Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bert And Dickie And Jack

James Frain as Jack Beresford, Matt Smith as Bert Bushnell and Sam Hoare as Dickie Burnell.

By now, no one who is interested in the history of rowing can have missed when the BBC film Bert and Dickie (Going for Gold – The ’48 Games is the title in America on BBC America) is on. But to be on the safe side: it’s tomorrow, Wednesday, 25 July at 8:30 p.m. on BBC One in Britain, and the very same day on BBC America at 8/7 C.

HTBS’s correspondent Hélène Rémond in France sent a very interesting link, ‘BBC News – Entertainment and Art’, which has great information about the film, and also a film clip from the movie and an interview with the actor Sam Hoare, who plays Dickie Burnell. Despite that it’s said that the Burnells were ‘Rowing Royalties’, Dickie was a very humble man.

HTBS has followed this film from the start and we have written a lot about Matt Smith, who plays Bert Bushnell and Sam Hoare, who portrays Dickie Burnell. One character that we have not really mentioned in this film is Jack Beresford, who is played by James Frain. Beresford, who had taken five Olympic medals in five consecutive Games, was not an unimportant figure in the story about Bert and Dickie’s 1948 Olympic gold medal. Beresford became a mentor and a coach for the young Bert and Dickie.

For those of us who know something about the real Jack Beresford, actor James Frain seems to be an odd choice to play the blond Beresford. In an e-mail to HTBS’s Tim Koch, Jack’s son, John, says about Frain: ‘He’s totally unlike Dad in appearance’. John Beresford goes on by saying that at a screening his sister was horrified to see the actor playing her father wearing a brown suit. She said that Jack would never wear such a thing.

All this promises to be an interesting time in front of the TV on Wednesday!


  1. Would Jack Beresford have been a member of the Thames Rowing Club's team of 1920? I've got in my possession an oar with his name on it (in the Str. position) and which belonged to my grandfather who was also a member of this team (E.C. Goodall). I'm very interested to learn of his career as an Olympic rower! I'm just learning about the history of rowing since I've inherited these oars--and they're quite beautiful, hand-painted. Will have to wait on the documentary as I'm in America and don't have BBC America access!

    1. Dear Stella ~ what an interesting comment! Yes, Jack Beresford was a member of Thames RC in 1920. However, the 'J. Beresford' you have found on your grandfather's oar is probably Jack's father, Julius Beresford, who in 1920 was 52 years young (born in 1868). I just had a look in Geoffrey Page's wonderful book "Hear The Boat Sing" (that somehow sounds familiar?) which was published in 1991. This is the story of Thames RC, and although I could not find your grandfather's name in the Index there is a grand photograph facing page 80 with "The Old Men" who won the senior eights at Walton Regatta in 1920. Your grandfather, E.C. Goodall, is standing third from the right with a big smile on his face. He and the fellow on his right, A.E. Ellis, look far younger than the rest of the "Old Men" in the crew. Sorry to hear that you don't have BBC America, neither have I as a matter of fact. However, the movie (it's not a documentary!) will be released on DVD on 31 July in America! I have already put my order in. Remember the film is called "Going for Gold" in the USA.

  2. Stella,

    Goran mentions the ‘Old Mens’ crew that won at Walton in 1920. They also entered the Grand Challenge Cup (the senior eights event) at Henley that year. As well as Beresford (‘Berry’), the Walton / Henley crew also contained other indefatigable oarsmen, notably Karl Vernon (‘The Bean’) and Herbert Bruce Logan. They were three quarters of a very famous four who won silver in the coxed fours at the 1912 Stockholm Regatta. See also: The Henley eight got a lucky draw and went straight to the semi-finals, avoiding the heats. Goodall was at ‘3’ with Berry, at stroke as always, the oldest man rowing at the regatta. In practice they covered the course in a respectable 7 minutes, 21 seconds. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they were beaten by Leander. Five of the crew (Vernon, Goodall, Bruce Logan, Kelly and Beresford) had won Senior Eights together at the prestigious Metropolitan Regatta ten years earlier in 1910 (together with Charles Rought, the fourth member of the ‘Stockholm Four’). Goodall must have been a very good oarsman to row with who he did. Could you give full details of what is written on the oar?

    Tim Koch.