Ken Matts compiled a detailed history of the Bunbury Rowing Club in 1996 as part of the club’s 75-year anniversary. The following precise is provided for information. A copy of Ken’s full history can be obtained on request.

Rowing was first publicly recorded on the estuary in Bunbury around the turn of the 20th century. Bunbury had a rowing club before the Great War that distinguished itself on Perth and Fremantle waters. Like many activities at the time WW1 brought it to an abrupt halt and it wasn’t until 1921 that a resurgent rowing presence was formalised. In May of that year, Frank Slee, Frank Goldsmith, and EE (Bronc) Sheard held a meeting, which lead to the formation of the Bunbury Rowing Club. The club has functioned continuously since then which makes it one of the longest established sporting organisations in the south west of the state.

Corporate rowing was strong during those early years with many grudge races between such business houses as the Butter Factory, Donaldson’s, the Associated Banks, Hayward’s, and the Union Bank.

The first club crew to win a metropolitan event was a novice four in 1926. The West Australian Rowing Association recognised the strength of Bunbury in 1930 by allocating it an annual pennant regatta. The Easter regatta was held for the first time that year and continues today as one of the feature events on the rowing calendar.

In 1933 the need was seen for a new clubhouse but with a bank overdraft of £100 the chances seemed remote. A building fund was established with various fund raising activities undertaken. The success of these activities saw the signing of a new building contract in February 1935 with the official opening coinciding with the Easter regatta that year. The roof timbers from that boat shed have been retained as a feature in the recently completed club social area.

Money still owed on the premises when war again broke out in 1939. To reduce the debt to manageable levels the premises were permanently hired out and some equipment sold. The club survived the war years on a greatly reduced program.

After the war, a re-establishment plan was implemented to restore the club to previous glory. From this program emerged the famous weekly dances in the hall. The plan was successful and by 1948 the club was functioning at pre-war levels and debt free.

The club continued to prosper and in 1953 was able to send it’s first interstate touring party to Tasmania to complete in the Royal Hobart regatta.

While the boat shed, built in 1935, remained until the most recent rebuild, the hall, which was the scene of many functions and dances, was destroyed by fire in 1955. This was a major setback to the club but in the true spirit of Bunbury, many locals and other clubs, including the Surf Club and the Sea Scouts, assisted the club in it’s recovery. Just 9 months after the fire the new hall was officially opened.

The club continued to expand through the late 50’s and early 60’s with a strong growth in membership. In February 1963 the club again sent a team to the Royal Hobart regatta. From the late 60’s until the early 90’s the club experienced periods of highs and lows but despite this waxing and waning always managed to maintain a presence in Western Australian calendar events.

During the nineties a reinvigorated rowing club emerged with diversification into other water sports such as dragon boating, outrigger canoes, and kayaks. Fundraising and partnering with the Railways Institute has culminated in a total rebuilding of club facilities and the club stands committed to further build on the strength of our unbroken tradition.