1877 – 1950’s
Rowing on the Bann began in the year 1877. At that time the boathouse was located on the northern side of the Bann Bridge. The Club was an immediate success, and rowing at this site continued for 25 years until the club moved to a site on the southern side of the bridge.
In the early 1900’s the present site was acquired. Rowing continued despite the outbreak of World War 1 with the regatta featuring highly on the town’s sporting and social calendar. Like many other organisations, the club struggled through the economic depression of the twenties and thirties, but somehow managed to survive and kept rowing to the forefront as a sport in the borough.
Although rowing was interrupted for a period during the Second World War, again the Club was kept ticking over by some dedicated members.
The Post War Years saw a resurgence of interest in rowing and the period up to the mid-fifties are considered to be a golden era for the club with several crews dominating the Irish Rowing Scene with wins in Men’s Senior Fours at many prestigious regattas.
During the 1950’s, rowing lost some of its appeal to young athletes in the area who were turning to rugby, soccer and a host of other sports that were becoming more accessible.
In the mid-sixties another revival saw rowing on the ‘up’ again, and rowing on the Bann continued with varying degrees of success through to the late 70’s. It was at this time that the original boat house, the heart of the club for social events (the dances held there were legendary!) and the prime method of club fund raising was destroyed by fire. The boat house was rebuilt, only to be completely destroyed by a second arson attack.
This was a major blow to the club and with the ‘troubles’ escalating, rowing suffered badly and membership dwindled to a mere handful of enthusiasts. Unfortunately their enthusiasm was not enough and following the regatta in 1981, the club almost folded completely. For eleven long years Portadown Boat Club existed in name only, except in the hearts and memories of a few stalwarts who had the ambition to see rowing once more on the River Bann.
However, hopes of restarting the Club came when the Ulster Branch of the Irish Amateur Rowing Union (U.B.I.A.R.U.) set up a Development Committee with the remit to revitalise rowing in areas such as Portadown, Newry and Coleraine, where rowing had ceased. With a lot of help from the Ulster Branch, Craigavon Sports Advisory Council and considerable time and effort on part of the members, rowing was once again happening on the river. A converted forty-foot container served as a temporary boat shed and a boat and some oars were donated by Offaly Boat Club. Suddenly things were happening and on Saturday 18th August 1992, an Invitation Regatta took place hosted by Portadown Boat Club. Whilst only three clubs competed at this event, one thing was evident, Rowing was back!
Since then, the growth of the club has been phenomenal, thanks to the enthusiasm and determination of everyone involved with the club. The various committees, members and supporters and sponsors all have played a vital role in re-establishing Portadown Boat Club as one of the premier rowing clubs in Northern Ireland.
The Club is now ready for the next phase in its long history and the provision of the new Clubhouse will ensure that rowing in Portadown continues to thrive.