In the beginning (well 150 years or so ago)...
The first mention of rowing in Christchurch appeared in the 'Lyttleton Times' on the 28th September 1861, under the heading of 'Town and Country News':
"We are given to understand that several gentleman are interested in establishing a boating club. They propose rowing on the Heathcote. On Thursday evening last, they made a trial trip in a neat little four-oared boat, the property of Mr. E.W. Tippets of the steam wharf. So manly and healthy an amusement deserves encouragement."
A week later the same newspaper told its readers that the expedition in Tippett's boat had been successful and that the gentleman had determined to start a club. That they did so is confirmed in a minute book which indicates that 'The Christchurch Rowing Club' was going concern by 4th March 1862 when a meeting was held at 'Tribes Place' and rules drawn up. George Henry Tribe held a publican's licence in 1861 for "The Central' at the corner of Colombo and Cloucester streets.
The first rules of the Christchurch Rowing Club included one which was not dropped by the Canterbury Rowing Club for many years. It was "that members be admitted by ballot, three black balls to exclude a candidate." This type of secret ballot was an acknowledged method, in those days, of quietly giving an opinion that the candidate was not a 'gentleman'.
Prior to 1958, the Club owned one of the town's most impressive buildings. The Clubrooms were situated on the corner of Fitzgerald Avenue and Kilmore Street. J.R. Evans, who joined the Club as soon as he arrived from England in 1875, described part of the shed in an article in The Press on the 5th February 1912. "The conveniences consisted of a small dressing room and a bathroom, the latter being built on piles over the river. There was a good shower fed by a tank into which the bather had to jump to pump water before use. In the floor of the bathroom was a trap-door which on being left open disclosed a short ladder reaching down about six feet to the bed of the river which in those days was clean gravel and very different from the smelly mixture of today. As the river water was then very clear, the plunge bath was used more frequently than the shower. Owing to the shed often being left unlocked at night, many a stranger prowling about in the dark got an involuntary bath when careless members left the trap-door open".
The Club managers before long turned their thoughts to the recruitment into the sport of boys from Christ's College and Christchurch Boys High School. In 1895, the Club, by offering free membership to up to six boys from each school, thus started the sponsorship of school rowing taken up...by clubs from all quarters of the country in the years to come. Boys High continued rowing until 1923 when the impending move to Straven Road from Worcester Street suggested that rowable water would be too far away for rowing to continue to be an official sport.
The first inter-school rowing contest had been held on Kerr's Reach in 1913. The School Crew were defeated in the final by Waitaki, the two having disposed of Wanganui collegiate and Christ's College, respectively, in the heats. When the School pulled out of rowing in 1923, victory had eluded them, although they had come close on several occasions.
In 1947, a revival was lead by a number of old boys, and Boys High student Evan McCalman, who became a prominent provincial oarsmen, most unlucky not to win a Redcoat in 1956, but a trialist that year for the Olympic team. For many years he was CRC Club Captain and respected coach of School and Club crews and a long serving secretary of the Canterbury Rowing Association. He is now Patron of the Canterbury Rowing Club.
The Club's association with Rangi Ruru began in 1986 and the Christchurch Girls High School, some time after that. A number of rowers from the schools mentioned have carried on their rowing at Canterbury Rowing Club with some success at the Club Championships.