HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I am afraid I don’t know the answer to her question. Is there anyone out there who is able to help Annie with her question? I think it might interest the rest of the readers of HTBS, too.
I made a mental note when I read your posts about Frans Bengtsson to look out for a copy of The Long Ships. Sounds a good read, I thought. Just now, I went up to the top floor of Partridge Towers to look out a Hornblower book knew my son had up there, and lo and behold I found a copy of The Long Ships there. None of my family has a clue how it got here. I am looking forward to reading it, even though the cover has an even worse historical atrocity than the helmet wings on the new edition. Not only does the Viking warrior in the picture look as though he is asleep, he is wearing a helmet with cow horns. [See picture on the left.]
Cow horns have been comprehensively rubbished lately, even in the popular TV panel game QI. According to a transcript produced by a QI obsessive, Stephen Fry said: “Viking helmets didn’t have horns. It’s thought that they were actually little more than leather skullcaps, or nothing. The idea of horned helmets comes from various pre-Christian Celtic artefacts and depictions: wrong people and wrong era. The modern association with Vikings dates from a Swedish book illustrator named Gustav Malmström in the 1820s and from productions of Wagner’s Ring in the 1870s (not that the Ring is about Vikings), into which it was introduced by Carl Emil Doepler, the designer of that show. Furthermore, the horned helmets were a development of an earlier 19th century romantic notion: the winged helmet. Horns muscled wings out until they were revived by the Thor and Asterix comics.”
Mind you, that didn’t stop a crew from my club, Langstone Cutters, rowing the Great River Race in plastic cow horn helmets.
And so Chris ends his thoughts about awful book covers of the Bengtsson novel. I can only agree. There are some terribly ugly ones with historical blunders like horns and wings on the Vikings’ helmets. Why can’t the illustrators do a little research before they start putting their pen to paper? I believe some of their helmets were made of iron to protect them from sword blows, etc.
Besides the cover of Chris’s edition seen above, the first paperback edition from 1957, published by the New American Library, also has a dreadful cover, seen at the very top of this entry. But, of course, the important thing is what Frans G Bengtsson’s The Long Ships has to offer as a historical novel, not the different covers. I am delighted to hear that Chris found a copy of The Long Ships, and I am certain that he will enjoy the book; I am yet to find a reader of the book who did not like it!
Some years back I was subscribing to and writing book reviews and small pieces for the beautiful magazine Maritime Life and Traditions. I was sad when it went down the pipes in 2006. Somehow the National Maritime Historical Society’s magazine Sea History started to come instead, I guess as compensation, but when they wanted me to subscribe to it, I politely declined. To me, Sea History, although a nice publication, never came close to what Maritime Life and Traditions used to be, a first-class publication with well-written articles and wonderful illustrations in colour. On Friday, the latest issue of Sea History, No. 133, Winter 2010-11, showed up in the mail box. With the magazine came a letter asking me to ‘come back’ as a subscriber.
Then follows a list with descriptions of valuable rowing links (many you will find under my ‘Good Rowing Links’ on the right). Allow me to here quote McCracken: River & Rowing Museum; Fishmongers’ Company (which organise The Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race); Rowing History (The Friends of Rowing History); the National Rowing Foundation; Row2K; Henley Royal Regatta; The Boat Race; Head of the Charles; Pocock Racing Shells; Northwest Maritime Center; USRowing; Rowing Canada; British Rowing; 2012 London Olympic Rowing; and FISA World Rowing. Two rowing blogs are also mentioned in the article: Chris Partridge’s Rowing for Pleasure and HTBS (the blog you are on right now.)
Peter McCracken is happy to welcome other suggestions, please e-mail him at email@example.com
Thank you, Tim, for keeping the HTBS readers updated!
In August 2008, Hammersmith and Fulham Council invited representatives of local sports clubs to drinks at the Town Hall to celebrate the achievements of local athletes at the Beijing Olympics. Two Olympic rowers brought their new bronze medals, a fencer who hopes to compete at London 2012 was introduced to the audience, as was a member of the Sydney 2000 gold-medal rowing eight, resplendent in his Great Britain blazer.
The coach of Furnivall Sculling Club was part of the crowd, lurking in a corner, wearing a lounge suit, chatting to friends. Andy Holmes – the most decorated Olympian in the room, with two gold medals and a bronze too – wouldn’t have minded not being introduced, and probably didn’t expect to be. However, as his former pairs’ partner Sir Steve Redgrave pointed out during a recent BBC television tribute, Holmes was one of those responsible for the situation British rowing finds itself in today: one of the country’s most successful - and consequently best funded - Olympic sports.
As Martin Cross, a third member of their coxed four – which won Britain’s first rowing gold for 46 years at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 – said on Saturday: “His dedication and hard work ethic, along with the belief that he, and other British rowers, could beat the seemingly-invincible East German crews and one day dominate their discipline, is part of the legacy that he has left.”
Cross was speaking at a memorial for Holmes, who died last month aged 51, at his alma mater, Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith. The school’s main hall was packed and the atmosphere celebratory for the life of a man whose energy enthused others, but occasionally cracked with emotion, with his absence keenly felt. Family members, including his mother and two brothers, spoke of his love of fun, and habit of getting into scrapes.
Holmes’ first wife, Pam, read a poem about their 20 years together – from their first meeting at a disco, being chauffeured around in his black Cadillac, the birth of their four children and his “mid-life crisis”, when they split up in 1999. Members of the Latymer 1st VIII of 1978, the junior national champions whose recent reunion, with Holmes back in the five seat, saw a group of 50-year-olds beat their current counterparts – one of the strongest school crews in the country – recalled his inspiring influence on their group on the water, and his anarchic side of it.
Those present had no doubt that it was Holmes, rather than actor Hugh Grant, who was the more prestigious graduate of their school in 1978.
Cross spoke of the ruthless drive and dedication that saw Holmes – in the days before central funding and plentiful sponsorship – work on a building site, carrying huge hods of bricks to improve his endurance, in the hours between his morning and evening training sessions.
Richard Phelps, himself a Latymer old boy who made the Great Britain squad, spoke of his awe and fear when Holmes asked to join him in a pair on training camp. “Andy was the hard man of British rowing. He did not sit behind Steve Redgrave, he drove Steve Redgrave,” he said.
Now a teacher, journalist and TV commentator, Cross also read the transcript of an interview he held with Holmes about his “lost years” – the period between leaving rowing in 1989 and resurfacing, thanks to the entreaties of a school friend, as a coach three years ago.
Holmes was setting up a removals business in south London but threw himself into his second passion, drumming, with the same dedication he had once put into rowing – two hours in the morning on the legs, an hour in the afternoon on the fingers. Holmes was no friend of authority. A job as ambassador with the French Rowing Federation ended shortly after he undermined coaches by giving an unregarded duo a training programme that saw them beat the rest of the squad.
He refused to brag about his Olympic success. A cousin was disappointed when Holmes forgot to bring his gold medal to a dinner he had organised, but both were pleasantly surprised when the oarsman discovered the medal in his suit pocket. When Holmes retired, the trophies and medals were consigned to a suitcase in the attic, and daughter Amy only found out about her father’s past life when she saw him featured in a book at school.
The family, including Holmes’ second wife Gabrielle, have attempted to record many of the tributes that have been received over the last weeks, in part to show to his daughter Parker, who was four weeks old when her father died.
Cross said: “One day Parker is going to ask about her Dad and she is going to have the same journey of discovery that Amy did and learn about what a remarkable Dad she had.”
Many, many thanks to Martin Gough for his nice contribution!
If you are a pleasure rower who is doing this sport for fun, as a recreational activity, rarely will you find an article in Rowing News helping you with your little endevour. But maybe the magazine knows that those women and men are not subscribing to their magazine anyway? Being the best (coming second never counts), I guess, this is the mind set of doing sports in the U.S., and for rowing, the way the governing body in this country, US Rowing, has its focus. Why, for example, has USRowing not launched a campaign like British Rowing’s successful Explore Rowing? Here you can find where can you learn how to row and scull, which waterway routes you and your friends should take to see the scenic views, which clubs will lend you boats, etc.
The competitive tradition in the U.S. is very strong; if you are doing it anyway, why not do it for winning gold by pushing yourself to the extreme limit? Or so the way of thinking goes it seems.
I am not saying that I did not enjoy Rowing News December issue, I actually did. Peter Van Allen’s article “The Right Fit” tells me a way to get my children to the right colleges so they can row, on any level. Topher Bordeau has a very unscientific article about why hard-pulling rowers produce more female offspring (they do?). Of course, Andy Anderson, a.k.a Doctor Rowing (seen on the left), has yet to write an uninteresting, boring piece. In this issue he straightens out the question what kind of rowers are sitting in the eight’s different positions, starting with the Stroke and down to Bow.
Here is a little of what Anderson writes about the position I mostly had during my short but lively racing career, Bow “is the artist, the stylist, the best dressed […] And how can it be that [he] is always so articulate, even after an intense session of speedwork?” And of course the question comes: “Could it be that [he] doesn’t ever really pull?”
Of course, I did, or so I would like to remember it. And to be honest, me rowing at bow was many years and many kilos ago...
The sudden death of Andy Holmes on 24 October sent shock waves round the rowing world, not least at Karapiro in New Zealand where the world championships were in full swing. Holmes was Sir Steve Redgrave’s first Olympic partner and he played a pivotal role in the revival of Britain’s international rowing fortunes in the 1980s.
Holmes and Redgrave raced with Martin Cross and Richard Budgett in the coxed four that put British rowing back on the Olympic gold standard at LA in 1984. In 1986 Holmes and Redgrave won two Commonwealth golds and the world title in coxed pairs, and in 1988 they went on to win gold and bronze respectively in the coxless and coxed pairs at the Seoul Olympics. Before they arrived in Korea, however, their relationship had been branded as a failed marriage, and this reputation passed into lore.
In 1989 Redgrave was determined to continue, but Holmes had had enough. In May, just as the four he was rowing in won a medal in Duisburg, he abruptly turned away from the sport. Since then his self-imposed smoke screen has obscured his contribution, until he re-emerged three years ago as coach to Furnivall Sculling Club in Hammersmith and Langley Academy in Slough.
Redgrave blames a national newspaper for starting the hare of the pair’s bad personal relations, a chase swallowed whole without question by much of the media.
“I never had an argument or a big disagreement with him about anything. Same with Matthew [Pinsent] really. I had one fight with Andy and one slagging match with Matthew. The fight occurred in a training session when we were playing five-a-side football. Skill was not fantastic. The ball got trapped in the corner and I was hacking at Andy’s feet to try and get it out. We came out of the corner locked together and the ball was still in the corner. And that was a good three or four years before we rowed with each other.”
They had problems of a different sort before the Seoul Olympics when their coach, Mike Spracklen, decided to change the rigging of their boat after they lost at an international regatta. Then Andy cracked a rib and they couldn’t race at Henley or at the pre-Olympic regatta. “There were all these stories to write, and they came out with a piece saying we didn’t socialise with each other. Andy was living in Thornton Heath and I was living at Marlow. There was an hour and a half’s driving between us. Winters we used to train at Hammersmith and summers at Molesey because it was the halfway point. We used to come down training for two sessions a day and disappear afterwards. He was married and had his first child. I was single for most of our time together. The whole media picked that up, that we used to hate each other.”
“But,” says Redgrave, “there’s no getting away from it, Andy was a strange character.”
Holmes was notorious for not turning up to training sessions if he felt the boat was not going well. “At one international regatta when he was in the eight he didn’t turn up at the airport because he decided the boat wasn’t good enough. But when I rowed with him he was never late for training. He always had a good reason for missing a session.”
Their pairs’ partnership was forged in a pizza restaurant near Hampton Court Bridge. Redgrave continues, “Mike [Spracklen] had talked to Andy because he was interested in coming back for the Commonwealth and world titles to add to the Olympic one. That was a big thing for Andy. He wasn’t interested in watching sport on TV. It was all about him doing it, and if he wasn’t doing it he was not watching it, and if he was doing it he wasn’t going to watch anyone else doing it. The only other thing he was into was karate. He used to love martial arts.”
Holmes kept himself to himself. At training camps, Redgrave says, he always had his head in a book, usually a book in French. “All he talked about was French culture and French life. He was a deep thinker and a very bright guy, and we got on professionally really well with each other.”
Holmes had other talents, too. “At my engagement party, Andy came up to me halfway through the evening and he said ‘Do you think the drummer would let me have a go?’ He turned out to be a very, very good drummer. I’d been rowing with him for three years and never knew.”
As president of British Rowing, Redgrave was pleased to see Holmes returning to coach on the Thames. “I always knew that Andy could give something back.” They met by chance on the towpath at Henley last year when Redgrave and his fellow steward and partner for three Olympics, Sir Matt Pinsent, were doing aligning duty at the start. “I last spoke to him in 1989. It was really good to see him, and there was no bad feeling between us. Matthew told me last week how nice it was that the three of us had spoken together.”
The real tragedy, Redgrave said as he was preparing to commentate on the strongest British rowing team ever fielded, with finalists in every Olympic boat class, is that Andy will never know the esteem in which he was held.
See also Getting to Know Andy Holmes in RowingVoice 4:6c.
My warm thanks to Chris for his very interesting contribution!