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HERITAGE CLUBS OF CALCUTTA – The Calcutta Rowing Club

The Calcutta Rowing Club

The Calcutta Rowing Club, supposed to be the oldest rowing club outside the United Kingdom, was founded in 1858, by a few spirited oarsmen, along the bank of River Hoogly. It started modestly with a thatched roof boathouse near Chandpal Ghat and continued to function from the same place till 1864, when a devastating cyclone swept away the boat house, along with the boats and all the records of the club. The only thing that escaped the wrath of the cyclone were the accounts of 1858-59, signed by Mr. John Cowle, the then Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the club. In the aftermath of the disaster, the thatched boathouse was shifted near Fort Point in 1865.

Strand Road Boat House -1858
Strand Road Boat House -1858

During those days, all the boats were equipped with fixed seats. Probably in 1872, one  Charles Newman, supposed to be a member of the club, came back from England with a sculling boat fitted with sliding seats. It marked a definite improvement to maneuver the boat in an easier way against the odds. But rowing became more and more difficult and life- threatening over the later period due to the increased operations of steam ferry boats and tugs on the river. Moreover, the Fort authority objected about rowing in the river, which would affect the field of fire from their side in case of any possible enemy attack. As a result, the club had to abandon its boathouse at Fort Point and moved to the canal in Eden Gardens. But unfortunately, the canal was not sufficient  at all to be used as a proper course for a sporting event like rowing.

At  last, in1897, the Port Commissioner was kind enough to  offer  them a course on the Dock Basin at Kidderpore, which is at present occupied by the Coal Dock. Accordingly, a boathouse was built at the new site and the Club got the opportunity of an almost straight 3/4 mile course that would  allow three crews racing side by side without  any restraint. The club used the opportunity in a proper way and participated in racing events at many places. Thus Calcutta Rowing Club won the coveted event at Poona in 1899, which they missed in 1877. It was in 1902, when a new event, called as ‘Class Fours’ was introduced in rowing, which finally gave birth to the present ‘Merchant’s Cop. In the same year, a Four was sent to Madras and its members of the team won the Fours, Pairs and Sculls.

But the club could not avoid the destiny of further shifting, as The Port Commissioners office in 1906 needed the Dock Basin for construction of additional buildings, coal dock, and etc. In1907 place on the boat canal near Majerhat Bridge was allotted to them for rowing. Finally, in 1928, the final shift was made to Dhakuria Lakes, which was subsequently renamed as Rabindra Sarobar. By 1929, the excavation of the main part of the Lake was completed and a full 1,000 yard course became available to the Calcutta Rowing Club.

The Calcutta Rowing Club - Entrance
The Calcutta Rowing Club – Entrance
The Calcutta Rowing Club - Jetty
The Calcutta Rowing Club – Jetty
The Calcutta Rowing Club - Oarsmen
The Calcutta Rowing Club – Oarsmen
The Calcutta Rowing Club - Rabindra Sarobar Lake
The Calcutta Rowing Club – Rabindra Sarobar Lake
The Calcutta Rowing Club - Rabindra Sarobar Lake Centre Island
The Calcutta Rowing Club – Rabindra Sarobar Lake Centre Island
Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee

Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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