Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Book: Seven Australian World Champion Scullers

The last years have shown that the interest for professional rowing is alive and growing. Maybe it is the combination of social history and the history of the sport of rowing, combined with good stories about how certain races were conducted, the oarsmen’s training, and their backers sometimes ‘dirty tricks’ behind the scene. During the 2000s some very good books were published about the professionals and their era, to mention some: Gordon Trickett’s Ned Trickett, Champion Sculler of the World (2000); Ian Whitehead’s two The Sporting Tyne (about the professional oarsmen on the Tyne; 2002) and James Renforth of Gateshead (2004); David Clasper’s Rowing: A Way of Life (about the Claspers; 2003); Wendy A. Lewis’s Fire on the Water (youth book about Ned Hanlan; 2007); and Stuart Ripley’s Sculling and Skulduggery (2009). To these books we can now add the excellent Seven Australian World Champion Scullers, which was published in 2010 by Bernard W. Hempseed.

Seven Australian World Champion Scullers is about the oarsmen and the period that came to be known as the Golden Age of Australian rowing. The professional World Champion Aussies were: Ned Trickett 1876-1879; Bill Beach 1884-1887; Peter Kemp 1888, 1890; Henry Searle 1888-1890; John Mclean 1890-1891; Jim Stanbury 1891-1896, 1905; and George Towns 1901-1904, 1906-1907. In his introduction Bernard Hempseed states that the purpose of the book is not to give detailed biographies of all of the champions involved, nor is it a full history of professional sculling in Australia, “instead”, he writes “it seeks to celebrate, and provide a detailed account of the thirty or so Championship races that occurred during the period in question”.

Hempseed has the knack of pulling out the essential parts from these championship races to present them in an appealing and well-written way in his 85-page book. In an Appendix he lists all the contestants who sculled in the 95 races for the World Sculling Champion Title, starting with Ned Hanlan of Canada who raced 12 times for the title and won seven of the races; the Canadian is followed by Bill Beach, who raced and won seven races. The peculiar way the list is set, it is, at first, hard to understand, but for anyone who would like to read a full chronological list of the race for the World Championship Title in the single sculls can go to Wikipedia by clicking here. As a matter of fact, some of the articles on Wikipedia about the Champions are written by Bernard Hempseed.

Seven Australian World Champion Scullers is self-published book, which I think nowadays is a very good and honourable way to get your work out on the market - especially if the market is as small as the one about the history of rowing!

Anyone who would like to purchase a copy of Hempseed’s brilliant book can contact him on the following e-mail address: mbrosn (at) The price is US$15 which includes postage.

Note: Bernard Hempseed lives outside of Christchurch in New Zealand, and I am happy to report that he has contacted me to tell me that he and his family are okay after the terrible earthquake there the other day. Of course, in the wake of this disaster it can take some time to get the mail going.

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