Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Postcard Overprint 2: Happy New Year

Rowing by Promenade and Landing Stages, Ipswich Docks, Suffolk, Posted 1907.

Greg Denieffe writes:

This is another example of an ‘overprint’ that usually sold as a standard postcard, the Greeting stamped on the front of the card being ‘To Wish You a Bright and Happy New Year’.

Thanks to an article in the Ipswich Star on 12 December 2006 we can identify the crew featured as that of the Orwell Rowing Club. Its caption for a similar picture reads:

Members of the Orwell Rowing Club in a postcard view from around 1910. They are in New Cut on the River Orwell. The often pungent smell from the River Orwell of that period is overlooked in these charming old photographs.

The photograph can be dated to at least seven years earlier from a B&W version sold on eBay in September 2013 that was posted in 1903.

Rowing at Landing Stages, Ipswich Docks, Suffolk, Posted 1903.

Orwell Works Rowing Club was the rowing club of Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies Ltd  an agricultural machinery factory based in IpswichSuffolk.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Thank you for 2013!

Dear readers of HTBS ~ It’s soon time to close the year 2013. It has been a remarkable year in many ways. Regarding this blog our friend, rowing journalist Bryan Kitch, of the blog Rowing Related and one of the ten contributors to the new eBook The Future of Rowing, had this to say about HTBS: “Hear The Boat Sing do a nice job blogging about rowing history – exposing history in digestible pieces ... This blog breaks it down and focuses on individual anecdotes and is more accessible.”

Thank you Bryan, we here at HTBS could not have said it better ourselves.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you readers for keeping us going. We receive blog ideas from you and some of you even send material that we either post ‘as is’, or we dig a little deeper to post a rowing history piece of length. In the list below, you will find the names of regular contributors to HTBS, but also names of other contributors, or names of those who have sent us old or new rowing photographs to post, or snippets of information during 2013. Some of you also post comments to blog entries. To all and every one of you: THANK YOU!

In no particular order here are contributors who in one way or the other have contributed to HTBS during 2013:

Tim Koch; Greg Denieffe; Philip Kuepper; Hélène Rémond; Louis Petrin; Bill Lanouette; Johan ten Berg; Chris Dodd; Tom Weil; Peter Mallory; Daniel James Brown; Bernard Hempsend; Bryan Kitch; Malcolm Cook; Malcolm Knight; Michiel Jonkman; Ian Marriott; Jack Carlson; Emile Farley; Ann Woolliams; Cesare Sorio; Jerry Gardner; Mike Vespoli; and Barry Currivan. (Our apologises if anyone has been omitted!)

Here are some HTBS statistics since we started in 2009 (as of 29 December 2013):
Blog posts: 1,478
Blog visits: 251,330
Blog views: 740,385
Comments: 519
Followers: 95
Blog posts 2013: 332

Not bad, not bad at all...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dan Boyne Interview and Old Film Clips of the Kellys

Just before Christmas I received an e-mail from Daniel Boyne, author of some famous books on rowing, among them The Red Rose Crew (2005) and Kelly: A Father, A Son, An American Quest. I am proud to say that I played a small part in publishing the latter, and that is why Dan was kind enough to send me an e-mail with a link to a video clip with an ABC interview of Dan just when the book was published the first time in 2008 – watch the interview with him above; it also has some interesting film clips of both Jack Kelly Sr. and Jr. Below find some words that I wrote about the Kelly book on 1 May 2012, when Lyons Press published the book as a paperback:

In 2008, Mystic Seaport published Daniel Boyne’s book Kelly: A Father, A Son, An American Quest, a rowing biography about Jack Kelly, Sr. and Jack Kelly, Jr. As I happened to be involved in the production at that time, yesterday I received an ‘advance copy’ of the book now when it will soon be published in a new edition. The 2012 soft cover (paperback) edition will be published by Lyons Press, which is an imprint of Globe Pequot Press in Connecticut, at a price of $16.95. Lyons Press has earlier published Boyne’s Essential Sculling (2000) and the soft cover edition of The Red Rose Crew (2005).

 Not only is the new edition of Kelly smaller in format and has a lower price than the hard cover edition, of course, some minor corrections have also been made of earlier lapsus calami. Although, I really like the first edition, with its airy design and beautifully reproduced black & white photographs, the Lyons edition sits very nicely in your hand and the illustrations are equally gorgeously reproduced.

This is truly a book for all of you who are interested in rowing on the Schuylkill River, Olympic rowing, and rowing at the Henley Royal just after the Second World War. It is also a book for those of you who are fascinated by Irish-American history in the Philadelphia area, the sometimes estranged relationship between the English and the Irish - and the English and the Americans. Dan Boyne has managed to write a remarkable story about an Irish-American family whose members were all special characters, not only Olympic champions or a princess of Monaco.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Postcard Overprint 1: Merry Christmas!

Drogheda Rowing Club – Boathouse on the river Boyne.

HTBS's Greg Denieffe writes:

Old postcards are a great source of information for rowing historians, especially if they have been posted and can be easily dated. The above postcard, which has be overprinted with ‘A Merry Christmas’ shows the boat house of the now defunct Drogheda Rowing Club, Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland (Est’d 1867) nestled beside the 12 stone-arches of the Boyne Viaduct, on the southern shore of the River Boyne. The club moved to their newly built premised in 1879 which according to Memories from the Boyne, The Story of Drogheda Rowing Club (2000) cost the princely sum of £212. The building was seventy-foot by forty-foot and contained a meeting room and a bathroom!

Unfortunately, this card has not been posted or written on but there are some clues as to its age. It has a divided back (dividing line down the centre to allow for both a message and the address to appear on the same side) which was introduced in January 1902. It also has the postal rate of ½d (half-penny) printed on the back which was the rate for internal postage until June 1918 when it was increased to 1d. Therefore it was printed for a Christmas between 1902 and 1917. I would guess that it is pre-WW1.

The Boyne Viaduct was built of iron between 1853 and 1855. It was refurbished in the 1930s, when new steel girders replacing the ironworks were constructed inside the original bridge before the iron structure was removed.

The Boyne Viaduct (refurbished in the 1930s) as it is today.

Drogheda Rowing Club was host of the ‘Boyne Regatta’ which traditional began the Irish rowing season. The IARU (Irish Amateur Rowing Union) was founded in 1899 and the first regatta held under their rules was held on the Boyne but the first recorded boat races on the Boyne were in 1862.

Here is a short clip showing the finish of a couple of races outside Drogheda Rowing Club in 1921:


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Caption Competition

Enter the HTBS Christmas Caption Competition and win an official Boat Race baseball cap! Just add a caption or speech bubble(s) to the picture above. If it helps, the picture was taken on an Oxford College Barge in 1912. While some of you might find an obvious homoerotic subtext, please keep it clean and politically correct(ish). Thank you and good luck!

Last day to send in your caption/s is the 31st December 2013. Send it to: gbuckhorn – at –

The winner will be announced during the first week in January 2014. Please remember to give us your name and country. If you win, we will contact you for your address.

And the winner is....

Friday, December 20, 2013

The 2013 Oxford - Cambridge Women’s Trial Eights: Races To The Finish

Maintaining form. Anastasia Chitty and OUWBC President Maxie Scheske, Stroke and 7 of Boudicca.

Here is Tim Koch’s report from Oxford and Cambridge Women’s Trial Eights which were rowed yesterday. Tim writes:

A small piece of history was made on Thursday, 19 December, when the Oxford and Cambridge Women’s Trial Eights were held over the full Tideway course for the first time. I was lucky enough to get a place in the press launch on a windless, mild and bright winter’s day with beguine river conditions. My only concern was that I would get bored after the first few minutes of each trial, fearing a five-minute race and a fifteen-minute procession. Be assured that this apprehension was not a result of any archaic ideas about women’s rowing, rather it was based on the fact that long running injustices can take a long time to put right.

In my report on the 2012 Henley Boat Races I referenced a piece written in the event programme by the rowing journalist and historian, Chris Dodd. To quote myself:

The men in (Chris’s) view, ‘struggled for 180 years to make a really good, nail biting contest of it for 4 miles and 374 yards’. He says that, until they received proper funding and professional coaching in the 1980s, the men were not fit enough to race the full distance. The result was a mad scramble to reach Hammersmith Bridge, by which point the winner usually emerged and the loser followed in their puddles in the long row to the finish. Chris says that this has now changed and that the Boat Race ‘has come of age as a superb event’.

‘Proper funding and professional coaching’ came to the Oxford and Cambridge Women last year, giving them two years preparation before they race on the Tideway in 2015. The question is, will this be enough time to produce crews that can make a race of it over the full distance? I am pleased to say that, judging by the four crews at Thursday’s Trials, the answer could well be ‘yes’. The Oxford race was particularly impressive, fought through to the last stroke. I do not envy the coach who has to choose a crew out of these two boats. Former BBC sports reporter Martin Gough @martingough22 said on Twitter:

Key question over Women’s Boat Race answered decisively. Can WBR be a contest over the full course? Both Trials lasted past Chiswick Steps – more than most men’s races until 15 or so years ago.

None of the four coxes who raced today, or the two who raced with the CUBC men the day before, were faultless. The Boat Race, more than any other, is a coxswain’s race and perfection is what is really required.

As I cannot better the excellent race reports published on the official Boat Race website, I am reproducing them verbatim below, interspersed with my photographs.

The Oxford Trial VIIIs

Cleopatra, with the experienced Harriet Keane rowing at 5, won the toss and chose the Surrey station, leaving Middlesex to Boudicca, with Oxford president Maxie Scheske in the 7 seat.

With three-times Boat Race winner Sarah Winckless taking charge in the umpire’s launch, the crews set off in perfect racing conditions, with Cleopatra rating 39 strokes a minute and Boudicca at 38.

Oxford off the start at Putney Pier. Cleopatra left and Boudicca right.

Past the boathouses Boudicca was already looking the more together crew, settling at 36 strokes a minute and leading Cleopatra by half a length. The women in Boudicca used the inside of the Middlesex bend to good advantage, increasing their lead to ¾ length before cox Erin Wysocki-Jones cut off the corner at Craven Cottage, and Cleopatra were able to get back in to the race.

Barn Elms

Cleopatra, on Surrey, began to claw back the deficit, despite underrating the leaders, until they reached Hammersmith Bridge where the crews were level.

Hammersmith Bridge

St Pauls School
Despite steering wide, Boudicca held their ground, and the crews were still level as the race entered the rougher water off the top of Chiswick Eyot. With the race still level at Chiswick Steps, Cleopatra pushed on hard approaching the Crossing where they led by half a length, but Boudicca found a new rhythm and lengthened out their stroke, still at 30, to regain the lead approaching the bandstand.

Chiswick crossing

The Bull at Mortlake

There was a full boat length in Boudicca’s favour at Barnes Bridge where the leaders were able to sit up confidently and increase their lead, eventually crossing the line 3 lengths clear, to win a well-fought race.

 Barnes Bridge

 Approaching Mortlake Brewery

The finish
The Cambridge Trial VIIIs

The first Cambridge women’s crews to trial over the full Boat Race course were Nudge Nudge, coxed by their president, Esther Momcilovic, and Wink Wink, with double Blue Caroline Reid in the 5 seat.

Cambridge off the start. Wink Wink on the left, Nudge Nudge on the right.

Passing Thames RC

Nudge Nudge won the toss and chose the Middlesex station, setting off at 40 strokes a minute against Wink Wink at 41, but it was the Surrey crew who drew ahead past the boathouses, maintaining a high rate at 37 while Nudge Nudge had already settled at 35.

At Barn Elms

Approaching the Mile Post
Rowing in a solid style, Wink Wink increased their lead to 2/3 length at Barn Elms, rating 34 to Nudge Nudge at 32 but the Cambridge President steered a better line than the Oxford crew on Middlesex had done an hour earlier. Now it was Nudge Nudge who looked the more rhythmic crew, and past Harrods the crews were level once again.

Passing Harrods
With both crews rating 33 beneath Hammersmith Bridge Nudge Nudge now pushed on hard and gained half a length around the outside of the bend.

They maintained the same margin to the top of Chiswick Eyot and then made the move that would determine the outcome of the race. Upping the rate a couple of pips they took a further half a length off the opposition in about ten strokes and past the Crossing they led by a full length.

Approaching Chiswick Crossing


Through Barnes Bridge
With both crews at 31 strokes a minute Nudge Nudge gradually extended their lead, but a spirited finish by Wink Wink closed the gap a little as the finish line approached.

Last few strokes
Nudge Nudge were declared the eventual winners by three lengths, rounding off a day of excellent racing which bodes well for The Newton Women’s Boat Race itself in just over three months’ time.

On returning to Putney we found one of the things that they don’t teach you at Cambridge – tides go out and tides come in.

Photographs © Tim Koch

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Four Eights Are Sixteen: The December Boat Race Trials 2013

Members of Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club wait for the men's race by the famous steering point that is the second lamppost out from the Surrey buttress of Hammersmith Bridge.

Tim Koch reports from Cambridge Trials:

Wednesday, 18 December was the date set for the 2013 Oxford - Cambridge Heavyweight Men’s Boat Race Trials held over the full 4 1/4 mile Putney to Mortlake course. These are not contests of Light Blue against Dark, they are intra-university races, Oxford v Oxford and Cambridge v Cambridge, where the last sixteen rowers and last two coxswains from each university battle it out in theoretically matched boats, all eighteen hoping to impress the coach who has to make the final selection. The Tideway Trials are an important learning experience for athletes and coxes, as well as an intense selection test. Unfortunately, this year illness and injury has struck the Oxford camp and they have delayed their Trial VIIIs until the New Year.

Sean Bowden, the Chief Coach of Oxford University Boat Club said in a press release:

In the last week the squad has been hit by a wave of illness that has affected a significant number of rowers.. The problem has been compounded by the fact that the large majority of those unable to row are all on the same side of the boat... (The) coaching staff did not want to take the risk of racing with athletes not in good health. Furthermore, there seemed to be little value in holding the race with a number of substitutes from outside the squad in the boats in what would have been largely scratch and untested crews. Trial VIIIs is an important part of the team’s preparation for The 2014 BNY Mellon Boat Race so this is not a decision made lightly.

Trial VIIIs 2013 - CUBC. Courtesy of The Boat Race Company.

The Cambridge Trials continued as planned however. The squad has only two Old Blues, Mike Thorpe and President Steve Dudek. Both crews were stroked by Americans - Luke Juckett and Henry Hoffstot. They included the first Austrians ever to represent Cambridge, Florian Herbst and the international U23 sculler, Alexander Leichter. The coxswains were first-time triallists, Ian Middleton and 2013 Blondie cox, Arav Gupta.

As I was stationed on Hammersmith Bridge, I did not see the whole race and thus I must quote at length from the report on the official Boat Race website. I have shortened the boats christened Sea Shells and She Sells to 'Sea' and 'She' as it is mentally confusing to use the full names (or is it just me?) Full credit to umpire Richard Phelps for coping with this student joke.

'Sea'... won the toss and chose the Surrey station. That left the early advantage on Middlesex to 'She'... ‘Sea’ went off at 43, a pip higher than the opposition, but it was ‘She’ who eked out a slight advantage past the boathouses and maintained the lead all the way to Barn Elms. As both crews were warned in turn for their steering American stroke Luke Juckett took ‘Sea’ up a notch to take a canvas lead past Harrods.

Hoffstot’s She Sells (left) on Middlesex and Juckett’s Sea Shells (right) on Surrey pass the Harrods Buoy.

Approaching Hammersmith Bridge.

As the Surrey bend now began to work in the their favour ‘Sea’... increased their lead to two thirds of a length but the crews now began to feel the full force of the stiff south-westerly breeze. ‘She’ on Middlesex seemed to cope better with the rougher conditions while Dudek’s crew lost a little of their rhythm. But they recovered past Chiswick Steps, and were drawing level once again, when Ian Middleton, the ‘Sea’ cox, unfortunately failed to spot the obstacle in his path until it was too late, and the marker buoy hit the stroke side riggers of his crew, who immediately lost half a length.

Approaching Barnes Bridge ‘She’ were able to cross into their opponents water and take the rate down to 29 while the losing crew maintained their rate at 31. Both crews upped the rate approaching the finish but ‘She’ now had a comfortable lead, crossing the line to win by just over 3 1/2 lengths.

“Both crews have different strengths and weaknesses and we focused a lot on developing the strengths”, said Cambridge chief coach Steve Trapmore afterwards.

“I was pleased with the way the race went”, said umpire Richard Phelps, who will take charge of his first Boat Race next year. “Both crews responded quickly to my warnings, but we were off the race line at one or two points so there’s still some work to be done there.”

The victorious She Sells comes ashore ahead of the losing Sea Shells.

In support of Phelps’s comments on the racing line, from my viewpoint on Hammersmith Bridge, I thought that both coxes went wide passing Harrods - though She Sells cox, Arav Gupta, corrected his mistake first. In semi-defence of Sea Shells cox Ian Middleton who hit what I presume to be the Surrey crossing buoy at Chiswick, this has moved out of position since the storms at the end of October. However, I imagine that Middleton has passed by it many times since then and a Boat Race cox cannot afford to make a mistake even a fraction of this severity.

The winning time was 18 minutes 38 seconds. Even if Oxford had raced, comparing the times of different races held on a tidal river is fairly meaningless. However, in the Head of the River Fours held over the same course nearly three weeks earlier, the top Cambridge boat consisting of trialists Helge Gruetjen, Steve Dudek, Mike Thorpe, Henry Hoffstot and cox Ian Middleton came second to the top Oxford Four of Malcolm Howard, Constantine Louloudis, Karl Hudspith, Michael di Santo and cox Laurence Harvey. The only consolation for the ‘Tabs was that they beat an impressive Leander Four into third place.

'Hear The Boat Sing' always looks for the historical aspect of any contemporary rowing event. While I gave a brief historical perspective in my report on the 2012 Trials I can now add an interesting footnote. I was recently researching the 1923 Boat Race for a forthcoming piece when I came across an article in the Sphere magazine of 17 March 1923, subtitled ‘The Fathers of the Boat Race’. It chronicled what were then the two oldest surviving veterans of the race. The Rev. Cannon Richard Martin, then 89, and the Rev. John Arkell, then 87, rowed at ‘3’ and ‘4’ respectively in the Oxford Crew of 1857.

Richard Martin, Oxford ‘4’ in 1857.

John Arkwell, Oxford ‘3’ in 1857, ‘2’ in 1858 and ‘Stroke’ in 1859.

Arkell, who died not long after the Sphere report, had the more distinguished rowing career of the two. After winning in 1857, he rowed again in 1858 and lost, but won at Stroke in 1859. Also in 1859, Arkell won the Silver Goblets at Henley with the famous oarsman and coach, Edmund Warre, beating AA Casamajor and James Paine. The Sphere records our particular interest in John Arkell thus:

Mr. Arkell has... a great claim to special honour by the rowing fraternity of the two Universities. It was he who became one of the originators and founders of what are today known as ‘The Trial Eights’ which are races made up of two of the best eights the ‘Varsity can produce about Christmas each year... It was in the vetera’s own room at Pembroke, Oxford, whilst he was President of the ‘Varsity Boat Club, that the rules and regulations for these eights were drawn up by four or five celebrated oarsmen.

Returning to the present day, although the Heavyweight Women will not race on the Tideway until 2015, their Trial Eights will run over the Putney to Mortlake course on Thursday, 19 December. Unlike the men, the Oxford women will be racing - they are obviously made of stronger stuff. HTBS will also be there.

The end of a long day.

What we are supposed to call the ‘BNY Mellon Boat Race’ is on Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 6.00pm. The equally inelegantly named ‘Newton Women’s Boat Race’ is at Henley on Sunday, 30 March 2014 at 3.00pm.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Don't Miss Girl on the River's Santa List!

In case you have missed it, Patricia Carswell, blogging under the name 'Girl on the River', has just posted a hilariously good version of What-I-Want-For-Christmas-Santa-List video on her blog. Enjoy it by clicking here. I hope all her wishes come true....

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lassi Karonen Quits

No Rio for Swede Lassi Karonen.

News media in Sweden announced today that 37-year-old sculling star Lassi Karonen will hang up his sculls and not try to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. In an interview for a Swedish sport radio programme, Karonen said that he has no motivation to get back to rowing on an elite level.

Karonen was only half a second behind Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell in the London Games last year. After the 2012 Games, Karonen took a break from elite rowing, but said he would come back to qualify for the Games in Rio.

'I have tried to get back training this autumn to aim for the next Olympic Games, but it has not worked out the way I wanted. It has been too hard and my motivation has disappeared, so I have decided to do something else instead', Lassi Karonen said.

At the 2008 Beijing Games, Karonen took a sixth place in the single sculls and in 2010, he took a silver medal in the single at the European Championships.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mike Sweeney will Retire as Chairman of HRR

Mike Sweeney, chairman of Henley Royal Regatta. Photo: Tim Koch.

Mike Sweeney, chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, announced the other day that he will step down as chairman of the regatta after next year’s regatta, which will be the 175th event. He will remain a steward, though. It was also announced that Sir Steve Redgrave was elected vice-chairman of next summer’s regatta. Elected new stewards of the regatta were Olympic champions Mark Hunter and Tom James. Fiona Dennis, who is an international umpire and among other regattas umpired at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, was also elected a steward.

Who is then going to be the new chairman of the regatta when Sweeney retires? In a tweet, Sir Matthew Pinsent, also a steward of Henley Royal Regatta, said that the answer will be found in the key words ‘Sir Steve Redgrave’ and ‘vice-chairman’. So now we all know! Read more in an article published in the local newspaper, the Henley Standard.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Allen Rosenberg Dies

One of America's most remarkable figures in the sport of rowing has passed away which has been noticed in the U.S. rowing community and the U.S. media. Allen Rosenberg, coxswain, coach and training innovator, was born on 29 November 1931 and died on 7 December 2013. Above is a short interview by Mike Davenport which was posted on YouTube three years ago. In yesterday's New York Times Bruce Weber published a well-written obituary, read it here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blue Movies

Moving pictures come to the Boat Race.

Tim Koch writes:

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of more than two and a half million feature films, shorts, documentaries, television programmes and video games and is one of the fifty most visited websites. Its content includes films made in the earliest days of the cinema. I recently accessed it when trying to date a film of the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race on that favourite of HTBS, the wonderful British Pathe website.


(Click on the picture above to get to the film.)

It is unhelpfully entitled, Boat Race 1910-1920. While Pathe provides a wonderful resource, they sometimes produce inaccurate descriptions and dates for their films. This is excusable as it would be unreasonable to expect them to consult experts on the thousands of subjects that they cover. Further, the films were originally produced with no thought of going into an archive, they were for immediate consumption, labelling and cataloguing were probably not a high priority. Over the years what labels there were may have fallen off and film splices could have come unstuck. Thus when it was decided to put the collection of 90,000 films online, the starting point was often an unmarked rusty film can containing a jumble of film clips.

When I put ‘Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race’ into the IMDb search facility it listed eleven races that were filmed before the 1914-1918 War. They covered the years 1895, 1897 to 1905 and 1908. Most of these listings contained very little information but what there was is of great interest. For the 1895 film, Michael Brooke wrote:

Although the content of this film is primitive in the extreme – a shot of the traditional Oxford versus Cambridge University Boat Race, filmed on March 30 1895 –  this film is of immense historical importance as being the first ever British film.

The Oxford Crew, 1895.

The producers are listed as Robert W Paul and Birt Acres, both important pioneers in the development of cine cameras and film projectors and, arguably, founders of the British film industry. According to the website

(In 1895 Paul and Acres) entered into partnership with a ten year business agreement. This agreement lasted only six weeks before the two split. During their brief partnership, the two shot films of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in April and the Derby in May.

Sadly, the Boat Race film, if it survives at all, is not online. However, the film of the Derby horse race is on YouTube and probably gives some idea of what the Oxford-Cambridge film may have looked like i.e. a brief static shot where the action passes through the frame. This 1899 film taken at Henley also gives an idea of how early productions looked.

The Cambridge Crew, 1895.

Film of the 1898 Boat Race can be viewed in the Rowing Gallery at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.

Returning to the above Pathe film entitled Boat Race 1910-1920 it was now clear that, as I suspected, it could easily be from the early years of the last century. I doubted that it was one of the very earliest as there is much evidence that it was a sophisticated and expensive attempt at film making which did not rely simply on the novelty of ‘moving pictures’.

What was this evidence? The first thing that struck me was the long running time of the surviving film – nearly ten minutes (the earliest productions could be less than a minute). Possibly more film was shot and has been lost.

The second notable thing is that it was shot over more than one day. I think that the first two and a half minutes cover one or more practice days. We see Oxford coming out of London Rowing Club and Cambridge coming out of Leander’s Putney boathouse and the sightseers are allowed to wander around at will.

When we come to Boat Race Day itself, starting at 2 minutes 30 seconds in, the large crowds are now held well back and the ‘Putney Hard’ is kept clear for the crews to boat. Between 3m and 3m 30sec we get some nice views of the many cameramen taking still and moving pictures, the later with hand cranked cameras.

Between 5m 05sec and 6m 40sec we have the best evidence of all that this film had what would later be called ‘high production values’. It is an unfortunately failed attempt to capture the boats going past in slow motion. For some reason the shot of the two eights was missed and we mostly get images of slow moving water. From 6m 15sec we catch the stern of an eight going out of the frame followed by the umpire’s launch.

We have a five second shot of some point in the first minute of the race at 6m 40 sec as the crews pass the Fulham Wall. Unfortunately, the film is out of sequence. This shot should have been preceded by the shots between 7m and 7m 50sec. These show the crews below Putney Bridge before they turn to go onto the start and then capture the boats getting onto the start.

While the middle of the race was not covered, there is evidence that a remarkable three cameras filmed the finish. At 6m 45sec we have a medium shot (taken from the roof of the Ship pub?) of the crews approaching the finish. At 6m 49sec this cuts to a close up from another camera position which shows the boats crossing the line. After the out of sequence shots mentioned above, from 7m 53sec, we see the last one and a half minutes of the race again, but this time with a very wide shot, perhaps taken from the brewery.

The finish.

The finish also provides us with the best clue to the actual year. Oxford win by less than a length. The records show that, between 1895 and 1939, the Dark Blues won by one length or less in 1896 (1/2 length), 1901 (2/5 length), 1913 (3/4 length), 1923 (3/4 length), and 1937 (1/4 length). I suspected that 1901 and 1913 were the most likely candidates and set to identifying some of the participants. I managed to produce recognisable shots for the Oxford cox, bow and ‘7’ and for the Cambridge stroke. As the pictures below show, they seem to match the crews for 1901.

Pathe film showing the Oxford bowman.
FOJ Huntley, Oxford bow, 1901.

Pathe film of the Oxford cox.

GS Maclagan, Oxford cox, 1901.

Pathe’s Oxford No 7.

TB Etherigton-Smith, Oxford ‘7’, 1901.

Pathe film of the Cambridge stroke.

GM Maitland, Cambridge stroke, 1901.

The 1901 race turned out to be an unusually exciting and strategically rowed one and was covered in detail by Rudie Lehmann in his book, The Complete Oarsman:

When..... Cambridge had won the toss and had.... chosen Surrey, there were very few who were prepared to back the chance of Oxford under the weather conditions that prevailed. Oxford, however, were confident in their pace and their endurance, and they had mapped out a careful plan of campaign beforehand.

The Oxford Crew, 1901. Standing left to right: FOJ Huntley, A de L Long, J Younger, HC de J Du Vallon. Seated: RH Culme-Seymour, HJ Hale, GS Maclagan, FW Warre, TB Etherington-Smith.

If, as was probable they failed to gain a sufficient lead at Harrod’s to enable them to take the Surrey water ahead of Cambridge, they proposed to drop astern of the leaders, and to content themselves with rowing in this position under the shelter of the Surrey bank, until the water once more made it possible for them to come out and challenge for the lead.

The Cambridge Crew, 1901. Standing, left to right: G Parker, CWH Taylor, RH Nelson. Seated: HB Grylls, EF Duncanson, EAOA Jamieson, BWD Brooke, GM Maitland, B C Cox.

The crews started at a high rate, Cambridge however, rowing a point or two faster than Oxford...... they went through Hammersmith Bridge with a considerable lead. A furious storm was raging as the crews opened out into Comey Reach. Cambridge were rowing well under the shelter of the bank, and Oxford, in obedience to instructions, had come over, and were rowing in a direct line behind, with about half a length of clear water separating them from the leaders. It was apparent here that Oxford had the greater pace; more than once they drew up to Cambridge, but the coxswain gave the word to paddle, and they once more dropped back.

To those who realised what was going on, it was one of the most curious and interesting spectacles ever seen on the Putney to Mortlake course. So the crews proceeded till they came to the broad reach that leads on to Barnes.

The 1901 Boat Race approaches Barnes Bridge.

The water here became smoother........ (Oxford stroke) Culme-Seymour shook his crew together..... They were now rowing with great vigour, and they steadily gained...... and as they passed under Barnes Bridge the bowmen in the Oxford crew were once more cheered by the sight of their rivals.
From this point Oxford had the better conditions; the bend of the course was in their favour, and they were moving faster, stroke for stroke, than Cambridge.... rowing with extraordinary dash and vigour, they drew level with Cambridge at the Bull’s Head, and finally won the race by two-fifths of a length.

The 1901 Boat Race nears the finish.

Some of the participants in this great race are worth commenting on further.

The Oxford stroke, RH Culme-Seymour.

Sadly, the brilliant Oxford stroke, Reginald Hobart Culme-Seymour was dead within seven months of his great victory. Stroke of the Eton Second Eight, he got his Blue in his first year at Oxford sitting at ‘2’ in the 1900 Boat Race. He stroked New College to victory in the Torpids Head of the River and also in the Ladies’ Plate at Henley. In his Times obituary it was reported that ‘he had been suffering from the effects of a chill contracted in August which afterwards developed into pleurisy while he was shooting in Scotland’.

The Cambridge stroke, Graham Macdowall Maitland was a victim of the Great War. Commissioned into the Irish Guards, he was mentioned in despatches and was killed at the First Battle of Ypres in November 1914.

The Oxford cox, Gilchrist Stanley Maclagan, steered the Dark Blues for four years from 1899 to 1902. This would be impressive enough on its own but he also took Magdalen College to Head of the River in 1900 and coxed Leander in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley from 1899 to 1908, winning six times – a record. He was also the cox for the Leander ‘Old Crocks’ that won the Olympic Eights in 1908. He was Secretary of the Amateur Rowing Association at the outbreak of the First World War when he joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was killed in the first gas attack of the war during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.

On a lighter note, the Cambridge ‘3’ man, Bertram Willes Dayrell Brooke, was remarkable for that fact that his family had their own country and that he carried the title His Highness The Tuan Muda of Sarawak. According to Wikipedia, the White Rajahs of Sarawak

....were a dynastic monarchy of the English Brooke family, who founded and ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, from 1841 to 1946. The first ruler was Englishman James Brooke. As a reward for helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous peoples, he was granted the landmass of Sarawak in 1841 and received independent kingdom status.

Almost as good as winning a Blue.