Major archive donated to New Zealand Rowing Foundation

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Over the past fifty years, Evan McCalman has collated an enormous archive of memorabilia, documents and photographs relating to rowing in New Zealand. Made up of more than 100 archive boxes, containing thousands of items altogether, Evan has now donated this archive to the New Zealand Rowing Foundation.

“I took over responsibility for the collection when I became secretary of the Rowing New Zealand Council (as it then was) in 1965. A previous secretary rang me out of the blue and said I’ve got all these old archives here, come get them.

“I hadn’t realised that was going to be part of the job but I went to his house and there were these two tin boxes down in his basement. I took them home, sorted them out, and I’ve had them ever since.

“There were minute books, account books, a lot of correspondence, programmes, annual reports, a record book, and a number of scrapbooks. But they were all just thrown together, and I regarded it as my responsibility to put them in some sort of order, and start adding to them.

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Evan McCalman has managed an extensive archive of material relating to rowing in New Zealand over the past fifty years.

I was used to records – I was running the administration of the Department of Trade and Industry so this was my field. I picked up a few archive boxes from work and then a few more, and now there are about a hundred of them. I was just a magpie – I collected whatever I could lay my hands on.

“When we moved house a few years later, one of the reasons I bought the new house was because it had a huge attic, which I thought would be perfect for the records.”

The collection focuses mainly on rowing at a national level, although there is some material that relates to specific clubs.

“North Shore has a centenary celebration coming up and fortunately I had a North Shore regatta programme from the 1930s I’d acquired along the way, which had a summary of the club’s history that they knew nothing about. And I’ve now found a photo of a crew of theirs that won a New South Wales title back in the 1930s so I’ll be sending them that.”

The oldest item in the collection is a programme for a “bumps” regatta held on the Avon in 1870. There is also a lot of correspondence dating back to the 1880s about setting up a national association, which was eventually formed in 1887 at the Star Boating Club.

The rarest item is a cap awarded to a member of the champion Interprovincial Fours in 1921. “I’m not aware of another one of these in the country,” Evan says.

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One of the jewels of the archive - a cap awarded to a member of the champion Interprovincial Four in 1921.

Now 93, Evan has decided it is time to take a break and let someone else take over the collection.

“My hope is that the archive remains in good hands and is preserved safely, and is made available to people who want to research the history of one of New Zealand’s oldest organised sports.”

New Zealand Rowing Foundation Chair Gerry Dwyer said the Foundation was grateful for Evan’s work.

“The New Zealand Rowing Foundation is delighted to take responsibility for this archive which details the history of our sport back to its earliest days in New Zealand,” Gerry says.

“On behalf of the New Zealand rowing family, the Foundation extends its thanks and appreciation to Evan for his outstanding stewardship of this brilliant archive. We also acknowledge and extend thanks to Bill Falconer who – together with Evan – has organised and overseen the transfer of the archive to a secure facility at Crown Record Management in Wellington.

“The Foundation hopes that it can continue to assist Rowing New Zealand in building a permanent record of our sport, and hopefully in finding a future home for its proper display.”

The Rowing Foundation and Rowing New Zealand are keen to hear from anyone who might be able to help continue Evan’s work, or who would like to add to the archive in the future. If you would like to find out more, please email info@rowingnz.kiwi
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Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is a keen Masters rower based in Wellington. A member of Wellington Rowing Club off and on since 2000, he spends more time on the erg than the water, trying to convince himself he's still young.