How it all began.
“AT A MEETING held at Mr Yarwood’s Hollingworth Lake Hotel, for the purposes of establishing a rowing club, it was resolved that a rowing club be established at Hollingworth and called “The Hollingworth Lake Amateur Rowing Club’.”
Thus was founded, on the 1st of March 1872, the Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club – the “Amateur” part of the name was dropped officially in 1913 though there is evidence of a previous rowing club being founded in 1862 which, in 1865, had as many as 100 members, but then disappeared into oblivion.
At the second meeting of the club it was resolved that the club have a motto “Ready! Aye Ready!”, but ready for what? Until the 1960’s, it is probable that few people outside Lancashire – and in it too – had ever heard of the existence of HLRC.
Indeed, when, in 1964, the club first entered a crew for Henley Royal Regatta, certain august members of Leander firmly believed that their own crew, which had been drawn against Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club in the Prince Philip, were up against some Canadian crew. While others whose geography was not so rusty, thought the crew must be from the village of Hollingworth in Derbyshire.
But one could hardly blame them of their ignorance. Socially, the club has thrived very well throughout most of its history, with many prominent local Rochdalians, notably Mr Henry Newall JP, the club’s first president, and his successor Colonel Sir Clement Royds, MP, being numbered among its members. But on the water success was, until recent years, sparse indeed.
It was in 1878 that the club entered its first crew at a regatta a four competed at Agecoft and at the Mersey and Irwell 6th Amateur Regatta but it was not until 1902 that the club won its first trophy for maiden fours at Agecoft.
In this report for the year 1880, the secretary does, however state that "dating from an insignificant commencement and contending with many difficulties in numerical and financial strength, we have at length won a respectable position in the ranks of the rowing clubs of the county".
The stock of boats was then valued at £112 and the club had 77 members, Each of whom paid an annual subscription of £1.
In 1908 the club again won the maiden fours at Agecoft and also maiden sculls at Lancaster.
This was in fact the beginning of what saw for HLRC a very successful period of rowing which saw them scoop up 12 trophies in Five seasons.
But the First World Wear intervened and took quite a toll of the club's members, including Captain L Renshaw ("One of the most polished and successful oarsmen of the club") who was tragically killed in action at the age of 28 and Captain Frank Mashall who was noted his cheery voice, high spirits and humorous manner and who introduced the "Club Song".
The club celebrated its Diamond Jubilee by adding a top storey onto the boathouse built in 1873 and renovated in 1908 and winning a record number of Four trophies. In fact from 1931 until the outbreak of the Second World War the club enjoyed its second period of success winning 16 trophies, including two senior sculling events.
The same story, the Second World war, like the first took its toll of the members and was followed by a dearth of success, though one of its members. Jack Ashworth did achieve some distinction by winning the sculling championship of the Wye in 1946.
By 1950 membership had climed to 100 and the years 1953-56 witnessed a revival comparable with the two previous periods of success the club won 11 trophies and as these included junior-senior fours at York the club's first ever win, apart from sculling events, in a shell boat there were high hopes that the club might at last achieve a break-through into the higher strata of rowing.
In the 1960's and 70's the Club became a formidable force to be reckoned with. Local lads from all walks of life got together and produced crews that competed all over the country. A number of "firsts", entry to the Head of the River on the Tideway, winning the North of England Head in 1967, entry at Henley Royal Regatta from 1964 for 10 consecutive years, boating five men's eights for the 1962 North of England Head with the first crew in the top three and the second crew in the top 10.
In addition to success on the water, the club has prospered in other directions. In 1964 the club decided to promote its own Regatta on the Lake which, in spite of unfavorable weather has now become established as an annual event. Member has boomed and now stands at a record 100 but what is most important of all to the club from a rowing point of view, the club has started to attract experienced oarsmen who even if they to are no longer willing to expend their energies in pulling an oar regularly can play an even more important role by coaching.
Club Is Envy Of Others
Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club is now 140 years old. During its history there have been golden moments, and moments of gloom.
The foresight of the club's vice presidents in the early 70's. Trevor Wild, Max Riley, and the committee of the time, has provided members with a clubhouse that is the envy of many other rowing clubs up and down the country.
Rowing is now a very modern sport, with competitive events for boys and girls from the age of 13, right up to Veteran events for crew's n their 70's.
Equipment has also changed dramatically down the years. Boats still have pointed bits and sliding seats, but wooden clinker-built boats, with open desks, have been replaced by composite laminated plastics, built like racing cars, to provide the high rigidity that is needed to withstand the pressure created by 16-stone oarsmen going "full tilt".
Wooden fishtail oars have also been replaced, by Cleaver blades with carbon fibre shafts. These changes have altered the style of rowing. Long, flowing stokes, taken leaning backwards, have been replaced by a more upright style. This requires a powerful drive by the legs, with the arms drawing through to complete the stoke once the boat's momentum has been built up.
Club members Adam and Jonathan Clift represented Great Britain in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, having already achieved great success in International Junior competition coaching of Adrain Stott. Adrain continues to coach juniors to international level. The names of Pinsent and Redgrave have raised the national recognition of rowing, but it was the names of Adam Clift and Redgrave which formed the early partnership that led to Redgrave's record achievement of winning five Olympic gold medals.
The club's international reputation was further enhanced in 1994 when Leon Fletcher won a silver medal in the Common-wealth Games regatta on Lake Victoria.
Rowing can be an expensive business. The cost of a new racing eight is in excess of £8,000, with an additional £200 for each oar. Nearly all the boats in the Hollingworth clubhouse are owned by the club for the benefit of all members.
Wealthy benefactors these days come in the form of the Sports Council. Pennies Township fund, and hopefully, the National Lottery. But, as matching funding is always required, it would be impossible to gain access to them without the major fund-raising events the club organises.
The club has planning permission to build an extension to create a heated and fully-equipped weight-training room and an "Ergo" training room. It also has plans to buy new boats so that its junior member can compete with the latest equipment.
It has not been all roses for the club. There have been a few other setbacks in recent years. In the mid-80s, the lake was drained so that repairs could be carried out to the earth retaining walls. Rowing continued on Watergrove Reservoir, but the impact on recruiting new members is still being felt, as there is a distinct lack of competitors in the 20-30 age group.
Disaster also stuck, in 1978, in the form of blue-green algae. All waterborne training on the lake was banned. These two major setbacks resulted in the drop off of senior rowing and only the old stalwarts remained. In 1988 the Club was back now in the form of a robust veteran men's squad who competed at the National and International level. Special mention of George Cheetham and Max Riley who for many years were both National and World Champions in the pair and singles.
In 1999 the ARA and Henley Stewards set up PROJECT OARSOME an initiative to promote junior rowing in schools and the Club took up this challenge with Wardle and Hollingworth High Schools. The scheme was set up with some £60,000 worth of junior boats and equipment with four rowing machines at each school. Each year the new entry to the school was instructed on the rowing machines and then 25 students were selected to progress to the water in the Summer term. Over the years some 500 school children have passed though the Club on this scheme with a number of notable successes who have gone on to represent Great Britain and England at International level. Of special mention are the Walczak twins Ruth and Lucy who are currently members of the National Senior Squad and our current National Junior Champions Jess Leyden and Stuart Sykes who all came through the scheme.
At the second annual general meeting the members adopted the motto "Ready Aye Ready" - but ready for what?
Ready for the future, with the club at the forefront of rowing in the North West and achieving regular success in national regattas. The club has most of the key resources that are needed to achieve a high standard of competitive rowing.