Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Postscript: Rowe & Pitman

I would like to add something to my entry from yesterday about George Duncan Rowe. In 1895, George Duncan Rowe and Fred Pitman, both stock-brokers, founded the firm Rowe & Pitman in London. While Rowe had rowed at Oxford, Pitman, who was educated at Eton, had rowed and stroked an eight at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1884 to 1886. The rowing connection seemed to be important for Rowe and Pitman. They had oarsmen, sometimes fresh out of Oxford and Cambridge, to join their firm. Two examples are Malcolm ‘Moppy’ Pilkington, who rowed at Oxford in 1893-1895, and Fred Pitman’s nephew, Frederick Hugo Pitman, who rowed at Oxford and was the bowman in the winning crew of the 1912 Boat Race. The same year, he also rowed in the New College eight that took a silver medal in the Olympic Rowing Regatta in Stockholm. And, as we now know, there was also George Duncan Rowe.

In 1998, Andrew Lycett published a book called From Diamond Sculls to Golden Handcuffs: A History of Rowe & Pitman. Some years ago, when I saw the book on the web site of an antiquarian bookseller, I found the title thrilling. I ordered it (it cost a few pounds), and I still remember how utterly disappointed I was after reading the first two, three chapters. The title is terribly inaccurate as the only ‘rowing’ mentioned is 8 lines for George Rowe’s and Fred Pitman’s collected rowing achievements, 3 lines for ‘Moppy’ Pilkinton, and 3 lines for Hugo Pitman. There is nothing about Henley, despite the ‘Diamond Sculls’ in the title.

Not even when the creator of the James Bond books, Ian Fleming, shows up in the book as an associate in the Rowe & Pitman firm, did that hold my interest. This [‘rowing’] book is awfully, horribly boring!

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