until the start of World War II and for a few years after the War.  During the period of his involvement with the rowing club he held the position of Captain in one year and also helped with coaching. South Shields ARC won four regatta competitions with Sam Fay as part of the crew. One of the successful South Tyneside ARC rowing crew in 1937 and 1938 was Mauritz Bernard Berndsson who joined the RAF and won the DFM and DFC.

TTARC 1938 Trophy?, A.A. Rankine? T. Jobling, F.S Fay; M.B. Berndsson?, (Photo Tim Fay)
SSARC won 4 trophies with Sam Fay as part of the crew (Tim Fay)
Dudley Hallwood cartoonist at Shields Daily News and Newcastle Journal 1933?? With caricatures of SSARC members.

British Newspaper Archives
Terry Ford
Pat Rigg
George E Smith
Tom Vasey

George E Smith
Pat Rigg
Tom Vasey

(We are indebted to Ian Whitehead and Dorothy Fleet for much of the information that appears in this page)

South Shields Amateur Rowing Club was based on the river Tyne, close to the North East Maritime Centre. The clubhouse and slipway still exist. The Club was founded in 1867 and folded in 1957. There was also a South Shields Working Mens’ Rowing Club which may have been based at the same location.

4th June 1870
The Northern Echo reported: “LATEST SPORTING NEWS – The annual regatta of the South Shields Rowing Club has been fixed to be held on Monday July 29th, when prizes will be given for out-rigged fours, in-rigged fours, pairs, and cutter skiffs.”

4th July 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported: Durham Regatta. No SSARC representation at the regatta.

Tuesday 21st July 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle published: Notice of the upcoming SSARC regatta.

Monday 25th July 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported on the SSARC regatta preliminary heats.

Saturday 30th July 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle published a full account of SSARC regatta in which H. Chapman is prominent. The heading to the piece is SOUTH SHIELDS ROWING CLUB REGATTA. At this time the Chronicle doesn’t feel the need to spell out that the club is amateur.

Tuesday 2nd August 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported on a new fine four oared boat built by Robert Jewitt for Tynemouth RC, based on the model of the “Tyne”, which was the boat Jewitt built for Renforth’s crew in 1869 (Renforth book P75-80). This is relevant because he also built a very fine boat for South Shields RC, perhaps around the same time or soon after, which they later loaned to Renforth’s crew in 1871. See account of Tyne Regatta 1871.

Thursday 4th August 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle Account of delayed final race of the SSRC regatta – The Ladies Prize – won by H. Chapman (stroke) and his crew. The race was for coxed fours and was contested by three crews. Chapman and his crew won by a length and a half. The prizes were first, five silver tea caddies, second, five silver toast racks. The prizes were afterwards presented at the Golden Lion. This was Chapman’s third victory in the fours races at this regatta, with the Chronicle recording different coxes for each race, White, Forsyth and Reed. His obituary records “Mr Robert Purvis, the late magistrates’ clerk, being cox in each boat”, but the contemporary report seems to contradict this. Purvis’s role may have increased in significance over the intervening years! It is suspected that this is the Robert Purvis that was the stroke of the successful boat at York in 1877 and at Durham in 1882. Purvis is very much a Shields pilot family name but if this had been a pilot Purvis he would not have been allowed to race as an amateur.

Wednesday 10th August 1870
Newcastle Daily Chronicle account of York Regatta. No SSRC participation, but significant because Tynemouth RC won the LONDESBOROUGH cup, which was later won by SSARC in 1877.

29th December 1870
“AQUATICS -The Amateur Clubs of the Tyne” (Newcastle Daily Chronicle P4 col3) SSRC gets a good write up.
“……. Strong in numbers, and – if we may judge by the amount of money expended on the Club Regatta – strong in funds stands the South Shields Rowing Club. This is also an association of only two years standing, but under the able tuition of their tutor, George Wakefield, many of the members have made considerable progress in the art of rowing. As their rowing ground is on the sea their class of boats is much the same as that of the Tynemouth Club. I believe, however, an attempt is to be made to get a crew together for the Tyne Regatta, in June next year. Whether the plan commenced by the Tynemouth Club of having a branch establishment at Newcastle will be followed, or the members will be content to do their rowing at the mouth of the river, I cannot say. If the latter, they can hardly look for much success. There may be times when the river is sufficiently quiet to admit of a comfortable row in fine boats, but I should think that such opportunities will be very scarce. I would advise the members, therefore, if they wish to pursue fine boat rowing, to follow the plan which has been so successful with their neighbours.”…….. SCOTSWOOD.

The amateur clubs are treated in order of foundation:
Tyne Amateur Rowing Club – 1852
Tynemouth Rowing Club – 1867
St. Bede (Jarrow) – 1868
South Shields Rowing Club – 1868
Newcastle Amateur Rowing Club – 1869

16th June 1871
Newcastle Daily Chronicle. Detailed account of the first day of the Tyne Regatta. No SSRC participation in this day’s racing, but George Wakefield, the “tutor” of SSRC is taking part in the professional pairs race. He is not in the first rank of professionals but the practice of employing a professional as a coach is typical for the sporting/social arrangements of the time and continues to this day.

17th June 1871
Newcastle Daily Chronicle. Detailed account of second day of the Tyne Regatta, including H. Chapman racing and also SSRC lending their fine Jewett four oared boat to Renforth and his crew, who triumphed in the professional four oared race.

26th June 1871
Newcastle Daily Chronicle. Durham Regatta second day. SSRC win the Stewards Plate – a four-oared race for junior crews – with H. Chapman as stroke oar.
SSARC winners of Stewards’ Plate (Macfarlane – Grieve).

15th July 1871
Newcastle Daily Chronicle Notices of entries for Tyne Regatta on following Thursday and Friday. H. Chapman to stroke SSRC four in the Tyne General Ferry Cup.

17th July 1871
Newcastle Daily Chronicle Commentary on the following day’s Tyne Regatta. James Taylor is fitting out a four with a front loaded cox. The SSRC four used by Renforth’s crew in last year’s regatta is being used again by a professional crew. This time it is Harry Kelley’s crew and the boat is said to be a little small for them. The boat has a name – The Williamson.

20th July 1871
Newcastle Daily Chronicle Second day of Tyne Regatta. Exciting victory for H. Chapman’s crew in the Tyne General Ferry Cup.

26th July 1872
Newcastle Daily Chronicle Second day of York Regatta. H. Chapman and his crew defeated Stockton RC in the first heat of the WHITE ROSE CUP but lost to Newcastle Rowing Club in the second heat. Newcastle went on to win in the final.

20th August 1872
Newcastle Daily Chronicle SOUTH SHIELDS ROWING CLUB ANNUAL REGATTA. (a part closed event?) H. Chapman strokes his foy four to victory in the PRESIDENT’S PRIZE. Each winning oarsman receives a silver cup and the cox gets a silver pencil case. Tyneside’s star amateur oarsman William Fawcus is the umpire for the regatta.

June 1873
South Shields competed in the Grand Challenge Cup at the Durham Regatta. After receiving a bye in the first round, SSRC were beaten by Sunderland in the semi-final. Sunderland went on to win the cup. (Macfarlane – Grieve)

23/24th July 1873
Newcastle Daily Chronicle York Regatta. South Shields Rowing Club competed.

8th August 1873
Northern Echo Report of the South Shields Rowing Club Annual Regatta held on Thursday 7th August. Races contested by SSRC, Newcastle Clubs and Berwick.

8th August 1873
Newcastle Daily Chronicle Report of SOUTH SHIELDS ROWING CLUB ANNUAL REGATTA. Tyneside’s star amateur oarsman William Fawcus is the umpire for the regatta.

9th May 1874
Shields Gazette: “FOR SALE, TWO BOATS, one four oar and one pair oar, built R. Jewitt, Dunston. To be seen at the Boat-house, Coble Landing. Tenders to be sent to the Hon. Secretary, South Shields Rowing Club, Stone Quarry, South Shields.”

June 1874
H Morton of SSARC won the Oswald Plate at the Durham Regatta. This was the premium race for amateur single scullers. (Macfarlane – Grieve)

31st July 1874
Northern Echo: North Country News – “THE SOUTH SHIELDS REGATTA – It has been decided to abandon for this year, the annual regatta of the South Shields Rowing Club, which had been fixed for the 12th August”

June 1875
SSARC crew won the Stewards Plate at the Durham Regatta. South Shields crew were noted as the fastest striking crew on the river. (Macfarlane – Grieve)

25th July 1877
Newcastle Daily Chronicle: York Regatta with SSARC won the LONDESBOROUGH cup. The crew is the same as the one that wins the junior LADIES PLATE race the following day. T.T. Anderson, C. Rennoldson, J.R. Walker jun., R. Purvis jun. (stroke), F. Rennoldson cox. Three of this crew, Anderson, C Rennoldson, and Purvis, are in the winning crew for the Grand Challenge Cup at the Durham Regatta of 1882.

26th July 1877
Newcastle Daily Chronicle: York Regatta. A young SSARC crew win junior races. The club also won the Londesborough Grand Challenge Cup at York. The club’s first senior race victory. The Shields crew was opposed by a crew that included 2 Cambridge and 1 Oxford oarsman, two of whom rowed in the Varsity Boat Race the following year.

24th August 1877
SSARC regatta and the heading has now become the “SOUTH SHIELDS AMATEUR ROWING CLUB REGATTA”. The amateurs are moving further away from the professional oarsmen on the Tyne.

The club entered a crew, T. T. Anderson; W. M’ Dowell; C.H. White; J. White (stroke); J.H. Purvis (cox) to the regatta at Alnmouth in 1878, but the Alnwick Mercury report (21/09/1878) indicates they were “absent” for the foy four heats [boats provided by the ARC], giving a “row over” to the Tyne ARC.

June 1880
South Shields ARC competed at the Durham Regatta. Winners of Stewards’ Plate. Winners of Durham City Plate. (Macfarlane – Grieve) lists. SSARC won the Sunderland Challenge Cup at the Sunderland Regatta.

June 1881
SSARC competed at the Durham Regatta. SSARC won the Palmer Grand Challenge Cup in 1881 at Tyne Regatta. In 2009 this cup was competed for at a Tyne Regatta revival hosted by the Tyne Rowing Club.

13th August 1881
Bell’s Life reported: The events left unfinished at the South Shields Rowing Club Regatta were brought to a conclusion on Friday week, over a half mile course on the Tyne, by the side of the South Pier, and favoured with fine weather, the proceedings were participated in by a large number of spectators. Mr. G.R. Potts was Starter and Mr. Andrew Harrison was judge. Results: Mackay Challenge Cup – final heat – J. Cook, R.D. Lawson, C.E. Bell and T.T. Anderson (Stroke), 1. D. McNeil, J.L. Stainton, F.F. Rennoldson and D.U. Law (Stroke), 2. With a little advantage from the inside station, Anderson’s crew held the lead throughout and won a good race by half a length. President’s prize – Heat 1. J.L. Stainton, R.D. Lawson, C.G. Bell, C. Rennoldson (Stroke), 1. A.E. Leete, J.D. Lawson, T.H. Morrison, T.T. Anderson (Stroke), 2. Won by a length. Heat 2 – R.W.C. Newland, W.A. Smith, Fred Rennoldson, John White Junr. (Stroke), a bye. Final Heat – Rennoldson’s crew and White’s crew – The former got away with a slight lead, which they held until 200 yards of the finish, when White and his mates spurted up to them and the two boats finished a dead heat. The decider was adjourned.

June 1882
SSARC won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Durham Regatta. The crew was C Rennoldson (bow), T.T. Anderson, W. Law, R. Purvis (stroke)

June 1883
SSARC won the Durham City Plate at the Durham Regatta.

June 1884
SSARC crew won Stewards’ Plate at Durham Regatta. SSARC won the Middlesbrough Cup.

June 1885
SSARC won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Durham Regatta, beating Durham University Boat Club.

18th July 1887
The Sporting Life reported: SIR WILLIAM ARMSTRONG ROWING CLUB. INTER-CLUB RACES ON THE TYNE. On Saturday afternoon, an inter-club race, under the auspices of the above club, was brought off the Tyne, over the usual half-mile course from the Elswick Gasometers to the Boathouse Jetty. Splendid weather prevailed, and the river was in grand condition for rowing. Details:—Heat 1: North Station.—South Shields Rowing Club—Purvis, Scott, Scott, Wilson (stroke)—first. South Station.—Tynemouth Rowing Club—W. Oliver, F. Hastie, C. Watkin, W. Lamb (stroke)-second. Both crews got good start, but South Shields soon began to show their superiority, and gradually gained their opponents, and won by a good three lengths. Heat 2: North Station.—Armstrong Rowing Club—J.S.H.R. Engelbach, D.S. Craig, G. Irvine (stroke); T.H. Davison (cox.)—first. South Station.—Newcastle Rowing Club – names not sent—absent. The Armstrong crew rowed over the course, their opponents, the Newcastle Rowing Club crew, not putting in an appearance. Final Heat; South Shields R.C., first; Armstrong ARC, second. The crews got well away together, and kept level until within few yards of the finishing post, when the South Shields crew spurted away, and won still race by three-quarters of a length.

5th September 1887
The Shields Daily News reported: THE TYNE INTER-CLUB RACES AT SOUTH SHIELDS. Saturday afternoon four crews, representing Tynemouth, Ryton, South Shields, Sir W. G. Armstrong Amateur Rowing Club, took part, in the Tyne inter-club races, decided over the half-mile course on the north side of the South Shields Pier. The weather was fine, though dull. The sea being quite calm, made the course everything that could be desired for rowing. A large company of spectators assembled on the pier to witness the various heats. Mr R. Purvis, jun., officiated as judge. Charles Rennoldson starter and the umpires Messrs. N.S. Green and G.S. Purvis. Details:— HEAT. South Shields ARC: J.T. Atkin, J. Davidson, H.G. Scott, Fred Rennoldson (stroke), J. Bedlington (cox.) 1 Ryton ARC: R.R. Pirrie, W, Alderson, T.W. Bourne (stroke), J. Dalton (cox) 2 The boats were despatched to a good start. the South Shields men on the outside holding a slight lead until half the distance had been reached, when the boats came close to each other than foul seemed unavoidable. However, they righted themselves without coming into contact. The South Shields crew ultimately won a slow race by two lengths. SECOND HEAT. Sir W.G. Armstrong ARC: J. S. Patterson, J. H. Hutchison, G.E. Robson. A.H. Jopling (stroke) I Tynemouth RC: P. Burn, T.B. Forster, J.H. Barn, W.E. Lamb (stroke) Nothing interesting in this race occurred until three-parts of the distance had been traversed, when the Armstrong crew spurted to the front, and gradually increased their lead, won somewhat easily by a length and a quarter. FINAL HEAT. South Shields ARC 1. Sir W. G. Armstrong Amateur Rowing Club. 2. South Shields, on the inside, kept close to the side of the pier, thereby giving their opponents a wide berth. A close race ensued till 50 yards from home, when the South Shields men got ahead, and won easily by a length.

3rd May 1890
Newcastle Weekly Courant: “SOUTH SHIELDS AMATEUR ROWING CLUB – On Tuesday the annual meeting of the South Shields Rowing Club was held in the Criterion Hotel, Ocean Road, South Shields, Mr. Fred Rennoldson presiding. – Mr. T. A. Nelson, hon. Secretary, read the annual report of the committee who heartily congratulated the club on its satisfactory condition. After two bad seasons the beautiful rowing weather of last year was greatly appreciated by all the members. At the end of last season the number of members was 49, which, with 9 resignations and 2 entries, made the membership 42. The club was again represented at all the regattas, namely Durham (two crews), Talkin Tarn, and Tynemouth. The scratch fours were rowed off in beautiful weather and were productive of some capital racing. A goodly company entered for the cutter handicap, and the various heats were most enjoyable from a spectator’s point of view. During the winter several members organised a Smoking Concert, which was a most unqualified success. The committee would like to see these concerts as a regular feature next winter, as it was most beneficial to the club to keep the members together during the winter as well as the rowing season proper. The members would see by the treasurer’s report that the club was in a fairly good financial position. The stock of boats was undoubtedly the best on the Tyne. – The report was adopted – The election of officers resulted as follows:- Mr. W. Black J.P. President: Messrs. J. White, Ald. Eltringham, and H. Chapman, vice-presidents; Mr. F. Rennoldson, captain; Mr H.S. Scott, lieutenant; Mr. H.T. Lauderdale, treasurer; Mr. R. Kell, hon. Secretary; Messrs. J. Sisterson Watts, D.S, Graham, R. Ward, J. Atkin, W.R. Smith jun., H. Duncan, R.D. Barlow, and F.J. Hicks, committee.”

21st April 1894
Newcastle Weekly Courant: “There was a time when the South Shields Amateur Rowing Club occupied a high position amongst similar clubs in the district. This, however, did not last, and a year or two ago it seemed as though its glory had completely departed. There are now, it is pleasing to note, signs of revival.” Etc.etc. – the club was struggling financially.

23rd July 1894
Yorkshire Herald and the York Herald: “Tyne General Ferry Cup (three-quarters of a mile) South Shields ARC beat Armstrong by a length and a half.”

15th July 1899
Newcastle Weekly Courant: Account of the SSRC regatta held on Wednesday 12th July. Marred by bad weather but it had been the first for 16 years. There were races for Wellesley boys, pilot cobles, foy boats, (no doubt the working boats) and river police, which gave a pleasant variety to the business.

An indication that the Club was coming to the end of its life, as this is the last year that account entries were made into the accounts books.

On the 15th July 1949, the Club affiliated to the Amateur Rowing Association upon the merger between the ARA and the National Amateur Rowing Association.

The End of the South Shields Rowing Club

Tyne Rowing Club President Brian Dalkin indicated that the South Shields boats were given to Tyne Rowing Club in 1957, and that seems to have been the very end of the South Shields Club just 11 years short of its centenary. “Tyne ARC moved to Newburn in spring 1957, I remember being part of rowing the boats up from the old Scotswood boathouse. In 1954, my first year in rowing, I remember South Shields holding their Regatta at Scotswood. When I came back from my National Service one of my first tasks was helping row the Tyne club boats from Scotswood to Newburn in spring 1957. Tyne sold their old Scotswood boathouse to RGS for £200.00 and they lived there for a year or two or three before work actually started on the new Scotswood bridge.

I’m pretty sure that mid to late summer that year 1957 Tyne took over the South Shields boats and rowed them up to Newburn. I only rowed part of the way. I was taken to Gateshead and involved in a crew swap and rowed from there to Newburn. I assume that South Shields gave the boats to Tyne as they couldn’t have afforded to buy them!

I don’t remember a South Shields Regatta after I came back in 1957.”

Notes: The Harbour (presented by Rev. H.S.S. Jackson) for an annual competition between South Shields and Tynemouth Clubs (no dates given for either of these cups) and the Laidler Cups were donated to Tynemouth Rowing Club in the 1980s when they were found in an attic, and would be used for competition within that Club.

Peter Chapman
Dorothy Fleet
Ken Hastie
Ian Whitehead

See Ken Hastie’s excellent site for further Tyne Rowing info: Northern Rowing History (

Ian Whitehead’s blog about Tyne Rowing: The First Official Boat Race on the Tyne – 1 August 1821 – Hear The Boat Sing

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