Tweed Amateur Rowing Club

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The Tweed Amateur Rowing Club existed at Berwick and their boathouse was located at the end of the Lovers Walk in the town, approximately 100 metres downstream from the Berwick Amateur Rowing Club. Permission was given to build their boathouse in March 1872, three years after the formation of neighbouring Berwick ARC. Tweed A.R.C. club was an amateur club but there were some long-standing issues and confusion with the definition of "professionalism" and whilst gentleman amateurs engaged in non-manual labour generally rowed for Berwick ARC, those whose status was not so defined would row for Tweed ARC. Neil Wigglesworth wrote in "The Social History of English Rowing" that "the Tweed Club had written to London Rowing Club for advice on a constitution and came to the inescapable conclusion that the London rules would require some modification for our use", the modification being that 'amateur' was defined as 'one who has never rowed for money'. This meant that the Tweed Rowing Club members were excluded from the purely gentlemen amateur events at the annual Berwick Amateur Rowing Club regattas. We suspect the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club was defunct by 1902 as the premises were being occupied and named as the "Spowart's Boathouse" for the hire of Sailing and Rowing boats.

Tweed ARC and Berwick ARC boathousesLocation of the boathouses of the Tweed ARC and the Berwick ARC

15th March 1872
The Illustrated Berwick Journal commented:
The Boathouse of the Tweed Rowing Club is a decided improvement upon that of the Berwick Amateur Rowing Club. It is much larger, is fitted with more conveniences and will be considerably advantaged by the staging in front. Other improvements will, I doubt not, be made upon it as necessity calls for them but members of the Club have every reason to congratulate themselves on the possession of such a commodious boathouse, and success will be such as to maintain their position with great credit. They have already secured a number of good boats and I understand that a suitable dress has been chosen by which the members of the Tweed ARC will be distinguished while on duty. Next month, a start will be made and the admirers of the new Club will then have prowess in their aquatics.

13th September 1872
The Illustrated Berwick Journal received a letter:
Sir, I had written to you that “Amateur athletic sports, open to amateur members of the Berwick Cricket and Rowing Clubs are announced to take place on Friday, or, if the weather should prove unfavourable, on Monday. I am really pleased to see this union of for a common purpose. The programme embraces nine items, and I have no doubt the contest in each case will be pretty keen. If the affair passes off well, proves a success, and pays all expenses, perhaps the trio of clubs will endeavour to make the sports of annual occurrence. No money prizes are offered, therefore all the sports will merely be friendly contests of skill.” I am sorry I have to make an addendum to the above, but it has been stated to me and I give it as I heard, that the members of the Cricket and Berwick Rowing Clubs, some of whom are the Committee of Management, entirely object to the members of the Club competing with them. This singular decision is the more to be regretted and condemned, as (though creatures of toil) the objectors consider themselves men and gentlemen, ramifications of our little aristocracy. Assuming them to be such, they ought to act as becometh men and gentlemen so as not to cast a slur upon what they consider elevates them socially above their fellows. The true gentleman is not only generous and truthful, but is far above meanness, and has an equal manly sympathy for the great and small. To be a true man is to put away childishness and confine oneself to manly actions; and one cannot be a gentleman by "the more style, quality, or colour of his apparel, or the make or number of his watch appendages.

But that is about the mark of it here; and the unmanly trick of stamping the amateurs of the new as “ professionals” merely to get rid of known superiority is an act that carries with it its own condemnation. How does it come that no London or any other boating rules were mentioned at the outset as intended to regulate these field sports? How does it come that bills are published announcing to the public that “Amateur" athletic sports open to amateur members of the Berwick Cricket and Rowing Clubs before ascertaining that who were to oppose them were “professionals" and not "amateurs"? The doings of the new Club have been open to them as well as to others, and they know what they have competed for during the short time they have been organised as a Rowing Club; and although a piece of ambiguity (or a trick) in boating rules may stamp them “ professionals” in the same trick cannot justly be brought to bear upon their eligibility to contest in field sports, got up, as was supposed, with a purely friendly aim to encourage fraternisation. I cannot, for my own part see and those popinjays may impute it to my ignorance if they choose, it will be in keeping with their Samsonic manliness-how the members of the new Club can be “professionals” in a rowing club because some pulled for a trifle of prize-money in salmon punts or water smashers before they were in a Club at all. Forming themselves into a body, under a distinctive title, they began a career having no affinity with the prior doings of its members, and could not be “ professionals” in the strict sense of the term, unless competing for money prizes under the title of the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club. Members of the other are as much professionals as those of the Tweed Club said to be so. If they have not competed for coin money, they have done so for what money alone could purchase — a distinction that will admit of no difference.

Training has been carried on this week in the field where the games are to be held, and it appears to me that the evidence of superiority evinced on the part of the members of the new club has led to the unmanly exclusion of the latter from the contests. I can think of nothing more mean and contemptible than the flat of Tuesday. It may raise the objectors in their own estimation, but the esteem of others cannot be to them so little worth as to make them utterly regardless of the scorn awarded teh resolve that has robbed the sports of all attraction. To be beaten on a "well-foughten field" is no disgrace. There is honour in contesting with a stronger than oneself, even though he be a "cad" or a "fellow", but evade a contest by a mere sleight of hand is the very quintessence of cowardice. This opportunity to create and cement a good feeling between the two clubs should not have been missed. It should have been carefully fostered, but like missing a passage, the opportunity has been missed and may never occur again. It is needless to pursue the matter further. I understand all the members of the new club who had entered for the sports, when they were objected to - after the bills were out - at once withdrew their names. There need be no recrimination about the contemptible affair, and if the new Club can do it, they should just set apart another day for sports of their own and lay them open to athletes of name and ability. "Ne cede Malis!"

28th July 1877
Bell's Life reported:
Tweed Amateur Rowing Club Regatta 1877
This club held their regatta on the usual course, on the great border river, on Monday last, and but for the adverse state of the elements, it would have proved a most successful gathering. As it was, rain began to fall at around 11 0'clock in the forenoon and continued to fall, with little intermission, throughout the remainder of the day. A good programme was issued, and a pretty good muster of people were ready to face the unpleasant atmospheric influences to witness the sport, whilst some interesting contests were witnessed during the afternoon . The following was the result:

The President's Prize
a challenge cup with presentation prizes, presented by Captain D. Milne Home M.P., President of the club, for an open cutter skiff race over 3/4 of a mile.
Final: J. Hogg, Tweed ARC beat R. Neaham Hebburn ARC.

The Tradesmens Plate
a challenge cup with four presentation prizes and medal for coxswain, an open junior four-oared race held over a distance of about a mile.
Final: Tweed ARC (Richardson) beat Tweed ARC (Temple)

The Spittal Cup
A cutter skiff race for local oarsmen, over a distance of half a mile.
Final: Thompson (Tweed ARC) beat Robertson (Tweed ARC) and Garsey (Tweed ARC)

The Crossman Challenge Cup
presented by M.G. Crossman Esq., with presentation prizes and medal for the coxswain, an open foy four-oared race over three-quarters of a mile.
Final: Tweed ARC beat Hebburn ARC with Jarrow ARC in third place.

The Tweedmouth Cup
an open skiff race over a mile.
Final: J. Hogg (Tweed ARC) beat R. Temple (Tweed ARC)

The Coverhill Cup
presented by W. C. Coverhill Esq., - a skiff race for members of the club, over half a mile.
Final: R. Davidson (Tweed ARC) beat A.G. McLoughlin (Tweed ARC)

The Marjoribanks Challenge Cup
presented by Sir D.C. Marjoribanks, Bart, M.P., with presentation prizes and medal for the coxswain, a foy foared-oared race for members of the club over three-quarters of a mile.
Final: Thompson's crew beat Marshall's crew with Rennie's crew in third.

The Paulin Challenge Cup
presented by John L. Paulin Esq., two silver cups to become the property of the pair who may win it three times in succession, with presentation prizes. An open amateur pair oared race over three quarters of a mile.
Final: R. Marshall and R. Temple (Tweed ARC) beat A. Roberston and J. Douglas (Tweed ARC) with A.G. McLoughlin and R.C. Petterson (Tweed ARC) in third place.

15th July 1881
The Berwick Advertiser wrote:
"Tweeds Fair River Broad and Deep" was a few years ago quite a spectacle when the Rowing Club's sprang into existence, and the youth of the town spent their evenings upon its surface in fragile craft which have now come into vogue for racing purposes. Now, however, it presents a melancholy contrast, for scarcely a skiff is ever seen upon the water, which may sing with truth "Men may come and men may go, but I go on forever". Last year there was a considerable decrease in the enthusiasm for boating, but this year unfortunately, there is no enthusiasm whatever, or, if any exists, the means are wanting by which it may be gratified. Rowing this summer has created no interest and the Clubs, it is stated, have a very diminished membership. In former years, the present season was always the busiest amongst lovers of aquatics, who were afloat getting ready fro their coming regattas. This year, however, it is stated that the Tweed Rowing Club is not likely to have any regatta as there are not sufficient active members to row for the prizes. In the Berwick Amateur Rowing Club, also very little is being done. It will be a pity if rowing should be discouraged here after the short lease of life it has had. Let us hope that with better times, aquatics will revive.

24th June 1882
The Morpeth Herald reported:
On Saturday night, two young men, named Thomas Smith and John Hunt, fitters, went out for a sail up the river in a skiff belonging to the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club. They were returning home when something got wrong with one of the seats, and Hunt stood up to put it right. The boat was thus capsized, and both Lads were thrown into the water. Smith endeavoured to rescue his companion who could not swim, but he was unable to reach the shore with Hunt, who sank and was drowned. A spectator of the accident, named Sims, ‘rushed into‘ the water and succeeded in rescuing Smith who was completely exhausted, to land. The body of Hunt was recovered two hours after the sad event. He was 21 years oi age, and resided with a widowed aunt. Hunt had given up his employment at Berwick, and was to have left on Tuesday for America, prior to which he was to receive a farewell gift from his acquaintances.

1st December 1882
The Berwick Advertiser reported:
The Annual General Meeting of the Tweed ARC was held on Wednesday night in the Waverley Arms. The Treasurer's Statement of Receipts and Expenditure was read and found to be more satisfactory than the previous two years, owing principally to the increase in membership. Lieutenant Colonel D. Milne Home was elected President, H.F.H. Jerningham Esq. MP and Sir M. White Ridley MP, Vice -presidents for the ensuing year. Captain Mr. T. Garvey.

20th July 1885
The Berwick Advertiser received a letter:
Sir, in your issue of yesterday's date, you state in your introductory remarks to the Tweed ARC Regatta "that two Tyne crews had entered for the races but had scratched owing to some vexed question, the status of some of the members of the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club in the sporting world, it being held that because some of them had rowed for money in gigs at previous regattas at Tweedmouth Feast they are virtually "professionals" and therefore ineligible to race with amateurs, who have never competed for anything other than prizes of any kind. It is true that the Tyne crews scratched on this misunderstanding but it is not true that any member of Tweed ARC ever rowed for money at any Tweedmouth Feast Regatta and I must ask you to give publicity to this fact, in order that the interests of the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club may not be damaged in the sporting world. It is a fact that the Club is now purely amateur, with the exception laid out in the 5th clause of the 21st section of the rules issued by the Amateur Rowing Association and if this question was properly looked into, it is doubtful whether there would be any of the Clubs on the Tyne or the Tweed left as amateurs. It may well be mentioned here that the Tynemouth Amateur Rowing Club (one of the two who scratched) has since come to the conclusion that the Tweed ARC is not a "professional" Club but owing to their inability to get their men together again after ceasing training when they heard the "professional" report, they could not send a crew down and were therefore compelled to retire. To confirm this, they have given us an invitation to compete in their regatta on the 15th proxime. I therefore beg of you in all fairness to the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club and the public alike, to insert this in your first issue. Jas. R. Dickinson, Hon Secretary, Tweed ARC

20th May 1887
The Berwick Advertiser carried an advert:
Baths and Boats on hire - The use of the Bath Room in the boathouse of the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club, and the cobles belonging to same, may be had during the summer months. Particulars on application to the Boatman.

23rd September 1891
The Shields daily News reported: A terrific flood came down the Tweed and the Berwick Rowing Club lost a boat that was severely damaged, whilst the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club suffered great damage to its boathouse, with much of the landing stages and frontage washed away, as well as the loss of two pleasure boats.

2nd August 1892
The Berwickshire News and General Advertiser reported:
It must be admitted, however much it would be otherwise desired, that silence reigns over matters aquatic as far as the Tweed is concerned. That the regatta has had its palmy days is patent to every townsman, who need no far recollections to call up the names of many who, in the manipulation of the sculls, could bid defiance to the talent of the Tyne, and establish a sport on Tweedside which at that time gave promise of a long and successful career. But slowly and surely, matters have been on the ebb tide, and save for a fitful burst now and then, the rowing prowess of the Tweed ARC has been relegated to a back seat on favour of athletics. The sport of this Club on Monday were no exception to the general declension, the affair being poorly managed and the racing itself of a very poor order. The course was from Ballast Quay to Castle Vale. Mr. Jas. Young acted as Starter and Mr. Jno. Cavanagh and Mr. T Hariday as Judge and Referee respectively.

18th March 1902
The Berwickshire News and Advertiser carried an advert which implied the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club was now defunct as it read:
Sailing and Rowing Boats for hire by the hour or by the day at Berwick - Will be opened for Good Friday, that Boathouse, lately called "The Tweed Rowing Club", with a good class of Pleasure Boats, suitable for river and sea. For terms, apply Spowarts Boathouse, New Road, foot of Bankhill.

18th July 1933
The Berwickshire News and General Advertiser reported:
Remarkable Feat of Mr. W.H. MacDonald - Memories of professional rowing on the Tweed fifty years ago, were recalled by an old Berwick native. He had just come off the river, when at the age of 64 years old, he had ventured out in a sculling boat belonging to Berwick Amateur Rowing Club and as he paddled away towards the Royal Border Bridge, he thought of the time - fifty years ago - when he "pulled" ion the final of the Tweed Amateur Rowing Club's professional £10 handicap. Mr. MacDonald, not looking nearly his 64 years of age, is remarkably fit and when I met him just after his return to the boathouse, he looked as pleased as he had winning that handicap fifty years ago. All his life he had been interested in two sports, sculling and football. He was a regular attender at the now defunct Tweed Amateur Rowing Club when he was still at school. His job in the early days was to cox the professional crews of that Club. At 13, he coaxed Bill Spence, the Boatman of the Tweed Club, to let him out in a cutter. He was not allowed to go any further than 100 yards in case an accident befell him. His heart was in this sport and there are very few boys who would try a cutter at 14 let alone take part in a professional championship. Bill Spence saw that Mac would make a good sculler and did not hesitate to give the young sculler a boat whenever he wanted one. His fine sculling was noticed by several, one of whom, Michael Rogan, was the manager of the Leeds Clothing Company, took a deep interest in him and offered him the opportunity to row in the Tweed Club's Professional Handicap. He keenly accepted the challenge and secured the use of a light pair of sculls, setting about with some hard and earnest practice. A boy of 14 1/2 - what chance would he have against the likes of Tom Sadler of Benwell, and Jim Brady of the Tweed Club? Critics said it was hopeless for the boy to compete against such scullers. MacDonald confounded the critics, however, for he won his way to the final and had he been lucky enough to win the toss for the light sculls, he would have won the handicap.

His brother Hen MacDonald won many prizes on the Tweed, but Mac left the National School for Boys and his home in East Street, Berwick for Hull where he secured employment at the Railway Company at Alexandra docks. He was there a few years then came back - to Newcastle where he joined the Empire Rowing Club and soon had himself fit for rowing again. He took part in three Xmas Handicaps on the Tyne and in the 1894 Handicap he was unfortunately drawn against Wallace Ross, the famous sculler of his day, who rowed for the All Black Brunswick Club, and he lost by 3/4 length.