Hailing 100th Anniversary of Yangon University (1920-2020); Yangon Universities’ Boat Club (formerly known as Rangoon University Boat Club)

Yangon Boat Club 0
Yangon University Boat Club members in 1960.

By: Tommy Pauk

As a gesture of hailing the hundredth Anniversary of Yangon University, I have been writing articles in the Global New Light of Myanmar about the glorious and significant events, sport-club activities, Myanmar culture & fine arts clubs’ activities and other activities of Yangon University (formerly known as Rangoon University) which were held within a hundred- year period . (From 1920 to 2000). Indeed, we can proudly say that University of Yangon (current name) is the mother of all universities in Myanmar who has given birth to brilliant and versatile graduates. In addition, those graduates became patriotic leaders, world prominent figures, celebs, artists, brilliant sportsmen and sportswomen as well. Those of the graduates have glorified or dignified our country in many aspects from 1920 to 2020 so far. Moreover, they are eligible or qualified enough to take part in nation building tasks.
Since I am an alumnus of Rangoon University, I feel so inclined to write about the sport activities such as football, tennis, swimming and boat-rowing and so on. I intend the readers to learn or recount the fame and glory of Yangon University apart from its curriculum and knowledge bank imparting or disseminating to students of all majors (Arts and Sciences majors). Yangon University has continuously nurtured all major students with the well-qualified faculty and advanced curricula to date.
Football, tennis and boat-rowing had been the most popular sports with the students of Yangon University (Rangoon University) during the early years of 20th century. At that time, playing football was the most popular game with the Rangoon University male students. Second to football, boat-rowing was the most popular with the students indeed.
Rangoon University Boat Club was founded in 1923 by Law Professor Sir Authur Eggar. The Club had financial assistance from Sir Authur’s Trust with a handful of members and a locally built clinker-canoe for 12 paddles. A golden opportunity arose in 1923 when the University accepted an invitation from the Regatta authorities who were staging a special show in honor of the Viceroy Lord Chelmsford’s visit to Burma to participate in Burmese laungs (မြန်မာလောင်းလှေ) in the amateur class in the regatta. In order to make his members participate in the special programmed boat-race on Yangon Kandawgyi lake (ရန်ကုန်ကန်တော်ကြီး), Mr Eggar rented two Myanmar traditional boats named ‘Paddamyar’ and ‘Zawgyi Pyan’ (ပတ္တမြား ´´နှင့် “ဇော်ဂျီပျံ ).Then the club team had successfully participated in that special show of boat race. This was the birth of the Club in a most informal manner. It had only a handful of members barely sufficient to man a pair of nine-oar laungs (မြန်မာလောင်းလှေ).
Rangoon University Boat Club launched the inaugural ceremony in August, 1924. RUBC (Rangoon University Boat Club). Actually, it was formed with University College and Judson College. Afterwards, the club imported the English rowing -boats from England.
From the very beginning, it had no land of its own for a building site on the Inya Lake, nor any boat. The members had nothing to meet the needs of a rowing club but only their blind faith in their President_ Mr. Eggar and their absolute determination to follow his lead. There were neither grand schemes nor rash promises. But a few months after the Royal Lake (ရန်ကုန်ကန်တော်ကြီး) Regatta, the Club became the proud possessor of a locally built 12- paddle clinker-canoe in addition to few Myanmar laungs (မြန်မာလောင်းလှေ) (Myanmar long and narrow racing boat) and bauktus (ဘောက်တူလှေ) (clinker-canoes) on loan.

A bronze bust of Commodore Pe Than 0
A bronze bust of Commodore Pe Than , who was a president of YUBC from 1958 to 1962.

The University authorities placed at its disposal as a temporary measure the University Swimming beach promontory where a zinc shed was built to house boats coming out form England. The students of Yangon University those wishing to become members had to learn how to swim before entering Yangon University Boat Club. When they became good swimmer, they were admitted to get membership of the boat club. Then they were trained to be the crew members or rowers. Since Mr Eggar was a rowing enthusiast and he wanted to develop the rowing club in the Yangon University. In addition, Mr Eggar encouraged the University students to join Yangon University Boat Club. Thus, some university students those keen on art of rowing as a sport and became the crew members as well as boat club members.
Between the year 1930 and the year 1935, Rangoon University Boat Club owned two eight-man English rowing boats, two four-man English rowing boats, one-man English rowing boat and one eight- man barge (used for rowing training) The rapid progress of the Club within a few years was also due to kind patronage and assistance given in every possible way by Payataga (donor of Koe-htat-Kyee Buddha image)(ကိုးထပ်ကြီးဘုရားဒါယိကာ) U Kyaw and U Nyo. In 1925, U Kyaw bought two Myanmar laungs ( မြန်မာလောင်းလှေများ) named “ Min Gaung Kyaw and Hla Shwe Hintha (“မင်းခေါင်ကျော်´´ နှင့် “လှရွှေဟင်္သာ ) and donated to Rangoon University Boat Club. N.B. (မြန်မာလောင်းလှေ) (Myanmar long and narrow racing boat)
Later, the name — Rangoon University Boat Club was renamed Yangon Universities’ Boat Club in order that the students from other Universities in Yangon could join or register as the club members. (Note; after Rangoon University was established in 1920 in the propinquity of the Inya lake (Victoria Lake) in Yangon Kamayut township area, the other Universities and colleges such as Medical College, Dental College, Rangoon Institute Technology (RIT) and Institute of Economics etc. were gradually established at the various places in Yangon local area. All those students from respective Universities and colleges can join Yangon Universities’ Boat Club and practice rowing in line with the rules and regulations of the club. The generous contribution of U Nyo enabled to move to the present club site with spacious new boat house in 1927. The rowing club members acquired discipline and rowing spirit through hard training. Normally, they would become a bunch of amateurs in the rowing sport. Even then, the traditional rite was practised whenever the club conducted the regatta on the Inya Lake. The committee of the University Regatta used to hold the ceremony of “Saluting the Nats” (propitiating the spirits) at the opening of the Regatta. The fruits and flowers were distributed on the water to propitiate the Nats (spiritual beings) believed to be residing around the Lake in the traditional manner before a race in laungs. From 1927 onwards, occasional inter- college boat races were held for various teams belonged to colleges of Yangon. In 1939, Rangoon University Boat Club rowing team started to compete with English Boat Club rowing team with English racing boats. Sometimes, Burmese laungs (မြန်မာလောင်းလှေများ) were used in competing with English racing boats.

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The scene of Rangoon Boat Club on the back ground in 1939.

In 1945 and in 1946 (post second world war) , the writer Let-Wai- Min –Nyo (စာရေးဆရာလက်ဝဲမင်းညို), U Chan Tha (ဦးချမ်းသာ) (ICS) and Commodore U Than Pe (ဦးသန်းဖေ)
(Naval) had re-established the club in order to develop rowing sport among the university students . They also expected to bring about the vigorous male and female University students from the Yangon Universities’ Boat Club.
In 1980s, YUBC teams had won the National Championship in local regattas. Most of the brilliant rowers (both male and female) are selected for National Rowing Team (Myanmar Selected Rowing Teams) to meet the regattas in foreign countries especially in ASEAN member countries or invited boat races abroad.
Since the Yangon University Boat Club’s foundation in 1923, the rowing teams of the Yangon Universities’ Boat Club teams have gained triumphs in the invited Boat Races in Asia in 1970s and 1980s. During those years, Yangon Universities’ Boat Club teams have been invited to participate in F.E.A.R.A (Far Eastern amateur Rowing association) as Yangon Universities’ Boat Club became a member club in 1981.Then it has been allowed to participate in AUG (ASEAN University Games).
Yangon Universities’ Boat Club rowing teams had won the gold medals, silver medals and bronze medals in the regatta held in Singapore in October, 1979 for different classes of rowing races. Also, in 1981, RUBC rowing teams had won the gold medals and silver medals for different rowing events significantly in Hong Kong conducted by (F.E.A.R.A — Far Eastern amateur Rowing association).
YUBC teams had won the higher prizes in 1982 Regatta conducted by (F.E.A.R.A — Far Eastern amateur Rowing association) in Manila, the Philippines.
The triumphs of Yangon Universities’ Boat Club teams in the years 2000s are as follows;
In 2016, Yangon Universities’ Boat Club teams had taken part in Varsity Boat Race (VBR) in Malaysia and won some outstanding prizes on different fixtures of the boat races.
2018 Varsity Boat Race (VBR) held in October, Penang, Malaysia
Yangon Universities’ Boat Club’s men and women rowing teams won the gold medals (first prize), silver medals (second prize) and bronze medals (third prize) in the different category of
events competed with foreign boat club teams.

The Celebrations of the 40th Anniversary the of the RUBC was held in 1963; the 50th Anniversary the of the RUBC was held in 1973; the 60th Anniversary the of the RUBC was held in 1983; the 75th Anniversary the of the RUBC was held in 1998; the 80th Anniversary the of the RUBC was held in 2003; the 90th Anniversary the of the RUBC was held in 2013 respectively. N.B. Rangoon University Boat Club was renamed Yangon Universities ‘Boat Club in 1964 to date.
Up till now, Yangon University Boat club has been striving for the development of the club and members by giving training and buying modern race-boats in order that the rowing teams can participate in boat races in foreign countries especially in South East Asia. Evidently, YUBC teams have participated in boat races in Asian countries. Occasionally, inter-colleges boat races are also held. Basic rowing training is given to the University students those who are rowing enthusiasts. In addition, the modern rowing boats are being used for the YUBC for the crew members in order to cope with the usage of standard rowing boats in the world regatta. Thus, YUBC has been receiving the increasing number of members from various Universities of Yangon who are of boat rowing enthusiasts.
N.B Excellent Yangon Universities’ Boat Club members are from respective Universities and colleges in Yangon. For example, the excellent rowers from Yangon from Economics University are selected for participating in the invited boat races in Asia countries. Yangon Universities’ Boat Club teams, made up of excellent members from respective Universities in Yangon, are prepared for Asian University Games.
The winning results in international rowing races participated by Yangon Universities’ Boat Club teams are rather encouraging due to assiduous efforts, well- disciplined and harmonious teamwork of the members. In other words, the RUBC members of both man and women members have shown that they are physically and mentally strong enough to compete with Asian Universities’ boat club members in any invited regatta ever held in three decades. Moreover, YUBC teams are well-prepared to participate in invited regatta in 2019 and 2000. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, all the boat races of both inter-Universities and abroad have been halted. Nevertheless, the onus is on alumni of University of Yangon to share any proud and glorious events and background of it. That is why I collected about the history of Yangon University Boat Club (YUBC) and shared its famous events and activities.
By honouring the hundredth Anniversary of Yangon University, I am convinced that Yangon University might maintain its prestigious status and stand still among the prestigious Universities around the world.
In conclusion, I am so honoured that I have got an opportunity to write about the brief history of Yangon Universities’ Boat Club and its significance sport activities throughout the hundred years ( from 190 to 2020) and present standing with brilliant rowing teams formed by various Universities and colleges in Yangon so far.

References; Dr Kyaw Win (Retired History Department,University of Yangon) ဒေါက်တာကျော်ဝင်း သမိုင်းပါမောက္ခ(ငြိမ်း); ရန်ကုန် တက္ကသိုလ်သမိုင်း (၁၉၂၀-၂၀၂၀)
Reference ; Wikipedia
Credit; Htet Lin Aung
(Secreatry of Yangon Universities’Boat Club ) who contributed the photos of YUBC to this article.

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