BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PORT ALFRED RIVER & SKIBOAT CLUB.

This is a shortened version of the history as its name was derived from the original Port Alfred Rowing Club which became the Port Alfred River Club which is dealt with below.

The Port Alfred River and Ski-boat Club, PARSC, was formed in April 1971 by the amalgamation of the Port Alfred River Club and the Port Alfred Ski-boat Club.

The Port Alfred River Club was originally called the Port Alfred Rowing Club and was started according to the records available on the 10th June 1932 under The President, Mr Justice Gutsche and Chairman Mr Coates. The original Port Alfred River Club concentrated on rowing activities and at a later stage power-boating. The first rowing regatta involved Rhodes University and the Buffalo Club from East London and a little later also Queen Alexandra Secondary School (now the Port Alfred High School) and various up-country universities.

In 1939 due to the military call up for the 2nd World War the club went into limbo.

The next records available were from minutes of February 1946 when it was resuscitated. After this the rowing never really got going again until the 1980s with the start of the Inter Universities Rowing Regatta as we know it today. From 1939/40 onwards powerboating became the club's main activity.

In October 1950 the name of the club was changed to the Port Alfred River Club with its emphasis away from rowing and on to power-boating and other river related activities. Its clubhouse which was to a large extent a timber structure was situated behind the present Civic Centre on the river bank next to the tennis courts.

In 1961 the municipality offered the club some erven on the AM Flats (situated in the Bells Reach area on the East Bank of the River) with a view to developing a clubhouse and related activities.This never materialized however and the club had an ongoing feud with the council to try and have a new clubhouse incorporated into the new Civic Centre which was due to be built on the site of the old clubhouse. The council however eventually never acceded to these repeated attempts to try and have the new clubhouse incorporated into the new Civic Centre.

As the years passed the club became more and more non active until the fuel crisis in the late 1970s which put paid to powerboating and as such basically to the activities of the club.

Prior to this councillor Louis Gluckman (Mayor at the time) who was a proponent of the development of a social club for the town and in close proximity to the CBD. He was instrumental in offering the River Club a portion of ground ,on lease, situated below, the then planned and now existing Nico Malan Bridge, in the Willows area. This was to be in exchange for the plots on the A&M Flats. The club however continued to try and argue with council for the site behind the Civic Centre. Due to the inactivity, in fighting among members and the subsequent loss of many of them, the club ground to a halt.

In the meantime while all this arguing was going on the Port Alfred Ski-boat Club was founded in April 1968 under the Chairmanship of Bernard “ Pop” Theunissen with the committee consisting of:

  • Rheinhold Peter
  • George Haller
  • Paul Bokenham
  • Sid Morey
  • Jack Neave
  • Fred Jackson “ Jnr”

The headquarters of the club was the Victoria Hotel at that stage owned by Fred Jackson's father, Uncle Fred to everyone.

During the period that the council were putting pressure on the River Club to do something about the clubhouse, the club due to the loss of members as I have mentioned were not in a position to continue operating. This brought about negotiations between the Ski-boat Club and the River Club with a view to amalgamating to form a strong club catering for social activities as well as all forms of water sport. On the 24th November 1970 a sub committee of the River Club consisting of L.E.A.Scott, Maitland Martin, Jim Alexander and Peter Gollop met with a sub-committee of the Ski-boat club consisting of Mike Neave, Paul Bokenham and Jack Neave. A decision in principle was reached that if amalgamation took place each club's identity would be respected in the new name and that the assets of both clubs would be pooled (this included the plots up river which the river club had taken transfer of).

On Thursday the 15th April 1971 a combined meeting of both clubs was held at which the amalgamation was ratified, a new constitution accepted and the name of the club to change to the Port Alfred River & Ski-boat Club, PARSC.

The first elected committee was:

  • Commodore: Louis Rose
  • Chairman: Mike Neave
  • Vice – Chair: Paul Bokenham
  • Secretary: Jack Neave
  • Treasurer: Peter Gollop
  • Committee: Fred Jackson (Jnr), Jack Simpson, Louis Gluckman, Phil Oakden

The new club immediately tackled the matter of the provision of clubhouse facilities and agreed to accept the site in the Willows previously offered to the old River club.

The club obviously was in need of finance to be able to build and negotiated with council to take back the plots referred to before. The council agreed to pay the new club R 11 000-00 for the plots against an appraised value of R 21 000-00, on condition the money was paid out in progress payments against the construction of a new building.

Through the kind services of Mr Des Spindler ( structural engineer) and Mr Derek Scarr ( architect) both from Port Elizabeth plans for the clubhouse were drawn ( almost identical to the building we all know – a picture of which is displayed below. In return for not charging the club for the plans they were given a life membership.

We were still in a difficult situation as to how to find finance to fund the building over and above the money for the plots.

Suddenly Mr Harry Owsley (a member) decided to move his building practice from Grahamstown to Port Alfred at this stage and he offered to build for the club at cost and any shortfall of funds he would supply at 9% interest repayable as the club could afford. This gesture enabled the club to take the decision to proceed and thankfully after much debate the committee decided to go ahead with the whole building as planned and not to do it piecemeal. In retrospect this was fantastic as it set the club up for the next 35 years of growth. The building eventually cost R 25 000-00 and using our funds left an amount of some R 9000 to be paid at 9% interest to Mr Owsley.

In September 1972 the clubhouse was completed thanks to the foresight of the committee.

The committee of 2004 under my chairmanship has fortunately shown the same foresight in proceeding with extensions to the old clubhouse which include a large lounge with bar, kitchen and toilet facilities and huge deck with sliding /folding doors which will satisfy the needs of the club for the next forty years. A picture of the club with the new additions is featured below.

We are fortunate to have a nucleus of members who are always prepared to get in and help.

The committee decided to go ahead with the project after having had quite a few commitments from members of financial support and also assistance from some local businesses in carrying purchases on their books interest free for considerable periods. One of our members undertook to do all wet work on the building i.e. all the concrete work and carry all the labour costs therefore. On the other front we had donations varying from R 100.00 to R 55 000.00, donations of roof tiles, donations of toilet requisites, tiling, mirrors etc, sponsorship for the full cost of a new bar counter to name but a few and together with the clubs resources built up over a number of years we were able to get where we are today. All role-players whether financial, physical, material wise or otherwise will be acknowledged at a suitable time in the future when we have an official opening of the new extensions.

Truly a wonderful club, with wonderful people with magnificent potential for the future. May this club with such historical depth become a landmark of clubs of this type countrywide and a living tribute to all the role-players in its development since 1932.

Please contact us should you be interested in participating in our enhancements.