Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis: The Viking And Playboy

The newspapers and media report today that American actor Tony Curtis died yesterday, 85 years old.

He was in many memorable movies, but here at HTBS, Curtis will be especially remembered for two roles, the American playboy Danny Wilde in the TV-series The Persuaders (1971) and Erik in The Vikings (1958). In The Persuaders Curtis played against British actor Roger Moore, who was the British playboy Lord Brett Sinclair. The show was not successful in the USA, but very popular in some European countries, among them, Sweden. Although, Wilde and Sinclair did not row in the series, every episode began with a ‘presentation’ of the characters Wilde and Sinclair. The latter, being an aristocrat, of course rowed in a Blue Boat at Oxford, which the viewers quickly see flashing by. To watch the opening, click here.

The Vikings, with Curtis and Kirk Douglas, is maybe not the best of Viking movies, but they do row in this film. My old coach, Tore Persson, at my rowing club in Malmö was an extra in this movie which was filmed in Norway. To read an article I wrote about Persson and The Vikings, please click here. To watch the first minutes of the movie, click below,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Thought The Water

I Thought the Water

Out of the fog
The rower appeared
Like an apparition gliding
Across the water,
Oars at rest,
Spread midair to either side of him,
Not a sound,
Not even of the slipping
Of the shell through the water.
'Like liquid silk,'
I thought the water,
The color of silk
Parted by the graphite shell.
Was he even there?,
So reminiscent of the miraculous was he.
The fog closed round him.
He vanished as I watched,
His only evidence of passage
The gentle lapping of waves at shore.

Philip Kuepper

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dryland Rowing

Well, if yesterday's offering was some girls rowing on a roof top in New York, how about some young men from Princeton doing some 'dryland rowing', too, in 1928, now with a 'novel mirror device':


Slightly more than ten years later, the training is the same, with the same coach and mirror, but different boys:


Monday, September 27, 2010

Babes Rowing On A Roof Top

It is the 1930s and let’s pretend that you are going to make a one-minute newsreel.

What should it be about? Well, let’s see, what do we have? Girls? Yes, yes, brilliant idea, many beautiful girls that’s good. We can borrow some from Broadway. Okay, good. And we need a little band playing sort of in the background, or on the side of the babes. What are we going to have them do? The band is going to play, of course, let’s see… how about bass, guitar, and violin? Violin? Okay, okay, that’s fine. But what are the girls going to do? How about some physical activity, you know, so they are moving and not only standing still? That’s a thought… How about something funny, or even a little silly? Funny, silly? Okay, funny and silly is good. And where are they going to do this funny, silly thing? Well, this is New York, so how about on a roof top with the New York skyscrapers in the background? Very good, very good, indeed, but we have yet to come up with what the girls are going to do, you know the physical activity. It has to be something interesting. Hmm, something interesting… and funny and silly, hmm…

I got it! I know what the girls can do – ROW! What do you mean, row, they are on a roof top, remember…? I know, I know, but nowadays you can row on dry land! On dry land, are you crazy? No, no, they can row on a rowing machine, see! Okay, rowing machine, hey, I like that idea, twenty Broadway babes on rowing machines on a roof top with the New York skyscrapers in the background, not bad, not bad at all. And it is, well… interesting, and for sure funny and silly…

We could only get nineteen girls, so I throw in a muscular guy in the front. Okay? A guy in the front? Okay, then. By the way, is there still a fellow playing violin in the band? Yes! Okay, a guy in the front and a guy playing violin, and rowing babes? Okay, let’s shoot this thing…

You will find the final result by clicking on the picture below.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ten Years Ago...

Before this month has ended, I would like to bring the HTBS readers attention to a ten year jubilee. Ten years are maybe not much for an old sport like rowing, but a decade ago something amazing happened at the Olympic rowing event on Penrith Lakes outside of Sydney. On Saturday, 23 September 2000, the British oarsmen Matthew Pinsent (stroke), Tim Foster (3), Steve Redgrave (2), and James Cracknell (bow) took the gold medal in the coxless four. This was Redgrave’s fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal which is a unique thing both in rowing and Olympic history.

I actually wrote about the Brits’ Olympic success in my little column for Rowing & Regatta this month, but due to lack of space I was not able to squeeze in that Regrave was honour some months later with a knighthood by the Queen. Sir Steve was the second oarsman to be honoured this way; the first one was the famous oarsman and coach, ‘Tarka’ Gold. Redgrave’s long-time rowing partner, Matthew Pinsent, was four years later also honoured with a knighthood by Elizabeth II.

James Cracknell, now recovered after his nasty accident in July, writes about his hero, Sir Steve, in an article in The Daily Telegraph. Read the article here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Orm's Son Svarthöfde

Talking about Frans G Bengtsson and his novel about Röde Orm, The Long Ships, in 2002 a sort of sequel was published with the title Svarthöfde. Svarthöfde was Orm’s son, whom we hear about at the end of The Long Ships. Svarthöfde, which is a juvenile book, was written by Mikael Westlund and tells the story of young Svarthöfde, who, like his father once did, would like to go on adventures on a Viking ship.

In the year 1008, Svarthöfde leaves his father’s farm in Scania to sail eastward to Miklagård, the Vikings’ name for Constantinople. During his eighteen years away from his family, Svarthöfde also sailed westward and met famous emperors, kings, and warriors, and he, himself became a mighty fighter and a powerful Viking chieftain. There is some rowing in this book, but not as humorously told as in The Long Ships.

Although an enjoyable read, Westlund’s Svarthöfde lacks Bengtsson’s wit and narrative zest (as do many other authors), and I am afraid that this book will never find an English translation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frans G Bengtsson's Mother Tongue

While in the south of Sweden, I took the opportunity to visit the town of Lund, founded in the year of 990. Many years ago, I studied at the university in town, and each time I am in Sweden, I always try to go to Lund to walk on the old cobblestone streets and to breathe in the atmosphere of the academic learning that seaps through the walls of the houses and buildings. Many of the university’s departments are located in the old buildings in Lund. When I was studying a short stint of Philosophy, the lectures were held in the so called ‘King’s House’ (seen above), close to the University Building. The ‘King’s House’ got its name from the Swedish king Charles the XII, who was said to have ridden his horse up the wooden stairs to the top floor of the building where he had his quarters during the troubled years against the Danes of 1716 to 1718 – or so the legend goes.

During my visit to Lund, I went into the Cathedral and the University Library (above). The library woke up many happy memories when I was studying subjects that interested me greatly, not always subjects that were on the curriculum of a class, I have to confess. So, for example, I wrote a long essay on the 1912 Olympic rowing event after I found old issues of the Olympic News, which was a sport paper published in English for the Olympic Games in Stockholm.

Arriving to the library last week, I saw that a new exhibit was going to open in the lobby, Skånska är mitt modersmål [‘Scanian* is my mother tongue’], an exhibit about my favourite Swedish author, Frans G Bengtsson (1894-1954), who wrote the novel about the Viking Röde Orm, The Long Ships; a novel that has been translated into thirty languages by now.

This was Wednesday, and two days later, Friday the 17 September, the exhibit officially opened. I was there, and so was half of the population of Lund, it seemed. It was so packed with people that it was hard to see what was in the exhibit cases. I briefly talked to Mr. Jan-Erik Malmquist, chairman of the Frans G Bengtsson Society, which was founded 25 years ago this autumn, and Mr. Mikael Lindgren, who, working at the library, was one of the researchers for the exhibit. When I asked him about a special edition of Bengtsson’s Viking novel, the first edition in English, Red Orm, published in 1943 by Scribner in New York, which I could not see in the exhibit, Mr. Lindgren revealed that the library did not have a copy of this rare title and it could therefore not be in the exhibit. Red Orm was translated by June Barrows Mussey and The Long Ships by Michael Meyer.

As it happens, yours truly has two copies of Red Orm. Next time I go to Lund, I will bring one copy along and donate it to the library, or give it to the Bengtsson Society, so they can store it at the library for those researchers who are writing essays or papers on Bengtsson and his famous novel. While Mussey’s translation is not as good as Meyer’s – and Meyer’s is truly brilliant – Mussey’s is not really bad, or at least not as bad as people think.

Last day for the exhibit will be 27 November 2010.

Here are two links to what two local newspapers wrote about the event, Sydsvenskan and Skånskan.

(*Scanian is the dialect spoken in the province of Scania, Skåne, in the south of Sweden.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Cheers, Rowers!"

Beer and rowing go hand-in-hand. This statement might surprise some readers as it is said that alcohol and sport should not mix. This is true, but we are not talking about any kind of drink or any kind of sport, we are talking about beer and rowing!

There have already been some entries on this blog about beer and beer labels with rowing images. Maybe the first one that springs to mind is Guinness from which family Rupert Guinness (the Earl of Iveagh) the famous sculler came.

Both rowing and drinking beer are good socializing activities which might partly explain why many of the rowing clubs in Great Britain also have a bar serving beer. The rowing clubs along the Championship Course on the Thames rely on the income they get during Boat Race Day when both the rowing and beer drinking spirit are equally high.

In some pubs you can find rowing memorabilia on the walls or shells hanging from the ceiling. Even at British pubs in Sweden this could occur. In the University town of Lund, in the south of Sweden, the pub John Bull (nowadays called the Old Bull) had black & white photographs from the 1920s and 1930s showing Cambridge crews on the Thames and the Cam. In the 1990s, the pub also got an old wooden coxed pair which was hanging from the ceiling. The boat had the very un-British name of ‘Ture’. It was actually my old rowing club in Malmö which had sold this old boat to the pub. The name of the boat came from an old tradition to name boats after old presidents/chairmen of the club committee.

During my active time at the club, my fellow oarsmen and I would frequently visit pubs in Malmö (and at one point, in 1992, we went to London for the Boat Race, and for a pub round which lasted for three days…). Maybe, therefore, I thought it would be nice to gather the old guard again at a pub when I visited Malmö last week. I sent out an e-mail, informing them that I would be at a new pub in town, the Green Lion Inn, on Friday between so and so, and if they wanted to meet up that would be nice.

I received three e-mails from friends saying that they unfortunately could not make it, one was ‘stuck’ in Stockholm, one was playing golf and drinking whisky in Scotland, and the third one was on a canal boat on a narrow river in England and Wales – perfectly fine excuses. But the rest of the old boys all showed up, and what a nice evening it was…

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Most Handsomest Dan

Here is another picture of Yale's mascot. This is actually Tim Koch's favourite image of Handsome Dan. Below the image it says: "Well Rowed Yale".

Handsome Dan

Well, I am back from Sweden and I thought we should start where Tim Koch left off on 12 September, with more interesting stuff about Yale University. Tim writes:

Some may be aware that Yale University athletic teams are known as ‘Bulldogs’ and have both a real dog and a costumed person as a mascot. The picture is of the first Handsome Dan. He started as the pet of an Englishman, Andrew B Graves of the Class of 1892. Graves both rowed and played (American) Football. Dan followed him to various sporting events and he was soon adopted by the students. He allegedly had a particular hatred for Harvard (which probably did not go against him) and three of his successors have been temporarily kidnapped by the Crimsons. The Hartford Courant said of the original, “In personal appearance, he seemed like a cross between an alligator and ahorned frog, and he was called handsome by the metaphysicians under the law of compensation”. The first eight Dans lived at the Yale Boathouse. Their successors have lived with various coaches and academics which is a wise move as bulldogs cannot swim. Dan XI demonstrated this when he fell off the Yale dock in 1953 and nearly drowned. Today, Yale’s mascot is Handsome Dan XVIII. When the original Dan died in 1898 he was stuffed and put in a glass case in one of the university trophy rooms where he remains to this day.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Dear HTBS readers - during the period of 13-22 September I will be off to Sweden on family business. During that time, I will have limited access to a computer and to work on entries for this blog. Please be patient - thank you! In the mean time: 'Keep those blades wet!'

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rowing Images From Yale

In a way to serve the sport of rowing (and this rowing history blog, I might add), the good fellow Tim Koch, member of Auriol Kensington RC in London and HTBS special correspondent, is in constant search for rowing images. His latest find is the Yale University Archive, where of course there are plenty of interesting images from ‘the olden days’. Tim writes, “I have recently discovered the Yale University archive picture website. "Naturally, I put ‘crew’ in the search and came up with over one hundred results. Some of my favourites are below. The copyright is mostly ‘public domain’.

Picture 1

1859 crew. The early pictures show much rowing in ‘Sixes’

Picture 2

Adee Boathouse 1910

Picture 3

Annual Crew Coaches Conference, 1934

Picture 4

Freshmen, 1914

Picture 5

Crew of 1879

Picture 6

Harvard c.1883. Know your enemy?

Picture 7

Watercolour of Harvard - Yale Race, 1890

Picture 8

Members of the Six Men's Crew (late nineteenth century?

Picture 9

Crew of 1881

Picture 10

Crew of 1880 with ‘leg-of-mutton oars’. Are these paddles? I suspect not as the picture shows eight athletes and a cox which suggests rowing not canoeing. Were they cut down oars for the photographic studio? (This is the image shown on top!)

Picture 11

Crew of 1884 without jerseys

Picture 12

Crew of 1882 on the dock

Picture 13

Yale Six, 1861

Picture 14

1889 Crew in blazers

Picture 15

Yale’s four-oared crew with the 1876 Centennial Regatta trophy won in Philadelphia

I’m sure everyone will have their favourites.”

Tim, thank you for sharing your discovery with the HTBS readers! I am certain we will find our own ‘favourites’ in this gold mine of rowing images.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rowing Kicks Off In New Bedford

“Rowing is very much alive and playing its unique role in developing the character of those who take up the oar,” was something rowing historian Tom Weil said yesterday when he was the ‘keynote speaker’ at the opening of the New Bedford Community Rowing Programme at Buzzards Bay Center in New Bedford, MA. Weil continued to say, according to an article in South Coast Today, “You couldn't ask for a better partner in business or life than a rower.

I received an invitation to this event, but unfortunately, this was the same evening as my children had a ‘Kick Off’ at their school.

There was a lot of town and rowing celebrities gathered at the Buzzards Bay Center for the opening and it seems to have been a really nice event. Click here to read the article in South Coast Today.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rowing Trophy: Lost And Found, And 'Stuck'...

What I should have mentioned in my previous entry about lost and found rowing trophies is the remarkable story about the Philadelphia Challenge Cup. As a matter of fact, I have briefly talked about this trophy in an earlier entry on 15 November 2009, "The Philadelphia Challenge Cup". Click on the date above, and then follow the other links to essays and newspaper articles on this Cup and its fascinating story about being lost, found, and 'stuck' in a shop, which owner refuses to part from it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rowing Trophy: Found And Lost...

The other day I read a nice article from the Liverpool Daily Post about a 22-year old student, Simon Parkinson, who had found a Victorian silver trophy at Battersea market. Parkinson realised that it was an old rowing trophy and, as he is a collector of silverware and his parents and sisters are members of the Runcorn RC, he bought it for £8. After a good cleaning, he could read the engraved text: “Mersey Rowing Club, Captain’s Pairs, Sept 5, 1891, W T Wood, J Snape, Stroke”.

When members of Runcorn RC went to a fundraiser event at Mersey RC, they brought the Victorian trophy along, and to make a long story short, the race has now been revitalised. To read the full article, please click here.

After reading this nice story I came to think about a very beautiful trophy that my Swedish rowing club, Malmö Roddklubb, used to be the owner of, the Nordic Rowing Federation’s Championship Trophy for Eights, which was instituted in 1911 (seen on the right). After several victories when crews from my club, trained by Jack Farrell of London RC, became Nordic champions, my rowing club became the owner of this gorgeous pot in the 1910s.

Then, during the 1980 and 1990s the club house was struck by burglaries. The club’s collection of medals and trophies were locked up, but as the club’s committee was afraid that we would maybe lose these prizes, the committee decided to let the little sport museum in Malmö have them on a loan. A short time afterwards, the Nordic Rowing Federation’s Championship pot was stolen from the museum! Thereafter, it was sold at an auction in Stockholm, and sadly, vanished into thin air.

Perhaps, some decades from now, it will show up in a bric-a-brac sale…

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wisdom Of An Ocean Rower

An event that is ending the Coastweeks Regatta on Sunday 19 September is a talk by Tori Murden McClure, author of A Pearl in the Storm, which has been picked as this year’s ‘One Book, One Region’. This reading programme is to “bring people together to discuss ideas, to broaden the appreciation of reading, and to break down barriers among people,” Betty Ann Reiter, Groton Public Library Director and chair of the programme, said the other day in an interview in one of the local papers.

In 1999, McClure became the first women to row across the Atlantic, and this book tells the story how she did it. I have earlier written about this book in an entry on 1 May.

McClure’s talk is going to be held at 5 p.m. in the River Room at Latitude 41 Restaurant at the north end of Mystic Seaport Museum, free a of charge.

Click here to watch a trailer for A Pearl in the Storm.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Wingfields Sculler's 'Pilot Boat'

Courtesy The National Rowing Foundation

In HTBS correspondent Tim Koch excellent report on the Wingfield Sculls (see entry on 26 August, “Anna and Alan Take the 2010 Wingfields”) he writes, “One of the idiosyncrasies of the Wingfields is that the competitors can legally be ‘steered’ by signals from following boats. Until at least the 1920s this was done by the bowmen of following eights, not rowing and facing the wrong way.”

As this might be a little confusing for some readers, allow me to give you an example, a photograph from the 1898 Wingfields, when Harry Blackstaffe (Vesta RC) met the upcoming sculler Hunting Howell (Trinity Hall, Cambridge). A few weeks earlier, young Howell (in articles and reports always referred to as ‘B.H. Howell’) had easily over-come Blackstaffe in the Diamonds Sculls at Henley. Although, Howell also beat the sculler from Vesta RC in the Wingfields that year, it was not with the same ease.

The interesting photograph on top, which is from Hunting Howell’s private photo album, now kept in The National Rowing Foundation’s archives at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, shows Howell’s ‘pilot boat’: seven oarsmen, one Doggett winner coxswain, and the ‘pilot’ in the bow seat, facing forward. In a couple of minutes he is going to steer Howell over the Championship Course from Putney to Mortlake.

(I am hoping to have an article published in Rowing & Regatta later this autumn about Hunting Howell, who was from New York. He took up rowing and sculling when he was studying at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in the late 1890s.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Not A Rowing Book

The reason Gail Caldwell’s book Let’s Take the Long Way Home caught my eye was because the free paper Book Page (August 2010) had a cover story about the book. The cover picture, symbolizing the book, was of two women rowing in a double scull. Reading the Book Page interview, I quickly understood that this is not a ‘rowing book’, but a memoir of the friendship between Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp. Not only did these ladies had writing in common, but also the love of books and dogs, and water, as Caldwell swam and Knapp rowed; they also united in having a drinking past.

Even if there seem to be episodes in the book where Knapp takes Caldwell sculling on the Charles River in Boston, this is not a book for me. However, for you readers who would like to make up your own minds, here is the review of the book in The New York Times (22 August 2010).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pocock Newsletter

Pocock Racing Shells Newsletter for this autumn is now available on-line. There are a lot of interesting things to read about. Go to it by clicking here.