Rules governing the rowing of schoolboys were formalised by the Irish Amateur Rowing Union in 1927, and rowing schools began to make more frequent appearances at regattas.
The Jes had been closed for a number of years due to a lack of numbers but it reopened in 1929. Five years later, a group of pupils met in Keogh’s Shop beside the school (where Kai is today ) to discuss the idea of forming a school rowing club. As there was no one in the school to take charge, their application was turned down. They were persistent however, and in October of that year, 1934, they made another appeal and this time they were successful. They had to put together a crew, find a coach, get a boat and a base on the river to start.
Their first competitive race was against Rockwell College in 1935. They were narrowly beaten but a strong new presence in Irish rowing had arrived. Their first crew was Bertie Kavanagh who was also the coach, John Keogh, Billy Donovan, Gerry Colgan and Austin Caulfield.
Their first championship victory was at Dublin Metropolitan Regatta in 1936 where they won the Schools Fours. The club’s history since has been very distinguished with many championships and major victories. It was not always easy, trying to maintain the sport during the war years was very difficult as they had no boat and no clubhouse, but they still managed to put crews on the water. It all changed very dramatically in the early fifties when Fr Eddie Diffley, a native of Woodquay, came back to Sea Road as a teacher and games master. He brought a whole new energy to the club and it showed immediately as they produced many great crews in the fifties.
When the school became coeducational it was only a matter of time before the girls took up rowing, and in 1987 Fr Murt Curry put the first girls crew together – Celeste Augé, Deirdre Darcy, Anna Boner, Aisling O’Hanlon, Deirdre Ryan, Riana Parsons, Una O’Carra, Gail FitzPatrick, and Fiona Lawless. The girls, like their male counterparts, have represented the school with distinction both nationally and internationally.
In 1961, Hurricane Debbie demolished the clubhouse and it was replaced by the building in our photograph which was built the following year. In 2003, it in turn was replaced by the current state of the art structure, with most of the work being done by ex-oarsmen. The club is having a ‘Jes Rowing Renewal Day’ on Sunday next, July 2, starting at 11am. They are inviting all past oarsmen and oarswomen to go to the clubhouse during the day to renew acquaintance with rowing on the river, and hopefully with some of their fellow crew members. The club has recently acquired two new fours, one coxed and the other coxless, and these boats will be named and blessed at 4pm. It sounds like a real celebratory day out and if you need any further details you can contact [email protected].