Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Bournes: 5 - Carring The Family Tradition

Here is the fifth and final entry about The Bournes.

It must have weighed heavily on a young man’s shoulders to be the grandson of the famous coach Gilbert C. Bourne and the son of the great stroke Bob Bourne. In the book The Boat Race, Gordon Ross states that “R.M.A. Bourne was a great disappointment to his father because he could not get into the Eton boat.” R.M.A. (‘Bobbie’) Bourne, who was born in 1919, only made it into the 2nd eight at Eton which indeed must have felt as a dissatisfaction coming from a renowned rowing family like the Bournes. However, during his last summer at Eton, Bobbie Bourne did reach the final of the School Pulling (pair), and he did win the School Mile which both his grandfather and father had done before him.

After Eton, Bourne went up to New College in 1937, but the following year, he joined the Army. During the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, Bobbie Bourne was captured by the Germans and he spent the rest of the War in a prison camp. When the War ended, he went back to study at Oxford, and, although “thin and wiry as ever”, as John Langfield writes in his obituary about Bourne, published in Regatta in March 1996, Bobbie Bourne made it into the Blue boat in 1946. The dark Blues won The Boat Race by 3 lengths in 19 min. 54 sec. The same year, he was in the Leander eight that took the Grand and on the same day he won the Stewards’. In 1947, his eight lost The Boat Race to Cambridge.

Here is a newsreel of Oxford training in 1946. Young Bourne can be seen early on, 5 seconds into the film, before the crew goes on the water.


Bobbie Bourne was soon elected a Henley Steward, and he went back to Eton to become a classical master. He was very well liked at Eton, though he got himself into trouble, Langfield writes in his obituary, “having set his classes to compose limericks on the four evangelists.” Of course, Bourne also coached rowing at Eton and his crews had great success winning Princess Elizabeth Cup and the Ladies’ Plate. Bobbie Bourne died in 1996.

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