It is a fact that the two men who fathered the idea of the Club, and the other 16 men who made up the foundation membership, never envisaged that a sports-oriented luncheon club would develop as it did.
In mid -1961, Rig Davies and Frank Williams, two executive members of Melbourne's Sportsmen's Association, after attending an 'Unbearables' luncheon at Molinas Restaurant in Bourke Street, felt it would be a good idea to form a small luncheon club but without the ribaldry of the luncheon they had just left.
At their informal sportsmen's luncheon on the following Friday at the Hotel Australia (then in Collins Street), Rig listed eight names associated with him in his capacity as an executive of an advertising agency. Frank provided a similar list connected with him in sport and business, all of whom they felt would participate. In fact, they did.
The next question was what the proposed club should be called.
Rig had just completed with Maurie Cavanough a lengthy co-authorship of the 'Centenary of the Melbourne Cup' and understandably, the names of the Cup winners were foremost in his mind, Frank and Rig agreed that as Carbine was arguably the best Cup winner, matching the qualities they had for the Club, The Carbine Club was the name. Further, Carbine did not appear to be strictly horse-racing.
In subsequent discussion on the format of Club functions, one of the invited persons, Trevor Craddock, suggested that instead of having guest speakers the Club should have Guests of Honour who would not be put to the trouble of preparing speeches, but instead would simply answer questions from members and guests. This would be on the basis that everything said was 'in club'. This was accepted as was his further suggestion that by restricting membership to 30 members over time it could become a much sought after membership. Also, it would be more intimate and easier to manage.
Exceptions subsequently were made to the answering of questions for the Derby Eve/Cup and Grand Final Football Luncheons and, in 1966, the membership ceiling was lifted to 40.
Rig Davies was anxious that the first luncheon Guest of Honour should set a high standard. Thus, Ross Grey-Smith, deputy Chairman of the V.R.C with whom he had dealings as advertising agent, was invited to break the ice. Grey-Smith, later Sir Ross, at first somewhat diffident subsequently agreed. Whether this was after Harry Hopman had talked the new Governor, Sir Rohan Delacombe into accepting Honorary Membership or not, is not clear.
Sir Rohan, as a matter of interest, had taken up his appointment from the position of Commandant of the British Sector of the Four-Power administration of Berlin post-war and where one of his duties each month was to personally visit Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, serving life in Spandau Prison in Berlin.
Before any membership meeting, in true democratic fashion, Rig had elected Frank as President and Frank made Rig the inaugural Honorary Secretary. However, Frank delegated Chairmanship of the first luncheon to Rig. And so it was that for the first two years, the Chairmanship of luncheons was shared among members.
The succession of extraordinary occasions relative to Club luncheons began almost immediately when, in April 1962, the Guest of Honour was Ron Flockhart, known as the 'Flying Scotsman' and one of the leading racing car drivers in the world. Ron spoke most entertainingly at our luncheon on the Friday before beginning a lifelong ambition to attempt the Melbourne-UK record in a restored Mustang fighter plane. On the following Monday, Ron set off in his attempt to break the 36-hour record for the 12,000 mile flight, and less than 30 minutes after leaving Melbourne crashed into the Dandenong Ranges northeast of the City and was killed.
Not so long after, several of the members put their own not-so-young lives at risk, when they agreed to participate in a walking race from Geelong to Port Lonsdale to raise money for popular bookmaker/member Leo Kennedy's favourite charity.
Rig Davies, a one-time walker, fancied himself and gave the others a big start. Frank Williams trained hard for several months and appropriately won the walk, while Harry Hopman, Colin McDonald and Laurie Smith suffered the blistering agony of such an experience tempered only by a post-race barbecue and convivial ale.
In November 1962, doubly intent on maintaining the high standard, Australian Test opener Colin McDonald prevailed upon the leader of the visiting English cricket team, the Duke of Norfolk, premier Duke of England, to be our Guest of Honour. His Grace was magnificent.
The next historic event was the inaugural Derby Eve luncheon in November 1963. Davies with his upper class English background perceived that the Victoria Derby, as in England, was the most prestigious of racing occasions. It was entirely appropriate; therefore, that The Carbine Club should honour it with a luncheon of Vice-Regal dimensions. The Governor agreed and once this became known at the VRC, the V.R.C Committee gave unanimous approval. And so a tradition was born.
The Toast to the Visitors was proposed by Leigh Clark and responded to by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir Maurice Nathan. The Toast to Racing was proposed by Eugene Gorman, Q.C, a committeeman of the V.R.C and renowned as an after dinner speaker. The response was from Ross Grey-Smith. A presentation was made to Geoff Lane, the rider of the previous (1962) Derby winner (Coppelius) by the incoming President of the Club, Reg Talbot, later to become Lord Mayor of Melbourne.
While it took time, in 1996, the Scobie Breasley Medal for riding excellence was introduced and the winner acknowledged at the Derby Eve Luncheon in similar manner to the Brownlow Medal winner at the AFL Grand Final Luncheon.
A number of our early Guests of Honour subsequently became members including Herb Elliott, Jock Sturrock, Ron Barassi and John Benton. At this stage, there were no elections, simply invitations to join.
The first of the Grand Final football luncheons was held in 1964. In 1987, the Club introduced a VFL/AFL Living Legends Honour Roll - the first admitted were Bob Pratt and Jack Regan. The Living Legends introduced each year have now become a feature of each Grand Final Luncheon.
Cricket luncheons to celebrate visiting English teams and returning Australian teams commenced in 1964, as with our first Athletics Guest of Honour, Herb Elliott, and Yachting Guest of Honour, Jock Sturrock.
Member and five times British Open winner Peter Thomson started our golf luncheons in 1965 and Peter continued to host our golfing guests who have included all the greats as we moved our venue to Australian Masters Eve at Melbourne's Huntingdale course.
Lord Mayors of Melbourne were regulars as Guests of Honour, along with many sporting greats including Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, who flew over from New Zealand and Ed Clark, the flamboyant Texan American Ambassador, who flew back from the U.S to our luncheon in his private jet.
It was apparent in the mid 1960's that the Club had outgrown its casual lunch-club origins, and it was necessary to have a re-think.
The upshot was a Constitution, lifting the membership ceiling of 30, and allowing members to nominate and elect new members rather than the General Committee. Solicitors, Ted Carroll, who was the Honorary Secretary, and Francis Williams, Vice President, produced a draft Constitution. This was adopted at the Annual General Meeting, held at the South Yarra Club on the evening of the 21st March 1966. It provided for 40 Ordinary Members, bearing in mind that the original limit of 30 had been exceeded, and there was no trouble in filling the half dozen vacancies that night. The Constitution has served the Club magnificently since that night.
Its only significant amendment came in 1983 when several members who had reached the age of 70 felt that they were holding up the entry of younger members. An amendment was passed whereby members on reaching the age of 70 (subsequently reduced to 65), could become Honorary (later altered to Senior) members, with reduced privileges and obligations and allowed to be surplus to the statutory limit of 40.
In 1968, the Club decided to raise funds to pay for the cost of one of our athletes to attend the Olympic Games, and this has been repeated for each subsequent Olympic Games.
The '1970's followed the pattern of Guests of Honour that had been set in the 1960's with the highlight possibly being the appearance of Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies in 1971, and in 1976 during the memorable Centenary Test Cricket match where 33 all-time English and Australian greats attended. All answered a question.
Similarly memorable was the 1979 Derby Eve luncheon where the Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowen, proposed the Toast and His Highness, Prince Karim the Aga Khan, responded.
Also in 1973, the V.R.C kindly agreed to a suggestion of Frank and Francis Williams that a race on Derby Day be named the 'Carbine Club' Stakes. Several years later, the trophy became a ceramic statue of 'Carbine' arranged by the Carbine Club of New Zealand and manufactured for them by Crown Lynn Potteries. The race continues under the generous sponsorship of Inglis, Australia's premier bloodstock agency.
The Club started the 1980's on a high note with a winning double at the Derby Eve Luncheon when by now 400 guests heard Sir James Killen and Bob Hawke, later Prime Minister, deliver outstanding toasts.
In April 1981, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and a former schoolboy at Geelong Grammar School outside Melbourne, returned as speaker answering questions and completely disarming a huge audience. In 1983, the Lord Killanin, former president of the International Olympic Committee, proposed the Toast to Racing.
In a lighter vein, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Peter Thomson supported by other well-known golfers were Guests of Honour at luncheons held to coincide at that time with the Victorian Open Golf Tournaments.
The Club celebrated its coming of age in July 1982 with a Black Tie Dinner when 11 of the 18 foundation members attended including the co-founder and first secretary Meurig ("Rig") Davies who journeyed from Wales.
It is an honour for our members to have the Governor of Victoria as our traditional patron. The present Governor, The Hon Linda Dessau AC, is our current Patron and staunch supporter.
From Day One, the Club prides itself on the high calibre of speakers at its major luncheons and this has continued through recent years with the Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard and Sir James Gobbo speaking at our Grand Final Luncheons. Overseas racing personalities have been guest speakers at our Derby Eve Luncheon, which continues to maintain its high standard. These have included Christopher Poole (U.K), Cahir O'Sullivan (Ire), Michael Tibbatts (HK), Tristram Ricketts (UK) and Dermott Weld (Ire).
Since its formation originally as a men's luncheon Club, sister Carbine Clubs have been established in the following order:
1971 - New Zealand
1977 - New South Wales
1981 - Queensland
1982 - Tasmania
1983 - South Australia
1988 - Western Australia
1989 - Australian Capital Territory
1990 - Papua New Guinea & Northern Territory
1991 - Hong Kong
1996 - South Africa
1997 - London
2002 - Dubai
2010 - Singapore
2012 - Vanuatu
2018 - Tokyo
1997 saw the introduction of the Carbine Club Sports Grant ($2,500) applied for the Betterment of Sport and Sport Participation. The inaugural grant was made to Garth Tander in recognition of his effort in winning the 1997 Ford Motorsport Slick 50 Australian Formula Ford Championship and more importantly his plan to visit England to compete in the 1997 Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. The Grant was made to Garth to help with expenses in travelling and whilst in England.
The "1998/99" Grant ($2,500) was made to Dean Hecker (22) in recognition of his achievement in being selected to compete in the World Winter Games for the Deaf held in Davos, Switzerland in March 1999. The Grant was made to assist Dean with travelling and living expenses in his quest to achieve success as the first Australian to compete in the snow-boarding event.
The Club maintains an active Donations policy, with an annual target of $100,000. Principal recipients are the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport) and DSR (Disabled Sport and Recreation), with funding applied to The Carbine Club sponsored Emerging Athletes Program (VIS) and The Annual Awards and Team support (DSR).
1992 saw the first Carbine Club International Congress held on the Gold Coast where delegates met to discuss a broad range of subjects of mutual interest. An excellent social programme was included during which many friendships were developed. Following the huge success of the inaugural Congress, subsequent congresses have been hosted by successive Clubs in rotation. The next Congress will be hosted by CC Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, in 2018.
CARBINE carried 10.st. 51bs (65.5kgs) in winning the 1890 Melbourne Cup by 21/2 lengths from Highborn and Correze in a field of 38, his 11th consecutive victory that season. "Old Jack" to adoring Australasian race goers, Carbine raced and won over distances from seven furlongs to three miles. When he retired after five years on the racetrack he had a record of 33 wins, six seconds and three thirds in 43 starts, unplaced only once. This was despite a cracked heel requiring constant treatment. A sleek, bay stallion with fine features and a classic appearance, Carbine stood around 16 hands. He had a thin white blaze down his nose and a single white foot. Foaled in New Zealand in 1885 out of Mersey by Musket, he was shipped to Australia in 1887. He stood at stud first in Victoria at Lerderderg, and then at Welbeck Abbey in England, having been farewelled from Melbourne by 2000 tearful fans on Good Friday, 1895. His most famous progeny were Wallace (named after his owner) and 1906 English Derby winner Spearmint.