150th Anniversary – Dignitaries from the past

STAR BOATING CLUB -1866 to 2016

Early this week I spent a day at the Alexander Turnbull Library. You can imagine my surprise at a search “star boating club” bringing up 44,225 results made up of: Newspapers (43,935), Images (150), Manuscripts (89), Other (31), Groups (24), Audio (6), Books (6), Journals (5) and Music Score (3). For this mind-boggling figure we must thank the likes of the late Frank Scott and others on the Club Executive who passed on to the National Library documents held by the Club, along with Papers Past which has more than four million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1948 and includes 132 publications from all regions of New Zealand. Papers Past as you will have seen makes up for 43,935 of my Search results.

Papers Past has my principal source of information as I find and gather material on people from the past who contributed so much in so many ways to set up and guide the Club to its successes.

This a work in progress and further will follow in later 150th Anniversary Blogs.

William Hughes (Willie) Field (Club Captain, 1891-1896)     WH Feild

A full Biography may be found on the Te Ara, Encyclopaedia website, and the following from The Wanganui Herald, 16 January 1900, describes Willie Field’s involvement with the Club:

“Mr William Hughes Field the recently elected member for Otaki , is a native of Wanganui, was educated at Wellington College, served his articles with Mr C.H. Borlase, of Wanganui, and in 1890 was admitted a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand. He is now a member of the legal firm of Stafford, ‘I’rcadwell, and Field. Apart from the bar Mr Field is well known in athletic circles, having from his boyhood taken a great interest in all forms of manly sports. He frequently rowed in  representative crews from the  Star Boating Club, of which for years he was captain, and at the present time he is chairman of the Managing Committee of the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association
Mr Field is a Government Supporter.”

Club Records show the following Status Regatta Wins for Mr Field:
1885-86-Nelson: Junior Fours; 1886-87-Wellington: Senior Outrigged Fours (2); 1887-88-Wanganui: Senior Inrigged Fours (2).

Henry BellSir Francis Henry Dillon Bell (President, 1898-1936 and President, New Zealand Rowing Association 1912-13).

A full Biography, to be found on the Te Ara, Encyclopaedia website, suggests that it would be “difficult to find a parallel to so many-sided a man in New Zealand public life“.

Sir Francis was Mayor of Wellington  in 1891, 1892 and 1896, appointed a KCMG in 1915, a GCMG in 1923 and a became a privy counsellor in 1926. Sir Francis was the first New Zealand-born Prime Minister of New Zealand. As the Club’s longest-serving President he did not compete competitively as a rower. An Evening Post Obituary, 13 March 1936, following his death at home at Lowry Bay in his 85th year,refers to Sir Francis as “patron and leader of sport in all its branches”.


William FitzgeraldWilliam Fitzgerald (Deputy Club Captain 1885-86; Club Captain 1886-88)

An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966 records the following:

“On 16 March 1887, at the instance of William Fitzgerald of the Star Boating Club, Wellington, representatives of nine clubs established the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association, which was formed under the patronage of Sir W. F. D. Jervois. J. O. Jones, of Christchurch, was the first president and A. G. Biss, of Wellington, was secretary. The nine clubs which formed the association were: Union Rowing Club (Christchurch) (1866); Star Boating Club (Wellington) (1867); Canterbury Rowing Club and Wanganui Rowing Club (1875); Union Boating Club (Wanganui) (1878); Napier Rowing Club (1886); Wellington Rowing Club (1885); and the Nelson and Whakatu Rowing Clubs (Nelson).

This action moved Rowing in New Zealand away from its Professional base and marked the advent of amateur rowing.

As rowing became more popular, the number of clubs affiliated to the New Zealand Amateur Rowing Association increased. The original nine became 34 in 1892 and 45 ten years later. On 4 October 1902 the association’s annual meeting approved a proposal to provide for the sport to be administered on a regional basis under a central managing body. Accordingly, on 5 January 1903, nine local provincial rowing associations were set up. These were the Auckland, Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay (now East Coast), Marlborough, Nelson, Otago, Southland, Wanganui, and Wellington Provincial Rowing Associations.”

As a result William Fitzgerald became known colloquially as “The Father of New Zealand Rowing”.

Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966 also includes this:

“His own exploits as a boating man were very considerable, and for three years he was captain of the Star Boating Club. But in all these pursuits as in literature, and all else to which he devoted his healthy and cultivated mind, his aim was never to excel for his own glorification or gratification, but to lead others to excellence for their encouragement and improvement. Like all unselfish men he found an unfailing source of happiness in the happiness of his fellow creatures, and, in urging the young men of the place to seek their pleasure in physical endurance, in good company, and in friendly emulation and self-effacement for the sake of esprit de corps, he never lost sight of the superior object of building up their moral character, fortifying their intellect and developing the best qualities of their heart. He was, we believe, of noble blood, but he possessed a much better distinction in that nobility of nature whose very impulse is noblesse oblige, and which stands a man in good stead when rank and titles are as naught,” The officers and members of the Star Boating Club showed their affection for their captain and friend by erecting a handsome marble monument over his grave, by most touching reference to his life and death in their annual report, and by the creation of “The FitzGerald Trophy.”

Sadly William died, 2 June 1889, aged 35. He thus did not get to see the results of his massive contribution to the advancement of amateur rowing in New Zealand.

I will leave these personality sketches here for the time being. Others will follow. I guess though that many of you will quickly see where I am going. Our Club “stands tall” because of the sentiments underlined above, and its foundation administrators established a culture based on values that mean as much today as they did in the past – perhaps even more so.


Four and a half-gallon aluminium beer keg with wooden accoutrements, painted in Star BC colours (blue and white stripes). Last seen mid 1960’s. Of  immense sentimental value. Would the bloke who stole it for his own selfish wishes, please stand up and admit your sin. It would be most appreciated if it were to be returned filled.

Bob Vine
12 May 2016



Replies and comment most welcome