Wednesday, April 28, 2010
One of the most famous rowing spots in the USA is Philadelphia with its Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River. Of course, way back when, rowing in Philadelphia was not only about the Boathouse Row clubs, there were other rowing clubs in town, too. For a short period, between 1882 and 1885, there was even a rowing club founded by Swedes living and working in Philadelphia. Not all Swedes who immigrated to America ended up in Minnesota, many settled in the Philadelphia area.
Atlantic Works Inc., which was a machine factory in Philadelphia, had a lot of Swedes working on all kinds of levels. Stephan Rozycki, who was born in Paris by Polish parents and grew up in Sweden, was an engineer at Atlantic Works who, together with seven other Swedes in October 1882 founded The Swedish Rowing Club of Philadelphia. The Swedes shared the boathouse with an older club, The Riverside Club. Back home in Sweden, Rozycki’s sister made and sent him a flag which would be used as the club flag. The Swedes’ uniform was yellow with blue striped shirt, blue trousers, and a blue cap with a yellow star. “Svea”, their first boat, bought in June 1884, was a six-oared gig with the oar blades painted in blue with a yellow star. Later in 1884, the club acquired a coxed out-rigged four, “Göta”, and a single scull, “Thule”. All boats were frequently used by the fifteen members of the club, especially during the summer days of 1884 and 1885.
The Swedes particularly concentrated on long-distances rows on the Schuylkill, and through Point Breeze and down the Delaware River. The Swedes were known to row also during extremely hot summer days, which made spectators on the river banks cry: “There come the crazy Swedes!” According to a 1934 article by Fredrik Arsenius, The Swedish Rowing Club was invited to join the Schuylkill Navy at several occasions, but the club declined as its members were afraid that they would lose their ‘Swedishness’.
The Swedes last outing was on a very hot summer day, 17 July 1885. By then Stephan Rozycki had already left the club to join the US Navy. He was later stationed at the US Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. The Swedish Rowing Club in Philadelphia is a little foot note in the rowing history along the Schuylkill.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
There was also one disappointment in Malmö: the doors at my local rowing club remained closed during my visit. My mother’s flat is only a couple of blocks away from the canal where the boat house is located, so I had the opportunity to pass the house several times. At one time it was open, so I could at least go in to get a whiff of the boat house, but there was no activity, maybe due to the chilly weather, who knows?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
San Francisco Alta California, November 15, 1868
LETTER FROM "MARK TWAIN."
[FROM THE SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE ALTA]
A Lively Boat Race - The Wicked "Wickedest Man" - On the Wing - Something About Chicago - Story of a Rail - Personal Gossip
International Boat Race.
HARTFORD, October 22, 1868.
I went up to Springfield, Mass., yesterday afternoon, to see the "International boat race" between the Ward brothers and the "St. Johns" crew, of New Brunswick. We left here at noon, and reached Springfield in about an hour. It was raining. It seems like wasting good dictionary words to say that, because it is raining here pretty much all the time, and when it is not absolutely raining, it is letting on to do it. I assembled on the bank of the river along with a rather moderate multitude of other people (moderate considering the greatness of the occasion), and waited. A flat-boat was anchored in midstream, and on it were collected the judges, the boats' crews, and some twenty of their friends. A dozen skiffs and shells were hovering in the vicinity. The conversation of the crowd about me seemed to promise that I had made this journey to little purpose, since all the talk was to the effect that the idea of anybody attempting to conquer the Ward brothers on the water was simply absurd. Everybody appeared to think that the St. John's gentlemen would be so badly beaten that it could hardly be proper to speak of the contest as a race at all. My sympathies always go with the racer that is beaten, anyhow, and so I began to warm toward those New Brunswick strangers in advance. The cries of "Two to one on the Wards!" "Ten to one on the Wards!" "Hundred to five on the Wards!" I felt like resenting as so many personal affronts. Shortly two "shells" were brought to the front -- long, narrow things like telegraph poles shaved and sharpened down to oar blades at both ends. The contestants took their places -- the four St. John's boys dressed in pink shirts and red skull-caps, and the four Ward's in white shirts and with white handkerchiefs bound round their heads. They were all find looking men. They rowed away a hundred yards, easily and comfortably. I had never seen such grace, such poetry of motion, thrown into the handling of an oar before. They ranged up alongside each other, now, abreast the judges. A voice shouted
"Are you ready?"
"Ready!" and the two shells almost leaped bodily out of the water. They darted away as if they had been shot from a bow. The water fairly foamed in their wake. The Wards had a little the start, and made frantic exertions to increase the advantage but it was soon evident that, instead of gaining, they were losing. The race was to be a very long one - three miles and repeat. When the shells were disappearing around a point of land, half a mile away, the St. John's were already a trifle ahead. The people in my vicinity made light of this circumstance, however. They said "them Ward's" knew what they were about. They were "playing" this thing. When the boats hove in sight again "them Ward's" would be in the lead. And so the betting against my martyrs went on, just as before. Finally, somebody suggested that appearances seemed to indicate that the race was "sold." It had its effect. the most enthusiastic shortly began to show a failing confidence, and to drop anxious remarks about the chances of the race having really been betrayed and sold out by the Wards. But, notwithstanding all this talk was so instructive, the next twenty minutes hung heavily on my hands. There was nothing in the world to look at but five hundred umbrellas and occasionally a fleeting glimpse of the water -- and even umbrellas lose their interest in the long run, I find. there is nothing exciting about umbrellas -- nothing thrilling. One's pulse beats just as calmly in the presence of umbrellas as if they were not there. And they don't really amount to anything for scenery, being monotonous when there are so many. But in the midst of these reflections some one shouted:
"Here they come!"
"Whoop! St. John's ahead!"
"For fifty dollars it's the Wards!"
"Fifty to twenty-five it's the Wards!"
"Take them both! - hundred to a hundred it's _____"
"Three cheers for - Oh, the suffering Moses, the St. John's are ahead!"
It was so. It was easy to distinguish the pink shirts, now, flashing back and forth. On they came, dividing the water like a knife, and the white shirts far in the rear. In a few minutes they came flying past the judge's stand, every man of them as fresh and bright and full of life as when they started, and handling the oars with the same easy grace as before. A cheer went up for the gallant triumph, but there was little heart in it. The people on the shore were defeated, in pride and in pocket, as well as the opposing contestants. The Wards came in rather more than a hundred yards behind -- and they looked worn and tired. The race was over, and Great Britain had beaten America. Time, 39:38. there was but one consolation, and that was, that in a six-mile race on the same water, last year, the Wards made it in 39, thus beating the present time by 38 seconds. The Wards went into the contest yesterday in inferior condition. Their mainstay, Joshua, had been sick and was still unwell. However, these boys behaved in an entirely becoming manner. They said that they were badly beaten, and fairly beaten, and they wanted no excuses made to modify their defeat or diminish the brilliancy of the St. John's victory.
On 21 April, it was exactly 100 years ago Mark Twain died. 'Mark Twain' was pen name for Samuel Langhorne Clemens (30 November 1835 – 21 April 1910).
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I happened to flip through this novel the other day (actually, I flipped through both the English and the Swedish versions as they were standing next to each other on the book shelf). The Poet’s Pub is about Saturday Keith who, in the beginning of the novel, is reading an unfavourable review in The Times Literary Supplement about his latest collection of poems. The reviewer is mocking Keith, comparing his bad poetry to his poor performances as a stroke in three losing Oxford crews in the Boat Race, “Mr. Keith is, as he always was, indomitable. But here he is bucketing badly and a long way from Mortlake – or Parnassus.” We are given an example or two of his meager poetry, and regarding the poem “The Blue Scarf” the reviewer writes, how Keith's “long service with the Oxford University Boat Club finds an echo in lines which apparently reproduce the obedient rhythm of a crew with ears agape for the coach’s next remark. ‘Then through the wood the wind came with a shout,/ And like blue wings her long blue scarf flew out,/’ writes Mr. Keith, and we may pardonably think of such a couplet as the response to an injunction to ‘Give her ten’ – though Mr. Keith exceeds his instructions and give us twenty.”
A career as a poet seems not to be in sight for Saturday Keith, so when his friend Quentin Cotton offers to make him the manager for his mother’s newly-purchased pub, ‘The Pelican’, Keith jumps at the offer. And how could he fail, after all he is an Old Blue…
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
"Here is a picture of Harry Tate the music hall star. It seems to be the same person as Harry Blackstaffe's partner. I am impressed that he could lead the life of an itinerant performer and still be a good enough rower to partner the great man. Nothing to do with rowing, but Harry Tate's catch phrases are interesting. 'Goodbyeee' inspired a very popular song of the First World War and beyond. 'How's your father?' was commonly used in Britain as a euphemism for sex until fairly recently. 'I don't think' used ironically (as in 'He's a nice chap - I don't think') was unknowingly revived in the form 'Not!' in the Mike Meyer's film, Wayne's World in 1992."
Thank you, Tim for solving the 'Harry Tate Mystery'!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
When I wrote about Harry Blackstaffe’s charming little drawing of a sculler after his name on the dinner list of the winners of the Wingfield Sculls in 1930, I could not remember where I had seen it previously. But the other day, when I was going through some old rowing post cards, I came across Blackstaffe’s signature again. Blackstaffe, or ‘Blackie’ as he was called, rowed and sculled for Vesta RC, and in the photograph above, we can see him together with Harry Tate in a pair. Looking in H. B. Wells’s Vesta Rowing Club: A Centenary History (1969), I can only find Blackie’s partner mentioned twice, in the Foreword, written by Thames RC’s Freddy Page, and by Wells, who writes, “The No. 2 in the crew was R. M. Hutchison, later a famous figure on the music hall stage under the name ‘Harry Tate’.” [p.5] But maybe that is not Blackie’s partner in the boat, although the name is the same. Anyone who knows?
Friday, April 16, 2010
However, I have found it hard to come across rowing in limericks. This kind of poem has five lines, anapestic or amphibrachin metre with a strict rhyme scheme: aabba, so that line one, two and five rhyme; and line three and four rhyme. Traditionally, the first line introduces a person and often a geographic place, the latter at the end of the first line. It seems, though, as in many limericks nowadays ‘the place’ has been dropped. One important element in limericks is that they should be witty and humorous, and even risqué at times. A ‘poor’ versemonger is even allowed to sacrifice a good quality rhyme if the final result produces a funny limerick.
Here are some rowing limericks:
A certain rowing historian at Yale
whose varsity training made him pale,
cried out in space
- blue in his face -
“Cox, get me the god damn pail.”
There was an old sculler of Mystic
whose style was very ancient and rustic.
When he got a boat with a slide,
he complained about the ride:
“This going back and forth makes me seasick.”
And then a little naughty one:
A young handsome lad from Mystic
was out rowing with a beautiful ‘hot chick’.
Though she was not very bright
he found the outing a delight
as she was steering the boat with his ‘joystick’.
The Tideway Slug actually posted a whole page with rowing limericks once upon a time. Read them by clicking here.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Style and the Oar
To sit upon a seat
With the straps about your feet,
And to grasp an oar and use it, to recover and to slide,
And to keep your body swinging,
And to get the finish ringing,
And to send the light ship leaping as she whizzes on the tide!
To make the rhythm right
And your feather clean and bright,
And to slash as if you loved it, though your muscles seem to crack;
And, although your brain is spinning,
To be sharp with your beginning,
And to heave your solid body indefatigably back;
Not to be a fraction late
When the rate is thirty-eight;
To be quick when stroke demands it, to be steady when he’s slow;
And to keep a mind unheeding
When the other lot are leading,
And to set your teeth and brace your back and just to make her go.
And when she gives a roll
To swing out with heart and soul,
And to balance her and rally her and get her trim and true;
And while the ship goes flying
To hear the coxswain crying,
“Reach our, my boys, you’ll do it!” and, by Jupiter, you do!
To seek your bed at ten,
And to tumble out again
When the clocks are striking seven and the winds of March are chill;
To be resolute and steady,
Cheerful, regular, and ready
For a run upon the Common or a tramp up Putney Hill;
To sink yourself and be
Just a unit, and to see
How the individual withers and the crew is more and more;
And to guard without omission
Every glorious tradition
That the ancient heroes founded when they first took up an oar;
In short, to play the game
Not so much for name or fame
As to win a common honour for your colours light or dark –
Oh! It’s this has made your crew-man
Such a chivalrous and true man
Since the day that Father Noah went a-floating in the Ark.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Click here to read BBC's Martin Gough's blog entry about Greg Searle and watch a video interview with Searle. To watch the amazing Olympic gold medal race in 1992, click below.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Who then was Tunstall? William Cuthbert Brian Tunstall (1900-1970) was one of the leading naval historians starting in the 1920s and to his death, and wrote ground-breaking works on naval tactics and other books on naval subjects. Before the war, Tunstall was a lecturer in History and English at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the Secretary of the Navy Record Society. During the war, he was the naval correspondent for the BBC European Services. Later, he lectured at the London School of Economics and at the Royal Military College of Canada. Rowing historian Bill Lanouette (seen on the left) in Washington DC, who has just handed in his book manuscript about the professional oarsmen, the Biglin Brothers, to his literary agent, has told me that when he was studying at the London School of Economics in 1964-1965, he had Tunstall – or “‘Tunny’ as we used to call him” – as rowing coach at the school’s boat club. “We rowed from the University of London boathouse at Chiswick, just upstream from the ‘Boat Race’ course,” Bill writes in an e-mail. He continues, “during breaks in his coaching [‘Tunny’] would regale us with stories about the signal flags used at the Battle of Trafalgar. A great coach, and a grand character.”
Many thanks to Bill Lanouette for the information about Brian Tunstall. Good luck with your book on the Biglins.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
By now, all your H.T.B.S. readers have the information: Cambridge won the 156th Boat Race last Saturday, and against the odds, as the bookmakers predicted Oxford’s victory. Earlier posted entries on this blog give links to major articles in British newspapers, and the official website of the Boat Race is really comprehensive.
As correspondent for the French newspaper Ouest-France, I had convinced the Chief-editor of the Sunday edition (Dimanche Ouest-France) that the Boat Race was an event that could not be ignored and as I had planned to spend the Easter week-end in London, I was willing to write about it... In France, rowing is not given much coverage. Often, people confuse it with canoeing or kayaking. I am always very happy to participate in the promotion of the sport which exercises your whole body and which is so enthralling. Its history appeals to me. And the Boat Race is a British institution!
I am pleased to share my photos with you all. I arrived on Friday at the Media Centre, at the Thames Rowing Club in Putney. Near the Putney Bridge station, I came passed a park with a public notice announcing the Boat Race. It made me feel very enthusiastic to be in London to witness this special event. On Friday, the embankment was rather empty and calm although the Press Launch brought about a certain amount of journalists who were presented the Cambridge crew. It was an opportunity for me to photograph the rowers who were to become victorious the following day.
On the day of the race, as the beginning of the afternoon was approaching, there was an increasing number of people gathering along the Thames. As Tim Koch explains in the post entitled The Old Boat Race Course, the Hammersmith Bridge was open to the public this year and this is where I was to see the race and where I shot most pictures... It is amazing to witness this endurance test.
I asked Chris Dodd if he could explain to French readers the popular craze for the Boat Race as about 250.000 persons gather along the banks of the Thames. “Because it’s there. It’s a simple two-horse race that’s been around on the present course since the 1850s, and still has an amateur feel about it. Both universities have worldwide allegiances. And it is a good excuse to go the pub”, he smiles.
And when I asked the question to members of the public on the Hammersmith Bridge, they agreed it was a nice moment to share with friends and have a beer! Actually, the pubs – just like the rowing clubs at the start – are full to the brim. Tim refers to pubs, and I have come passed a few (and photographed the sign of the Old Ship), near the Furnivall Gardens, where a big screen presented the whole event. There was a real festival atmosphere, with music, and much liveliness. The good weather conditions made it all the more enjoyable: no April showers even if there was a good chance of some rain on Boat Race day according to the forecast.
More of Hélène’s photographs from the Boat Race will be posted tomorrow!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Tim continues, “The Boat Race always prompts me to revisit a favourite print from the Graphic magazine of April 1875. The 'Champion Course' (Putney to Mortlake or visa versa) is, naturally, little changed but the man made landmarks come and go. In 1875 the start had an aqueduct where Putney Road Bridge now is. Leander still had a Putney boathouse. The Surrey (port side) bank down to Hammersmith is still much the same. The Soap Works became Harrods Depository which is now converted to luxury apartments. The bridge is the old Hammersmith Bridge (1826-1886) which supported 12,000 people during the 1870 race. At Hammersmith (on the Middlesex or starboard side) the distillery, foundry, lead mills and oil mills are (thankfully) gone. At Barnes, the Surrey side is now built up but Middlesex retains more of its open spaces. At the finish there is no Chiswick Bridge (opened 1933) and the end is marked by the ‘Ship’ pub. Indeed, the pubs are the most unchanging landmarks. The aforementioned ‘Ship’, the ‘Bull’ at Barnes and the famous ‘Star and Garter’ at Putney all thrive today. The course is much like the sport of rowing - in some ways unchanging, in some ways always changing.”
Thank you, Tim, for this nice history piece about the Boat Race Course!
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Here you can read what the major British newspapers wrote about the race:
Guardian's Andy Bull's Cambridge surprise favourites Oxford to win the Boat Race
Telegraph's Rachel Quarrell's Boat Race 2010: Cambridge beat Oxford in 156th university showdown
Also from the Daily Telegraph's Simon Briggs's, Boat Race 2010: Oxford's Winklevoss twins lose their Facebook status
And Simon Briggs's second article in the Daily Telegraph, Boat Race 2010: Compelling contest augers well for the future of rowing in Great Britain
Independent's Alex Lowe's Cambridge overturn odds to win the Boat Race
Independent's Chris Dodd's Rowing: Cambridge stay the course to snatch victory
The Oxford Times's Mike Rosewell's Where did it go wrong for Dark Blues
Of course, do not forget to check out the Boat Race official website for more good stuff about this incredible race. And there is the whole entire race on a video - thanks to BBC.
Friday, April 2, 2010
[From Punch, 18 March 1925]
Tomorrow it is time for the Boat Race on the Thames again. It can be hard to predict which boat is going to be the winner. But one thing is for certain, it is either Oxford or Cambridge!
(This is borrowed from the legendary BBC correspondent John Snagge, who during the 1949 Boat Race reported: “I can't see who's in the lead but it's either Oxford or Cambridge.”)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
So, have there been any April Rowing Hoaxes? Not counting my own lame try a year ago, "New" Boat Type To Be Launched, the only one I can remember is in the 1990s when ARA’s magazine Regatta (or was it the British independent Rowing Magazine?) had an ad from the boat builders Aylings, who was going to sell their shells with an extra feature, a bow ball with a spring! The cox, or one of the rowers, would be able to push a button to release the bow ball, which would then shoot out from the bow and that way win a close race. I do not know if Aylings ever received any orders…