The History of the Wemmer Pan Rowing Club, est. 1911
The Wemmer Pan Rowing Club as it is known today, was formerly the Wemmer Pan Sailing Club. in 1912, employees of the Old Village Deep and City Deep Gold Mines established the sailing club at the Wemmer Pan. The Wemmer Pan, which was named after Mr. Sam Wemmer, originally was a brick field quarry, and was later taken over by the City Deep Mine which required the water for mining purposes.
There were well over 100 members and they were responsible for the erection of the first boat house constructed of wood and iron in 1922, which only recently was demolished. Yachting races took place early at the Wemmer Pan and many fine trophies were competed for. At weekends, there was great rivalry among the many yachts which raised their sails In those early days when most of the dumps that surround the Pan today were non-existent and few trees were present to affect the winds so necessary for good sailing.
During the summer of 1925, due to severe rain storms the dam wall was partly washed away. This, added to the fast growing slimes dumps, brought an abrupt ending to a most spectacular sport at the Wemmer Pan; the yachtsmen sensing that they would soon be closed in, joined other clubs away from Johannesburg.
The rowing section was formed in 1918, but it was not until 1922 that rowing become a truly active and competitive sport. During this year, funds were raised to purchase a sculling and two tub pair boats. Henri De Kok, who joined the club in 1919, proved himself adept in the art of single sculling and later proved to be the outstanding sculler In South Africa from 1924 to 1928. Henri had the honour of being the first oarsman from South Africa to participate at the famous Henley Royal Regatta in England, and he was also the first to represent this country at rowing at the Olympic Games (Amsterdam 1928).
The Transvaal Rowing Association was formed in 1924 mainly through the efforts of the Wemmer Pan Rowing Club. Particular mention must be given to Mr. M. A. Cadle, Chairman of the club from 1932 to 1956, for his efforts in forming the new association, the inaugural General Meeting of which took place at the Germiston Lake Club on the 4th April, 1924. Mr. Cadle, himself a senior oarsman, served on many executive committees in the interest of rowing and was also a delegate to the Olympic Games Council from 1926 to 1947.
Two four-oared boats were purchased in 1925 and since that time the Wemmer Pan Rowing Club has proved to be the strongest and foremost club in the Transvaal, if not in the whole of South Africa. Of course the ladies were not to be left out and it was not long before they were able to boat crews with great distinction. They competed for the trophy of the Transvaal Ladies’ Senior Fours”” which they won nineteen times during the period 1927 to 1950 inclusive, 1941-1945 excluded, being the war years. In 1939. an invitation was extended to the Forest High School for Boys to join the club. The response was such that two crews were formed but unfortunately, in the latter part of 1940 they disbanded to join the armed forces in which they served with great distinction. Three of these schoolboys, together with severa1 other members, failed to return, in the course of duty to their country. The schoolboy section of rowing has gone from strength to strength, and 1958 saw the formation of the Johannesburg Federated Schools Rowing Cub, which grew to embrace the Jeppe Boys High School, King Edward School, Parktown Boys High School and St. Martins School. Because of growing interest in school rowing the name was changed to Transvaal Schools Rowing Federation during 1969 and a further four schools were added to the membership. Germiston High School, General Smuts High School [Vereeniging), Florida Park High School and St. Stithians School. Scholars of the Hill High School of Southern Suburb have already rowed with distinction for the Wemmer Pan Rowing Club and students of the Helpmekaar Hoer Seunskool have rowed for the first time this season.
The Wemmer Pan senior men’s crews have always performed well, and in 1948 were narrowly beaten by the Victoria Lake Club crew for selection to participate at the Olympic Games of that year. Undaunted by this defeat, they began to work even harder and in 1950, were nominated to participate at the Empire Games, but due to lack of funds, were once again disappointed. In 1952 trials were held to select a crew to represent S.A. at the Olympic Games to be held in Helsinki. The rowing was of a high standard but once again the much-sought-after green and gold blazers slipped through Wemmer’s grasp, the honours going to Wits University, with Wemmer a close second. A lean period ensued and it was not until 1958 that the Club received the reward which had eluded them for so long when D. Munton, ex-Forest High School, and T. R. Steyn were selected to row in the double sculls event at the Empire Games held in Wales.