Lee Rowing Club, the oldest commercial rowing club in Ireland, has been an integral part of Ireland’s and Cork City’s sporting life since its inception in 1850.
The club was founded by a group of Cork businessmen to provide outdoor exercise for their apprentices who worked in the businesses on Patrick St. and in other parts of the city. The members worked as tailors and shop assistants in establishments such as Grants, Dwyer’s, The Queens Old Castle, London House and Munster Arcade, to name but a few, earning them the nicknames ‘Collars and Cuffs’ and ‘Counter Jumpers’.
Lee had a number of homes in the early years. The address of the first clubhouse was No. 3 Victoria Road. In 1862, the Club rooms moved to Tuckey Street but went back to Victoria Road again in 1863. The first clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1870 also destroying much of the clubs early written history.
In 1871, a deputation from Lee Rowing Club went to the Navigation Wall Committee of Cork Town Council and the Club was given a site next to the slip opposite Water St., ‘No bigger than 70ft by 25ft’ (enough to keep and launch an 8).
Lee was later given a site by Cork Harbour Board on the Lower Glanmire Road where a temporary clubhouse was built, with showers, near the Ferryboat Inn.
Between 1884 and 1886 Lee moved permanently to its present site on The Marina, the Marina itself having been finished in 1872. In July 1890, Charles Stewart Parnell made a financial contribution to help clear the club’s debts. Parnell obliged and was made an honorary member of the club.
The inaugural Lee Regatta was held in 1864, and Lee got its first outrigged boat in that year. The Club colours became red and black in 1888.
After the Great Exhibition of 1902- 1903, Lee bought one of the exhibition halls and brought it to the Marina site. A concrete base was built and the wooden structure was placed on top. It consisted of a boathouse on the ground floor, changing rooms, a reading room, and a bar.
The current boathouse was built in 1988.