The Irish Amateur Rowing Union was established at a meeting in the Grosvenor Hotel, Westland Row, Dublin on February 3rd 1899. Essentially it was an association of the clubs in Irish rowing and its aims were to put the organisation and control of the sport on a proper footing, both nationally and internationally. There has been an earlier, short-lived association, the IARA, in the 1880s, but it had failed to assert its authority and had faded away.
(A history of the Irish Amateur Rowing Association 1883-1886 which preceded the IARU is available for viewing HERE)
Quite early in the new IARU’s deliberations the question of national championships was raised. In February 1901 there was a proposal to give the IARU power to designate championship status in four classes: senior eights, senior fours, junior eights and junior fours, but the decision to proceed was postponed. A year later it was raised again, with additional classes added: senior pairs and scull, junior sculls and under-age fours. ‘Senior’ in those days was equivalent to the elite class today, and ‘junior’ was what we now call intermediate. But again no order was made: expense may well have been a factor.
In 1907 it was decided to approach the representatives of the late Mr William Whitley, in whose will there was a provision for money to purchase ‘rowing cups’. It is not quite clear whether this approach was successful of not, but in February 1912 a resolution was passed at the agm of the IARU ‘that a cup be purchased for £100 for the Union to be presented for annual competition amongst senior eights.
A rota was agreed between venues in Ulster, Munster and Leinster; Leinster was drawn by lot to host the first championship, and the honour went to the Dublin Metropolitan Regatta at Ringsend. So the first Irish championship was instituted in 1912, and it has continued to the present day, with just one brief interruption during the years of the first World War.