Club formation

On 22nd June, 1935, Mr, Paddy Pallin held a “Shoalhaven Reunion” at his home at Lindfield. To this reunion were invited all those who were known to have canoed down the Shoalhaven River. The response was enthusiastic and eighteen people (including three ladies) partook of an enjoyable evening.

Shoalhaven experiences were related and photographs compared while a feeling of good fellowship prevailed throughout.

The formation of the canoe club was proposed and carried unanimously and it was decided to hold an inaugural meeting on 3rd July at Mr. Pallin’s. At this meeting a committee was appointed to prepared a constitution.


Club evolution

They would laugh and shake their heads those old boys and girls from 1935 if they saw us paddling now.  They would laugh at our neoprene, our waterproof clothing and our buoyancy vests jingling with hardware.  They would be bemused by the tiny plastic craft we paddle on whitewater and the sleek boats used on flatwater rivers and at sea.  But at an evening paddle by the clubhouse on the Cooks River, out at Penrith whitewater course, down by Kosciusko side on the Victorian safari or when camping on the shores of Jervis Bay, they would still recognise the camaraderie of the Rivers Club and the excitement of new paddling adventures.

River Canoe Club Trip to the Barrington – 1930s

As these changes have flowed into our members paddling lives the clubhouse at Tempe has been not only a treasured meeting place but also a storehouse of our history, keeping safe many journals and original records, hand written in pen and ink.  It has protected boat moulds, slalom gates, rafts, trophies, photos, mementos and a variety of craft.

As the sport of canoeing has evolved, so have the activities of kayakers.  Today our members enjoy a wide range of kayaking activities which goes beyond what was envisaged by the Club’s founders.  We have our day trips, weekends away and multi-day paddling safaris and then there are the qualified instructors who volunteer their time to train members in the various kayaking disciplines. 

A great deal more of the club’s history (including the club song) can be found in the club’s official history documents:

The River Canoe Club of NSW 1935 – 1985

The River Canoe Club of NSW 1985 – 2010

The Great Fire of 1973

In September 1973, clubhouse on the cooks river was burned to the ground. It was obviously pretty devastating for club members at the time. This edition of Splash!from October of that year provides a facinating perspective of how the club dealt with the loss. It wasn’t long before plans were afoot for the new (present clubhouse). Also facinating is the trouble members would go to to illustrate their articles, and produce a monthly club magazine without any of the fancy technology we have today.

A couple of members mentioned in that edition of Splash are still active within the club today. Basil Slaughter and Helen Brownlee are both lifelong members and can recall the club both before and after the fire.

Site of the River Canoe Club Clubhouse, Cooks River circa 1946

Helen Brownlee Remembers

“The photo definitely looks like the old clubhouse, but it is difficult to see detail. The old clubhouse had wooden external stairs to the upper level, which also connected to external toilets – all on the park path side. Downstairs was the boatshed which “flooded’ when the tide came in.”

Paddy Pallin and Myles Dunphy

Many club members will be aware of the role of Paddy Pallin in the formation of the club. However the early Australian conservationist Myles Dunphy OBE was also involved in the early days.

Paddy invited Myles Dunphy to the club’s establishment meeting, but Myles had other commitments that evening. The invitation and reply are from the Myles Dunphy collection held by the State Library of NSW. The file also contains draft sketches for a club banner. The Library also holds the extensive collection of river maps like the two on the club wall and fastidiously detailed notebooks of Ted Phillips. The draft version of the club icon is from this collection. Tangerine and olive green were decided as the club’s colours at the meeting in September 1935 when the initial club rules were adopted.

Correspondence between Paddy Pallin and Myles Dunphy
Correspondence Paddy Pallin and Myles Dunphy
Sketches of Club Pennants
Early Sketches of River Canoe Club Logo