Bunbury Rowing Club celebrates 100 years

The Bunbury Rowing Club has survived through a world war, two fires, a cyclone and a pandemic to celebrate its centenary.

In 1921, the club purchased two rowing boats at the cost of 15 pounds each, now it has a shed full of boats which cost from $12,000 to $30,000.

Bunbury history buff David Bailey has been tasked with writing a book on the club's history and 100 year milestone and said while the club was formed in 1921, locals were rowing long before that.

"People were rowing here in the 1890s," he said.

Bunbury's reputation as a strong competitor is seen right from its early days as Bailey said the Perth clubs held Bunbury in high regard.

It hasn't been easy for Bailey to get a lot of information about the club in its early days due to the disasters the boat shed has suffered over the years.

But luckily Bailey has been able to find information from Perth clubs.

"I have seen information from other clubs when Bunbury took part and know how important this place was," he said.

In the 1930s Bunbury regattas would see around 1000 people line the inlet to watch and would end the day with a social dance.

While the flooring of the dance floor has been replaced multiple times, it still exists as is used as part of the club's building which is leased out to a restaurant.

Club stalwart Peter Nowland said many people met their future husband and wife at the dances.

Nowland became a member of the club in the early 80s after being coerced to join when he was running past the club and two friends who were in a row boat yelled out for him to join in.

"At that stage I was recently married and had a couple of little billylids and I enjoyed the family atmosphere and thoroughly enjoyed the sport and it grew from there," he said.

"I'm not super young anymore but I still row a couple of times a week."

Being involved in the club was a family affair at one stage with Nowland's brother being the first join, then his father got involved in the administration side of things and now has a boat named after him.

Nowland's daughter also got involved in the club when she was growing up in Bunbury.

"My brother was heavily involved before my time and represented WA at the Penrith Cup and my daughter represented WA in the lightweight women's division," he said.

Nowland has been part of nearly every aspect of the club including being president, treasurer, a committee member and captain.

Bailey described him as 'true member' that was extremely worthy of the life membership he received years ago.

Over the years Nowland has been involved in the club he has seen highs and lows but he was proud of how it could stay financially sustainable.

He said they knew the land alongside the Leschenault Inlet was valuable and capitalised on it by extending what was just a dance floor for the social gatherings into a venue that could be leased as a restaurant.

"That is the greatest thing that happened in my time and we are the most envied club across WA because of it," Nowland said.

Nowland also remembered being a number of committees which tried to turn the Bunbury course into an internationally recognised one.

He said they were so close at one point when Richard Court was WA Premier as he rowed for a club in Perth.

After visiting Bunbury, Court promised to turn it into an internationally recognised course if re-elected, but it never eventuated.

"A course like this is unique, would have had multiple uses, could get lights and have afternoon or evening sporting events," Nowland said.

The longevity of the club comes down to the passion held by its members over the years.

"How this club has managed to keep going and be a hub is quite amazing, there is few places that can do that," Bailey said.

Nowland said it was marvelous to see the way rowing grew confidence in the youth that get involved.

"I have noticed it over years and my daughter is a good example as she was insecure as a kid and when she started here her confidence changed," he said.

Current president Michael said it was an honour to be part of a club that made a significant contribution to the community.

"I am excited to be part of history as our club continues to grow and provide more opportunities for our community," he said.

As part of its celebrations, the club will be hosting a range of events including a reunion night on April 17, a quiz night on July 23, the book launch on October 29 and Gala dinner on October 30.

The reunion is a chance for past, present and future members to gather to enjoy a night of live music, canapes and drinks while at the same time participating in the fundraising efforts.

It will also give members an opportunity to 'Buy Your Name' in the Centenary book that will be launched later this year.