On November 24th 1881 a meeting was held at the home of Mr W.J. Taylor of Wagga Wagga. There were twelve gentlemen present. Over port and cigars, it was resolved that a club be formed and called the Riverine Club. The committee formed consisted of a president, two vice presidents and eight other members. Although, it is not clearly recorded, the aims of the club are thought to resemble other such male institutions throughout the British Empire. Indeed, the Riverine Club's priceless leatherbound volumes of Punch from Victorian times probably best attest to this.
The original club house was leased from Dr M O’Connor who had occupied the building since 1873. The building was originally the first public school in Wagga Wagga, built in 1860. However, in 1872 the pupils were thankfully removed. It was in 1890 that the Riverine Club was able to purchase the building outright for twelve hundred and fifty pounds.
Portions of the Club's Library and Reading Room are the only sections of the early school which remain in the present building. Completion of the present billiard area was in 1890 to the plans of local architect George Sheppard for four hundred and twenty eight pounds. We have kept the receipts just in case things don't work out. This room today remains a wonderful feature of the club. In 1906, a NSW Liquor Act determined that the Club was to provide accommodation for its members. In its wonderfully glacial pace, by 1925 the Club managed to get around to this demand and purchased an adjacent two story building to provide the charming accommodation we enjoy today.
In 1930, major alterations and extensions were carried out to the plans of Melbournian architects Messrs Bunnet & Alsop and as a result the building was completely transformed. The entrance was transferred to Sturt Street and approached via a deep arched colonnade across the new façade. The original pressed metal ceilings, timber joinery and timber furniture remain today.
The War Time Club
During the Second World War, the Riverine Club was utilised by the RAAF and American Air Force officers. Flight training was conducted in Wagga Wagga and surrounding districts. After the war, the club officially returned to being a Gentleman’s club.
"The Whaler" is the most prominent image in our old Club. There are several works showing the image around our walls, from photgraph to oil painting, they are all by Chas E Astley 1908. The two main works are an original oil painting (Ex Dono Mr T.S. Bellair) and a framed photograph of the same (Ex Dono W.M.J. Walsh) with title "The Whaler", and subtitled, "You talk about ‘ard times", complete with a paper clipping of December 22, 1931 - a satirical piece by journalist Will Carter which describes them as "odoriferous old schemers of the road", and that "the most conspicuous of all was the Murrumbidgee Whaler".
The Artist - Charles Ernest Astley (b 1869 Deptford, Kent, UK d June 1929 Warwick, Queensland, Australia) is described by Design and Art Australia Online as one whose "paintings were no more than competent", though never-the-less Chas was "a significant cultural figure in both Toowoomba and Warwick".
However it is not the brush strokes, but the image itself that our members take heed of. The Waler shoulders the Bar, a conscience moment, as to that which sets one apart from one's present comfortable circumstances to a far paler state - could it be just as simple as a failed season, or a bad hand?
The swagman is an image of rural Australia that persisted during the two periods of growth for our Riverine Club.
Swagmen were men "down on their luck". Lore would have it that they only took food and clothing in exchange for some menial work, such as a splitting a pile of wood. Hearsay puts it otherwise, that oft the exchange was schemed to the swaggy's favour. Either way these men were "waltzing Matilda" along the roads and Murrumbidgee and had the respect and help of many landholders along the way.
The Riverine Club confers Life Membership to members who have contributed a great deal to the Club over time. It counts its Ordinary Members of 50 years good standing among these.
- 1947 R.M.Hutchinson
- 1948 J.J. Parnell
- 1949 G.P. Wilson
- 1949 R.M. McGeoch
- 1953 D.M.Foster
- 1953 R.M.Osborne
- 1958 A.F.L.Horsley
- 1969 J.H.T. Brockhouse
Past Club Presidents
- 1881 - 1882 Mr John Leitch
- 1882 - 1904 Dr Erasmus Wren
- 1904 - 1916 Mr C.F. Bolton
- 1916 - 1920 Mr G.P. Wilson
- 1920 - 1939 Mr I.C. Thomas
- 1939 - 1949 Mr W.M.J. Walsh
- 1949 - 1959 Mr P.W. Williamson
- 1959 - 1963 Mr H.V. McKay
- 1963 - 1968 Mr J.L. Watts
- 1968 - 1969 Mr G.P. Osborne
- 1969 - 1984 Mr J.H. Henderson
- 1984 - 1987 Mr C.F. Brown
- 1987 - 1995 Mr P.J. Morrow
- 1995 - 2007 Mr J.H.T. Brockhouse
- 2007 - 2011 Mr L.K. Taylor
- 2011 - 2013 Mr D.S. Stratton