Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stockholm 1912 – London 2012: An Olympic Centenary, Part 2

Leander's eight is getting ready for an outing, in the foreground Ben Wells, cox, and Philip Fleming, stroke.

Here continues Victoria Fishburn’s article Stockholm 1912 – London 2012: An Olympic Centenary from yesterday:

The Leander oarsmen had rowed together many times. The British rowing world of the early twentieth century was refreshingly casual and laidback. Some members of the crew representing Britain were brought together almost by chance. The man who rowed in fifth position, Angus Gillan, was twenty-seven and had been working abroad for the Sudan political service. He had won a gold medal at the 1908 Olympics and four years later, when on leave, he bumped into a fellow rower in London who asked if he was available to join the Olympic crew for 1912. He did so with alacrity. Stanley Garton, rowing at No. 6, received a letter from a friend saying “Now we must get Horsfall” to join the eight. None of the gruelling selection process for the Olympic teams of 2012 was evident in the getting-together of the eight of 1912. But the rowers were talented and dedicated and Harcourt Gold, who had himself been a Henley cup-winning oarsman, put together an eight that could win a medal, just as he had done for the 1908 Olympics when a Leander eight had taken the gold medal.

Although none of them knew it, it was the eve of the First World War in which they all went on to fight. It is remarkable when so many died that only one of the rowers, Alister Kirby, lost his life. He had survived the Battle of Ypres, but died in France of a tumour on his knee in 1917. Others were luckier. Ewart Horsfall, like Kirby, had joined the Rifle Brigade and then transferred to the RAF. Unusually, he won both a Military Cross and a Distinguished Flying Cross. He went on to take a silver medal in the eights at the 1920 Olympic rowing regatta on the Grand Willebroek Canal, outside Brussels, and to be manager of the 1948 Olympic rowing eight, together with Angus Gillan. After working in Sudan, Gillan played a key role at the British Council and at the Royal Overseas League. Leslie Wormald joined the Royal Field Artillery and won a Military Cross in 1918 in France.

Swann (on the left), who also rowed in the 1920 Olympic silver eight, joined the church and went to France as chaplain to the forces. His career led him to Kenya, Egypt and India. Between 1941 and 1952, he was Chaplain to the King and later Chaplain to the Queen, from 1952 to 1965. Philip Fleming went to Europe with the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars and after the war was a partner of the family bank. Henry Wells became a distinguished barrister. Stanley Garton, coached subsequent Oxford eights but died young in 1948. His daughter, Rosalind, married the son of his friend ‘Don’ Burnell of the famous rowing family. Don’s son, ‘Dickie’, won a gold medal for Britain rowing in the double in the 1948 Olympics.

In rural Berkshire, the granddaughters of Wormald and Garton decided to celebrate their illustrious grandfathers. By chance, they had found another Berkshire descendant: the grandnephew of Edgar Burgess. They planned a party and began a tentative search for descendants of the others in the eight. They made contact with both the River & Rowing Museum and the Leander Club in Henley and the detective work started to pay off. First of all, someone living in Henley had a feeling that her next door neighbour had an Olympic grandfather and passed on contact details. Sure enough, the neighbour was the granddaughter of Ewart Horsfall. Next, Leander put a photograph of the eight in Hippo Happenings, their monthly eShot newsletter. Helpful ex-rowers from around the country wrote in, including the first of the generation of rowers’ children, Allan, the son of Angus Gillan.

A member of Leander handed in some pages from a Swedish book which he had found in a junk shop. It had images of the 1912 crew and of the Stockholm Olympics, which they had never seen before. Contacts with the Fleming family found Robin Fleming, son of Philip. A wonderfully helpful Horsfall connection led us to the family of Henry Wells, the cox. We discovered from his two grandsons that he was always known as Ben. Having found the cox, it emerged quite how famous the coach, Harcourt Gold was. He had, as the first person, been knighted for his services to rowing in 1949, the second being Sir Steve Redgrave in 2001. We found not one, but two of Gold’s grandsons and two granddaughters. There just remained Sydney Swann, or ‘Cygnet’ as he was known to his rowing friends. Research on the internet gave names for his granddaughters and Leander found an address in Scotland for one of them. A friend in their village said, “Yes, they still live there and yes, the house is simply stuffed with oars.” We had found Swann’s granddaughters and, through them, his daughter Celia. Of all the oarsmen Kirby alone, having died, left no descendants.

 1912 Olympic champions - Leander Club

The detective hunt had found descendants of every one of the eight that went to Stockholm. One hundred and twenty-four of them got together yesterday, on Sunday, 29 July, at the start of the 2012 Olympics, to celebrate the centenary. Children of the rowers and their grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren were there. They brought with them the collected memorabilia of their ancestors: Olympic oars and a rudder, two sections of a boat, several of the gold medals, a laurel wreath and many photograph albums. A member of each family made a short speech about their forebear. All then raised a glass to toast the fine achievement of these great rowers, their illustrious ancestors.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stockholm 1912 – London 2012: An Olympic Centenary, Part 1

1912 Olympic champions in the eights. L to R. Ewart Horsfall, Edgar Burgess, Angus Gillan, Alister Kirby, Stanley Garton, Leslie Wormald, Philip Fleming and Sidney ‘Cygnet’ Swann. Sitting Henry ‘Ben’ Wells.

It is with great pleasure that HTBS is posting a two-piece article by Victoria Fishburn (on the right), who is living in Berkshire, England. She has an MA in Biography and is writing the life of Daisy, the Countess of Warwick (who was mistress to Edward VII and became a reforming socialist). Fishburn’s grandfather was Leslie Wormald, Olympic gold medallist in the eights at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. As it is one hundred years since Wormald and the other oarsmen of Leander Club became Olympic champions in the eights, Fishburn and her friend, Georgie Woods, whose grandfather was Stanley Garton and rowed in the same boat as Wormald, decided to celebrate their grandfathers’ triumph. This is the story about the Leander eight, and how two ladies worked together to assemble one hundred and twenty-four descendants of the oarsmen in that eight. The celebration of their rowing ancestors was held yesterday, Sunday, 29 July.

When London won the competition to host the 2012 Olympics, two Berkshire women realised that it would be a fitting time to celebrate a family Olympic centenary. They had long known that their grandfathers had rowed together in 1912. It was now one hundred years ago Leslie Wormald and Stanley Garton won a gold medal for Great Britain rowing in an eight in the Stockholm Olympics. And the Olympic excitement of 2012 made some kind of centenary celebration a must. Their grandfathers, like the rest of the rowers who made up the eight, were amateurs: gilded young men of the Edwardian era who had gone to the best public schools: Eton, Winchester, Rugby and Edinburgh Academy. Similar types of British sportsmen were to run for their country in the 1924 Olympics, as famously portrayed in the re-released film Chariots of Fire.

The 1912 rowers had spent the preceding years gaining reputations as talented oarsmen rowing first for their schools and then their universities. One of them had rowed in the 1908 Olympics which were held in London, with the rowing taking place at Henley. Most of the 1912 eight had won both the University Boat Race and the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in 1911. Apart from the Metropolitan rowing clubs, the university eights were the best around, so it was to Oxford and Cambridge that the Olympic committee went to choose the British eight for the Stockholm Olympics.

Harcourt ‘Tarka’ Gold (on the right) was the rowing coach for Magdalen College, Oxford, and had himself been a respected oarsman in his day, stroking the Oxford boat at four Boat Races in 1896-1899. He chose most of his eight from his own college, though he included one Cambridge man, Sydney Swann from Trinity Hall. Leather photograph albums are still in the collections of all the rowers’ families today. From these album pages good-looking young men look steadily back at you. Their public schools had taught them team spirit and the importance of doing your best whether you won or lost. In the eight of 1912 rowed Edgar Burgess in the bow and next to him Sydney Swann. Rowing at positions in the middle of the boat were Leslie Wormald, Ewart Horsfall, Angus Gillan, Stanley Garton and Alister Kirby. Philip Fleming, rowed stroke and another Magdalen man, Henry ‘Ben’ Wells, was the cox. They rowed under the name of the Leander Club. Its iconic status in the rowing world was reconfirmed in July 2012 as the five-time Olympic gold medallist Steve Redgrave rowed the 2012 Olympic torch up the Thames to land at Leander’s dock.

The British Leander eight was joined in Stockholm by a second eight from New College, Oxford, led by one of Oxford’s best strokes, R.C. Bourne (on the left). The other countries that sent eights were Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Germany and Hungary. Germany and Sweden, like Britain, each fielded two eights but, even though the Australian eight had beaten Magdalen in the Grand final at Henley two weeks earlier, it was the British crews that proved to be the strongest. After exciting heats rowed over three days it was an all-British final on Friday 19 July between two old rivals: Magdalen/ Leander and New College. Henley’s traditions travelled with them: the banks of the bay Djurgårdsbrunnsviken in the central parts of Stockholm were named ‘Berks’ and ‘Bucks’. Magdalen chose the Berks bank and, in a fine race, won by about a length. The eight itself remains at the Riksidrottsmuseet, the national sport museum in Stockholm. The Leander Club of 1912 could not afford to bring it back to England.

The Olympic final in the eights: Leander has a comfortable lead over New College BC when there is only a couple of hundred metres to go to the finish.

New College felt aggrieved by what they saw as bad sportsmanship by Magdalen/Leander. Sportsmen have always tried to behave like gentlemen and, in 1912, New College argued that Magdalen did not. The saga is chronicled in the New College archives. The New College captain in Stockholm had won the toss to choose banks but, in a gentlemanly fashion, had offered the choice to Magdalen/Leander. Then, according to the archives, the decidedly ungentlemanly Magdalen/Leander crew went against convention and chose to row on the best bank. The bank they rejected had the disadvantage of a protruding bathhouse which had to be rowed around. New College were not able to pick up speed after this ‘blockage’. Archives at Magdalen that might have given another side to the story were destroyed in the 1940s and the controversy has lasted to this day. On 11 June, 2012, New College held a 100th Anniversary Match Race with two races against Magdalen. They each won one and lost one. Although, in a spirit of friendship, they invited Magdalen to celebrate afterwards. ‘God Damn Bloody Magdalen’ is still the toast at meetings of the New College Boat Club.

Victoria Fishburn’s article continues tomorrow!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

NZ Team At Lake Karapiro

NZ team 13 June, 2012. 7.40 a.m. on Lake Karapiro. The 2012 U23 New Zealand Team and the 2012 NZ Junior team go out for a morning training.

HTBS received a bunch of nice pictures from Ann Woolliams, photographer and member of Rotorua Rowing Club in New Zealand. “I am often at Karapiro and always taking photos of the Elites, U23, U19 and school regattas”, Ann writes. The following are photographs taken of the NZ Team between April and June, 2012; photographs and captions by Ann.

NZ team 20 April, 2012. 7.12 a.m. on Lake Karapiro. The 2012 New Zealand Olympic Team, the 2012 U23 NZ Team and the 2012 NZ Junior team go out for a morning training.

NZ team 20 April, 2012. 8.07 a.m. on Lake Karapiro, New Zealand. The 2012 New Zealand Olympic Team, Men’s Single Scull Champion Mahe Drysdale comes in from a morning training.

NZ team 20 April, 2012. 8.45 a.m. on Lake Karapiro, New Zealand. The 2012 New Zealand Olympic Team, the 2012 U23 NZ Team and the 2012 NZ Junior team goes out for a morning training. World Men’s Single Scull Champion Mahe Drysdale with the yellow shell about to go onto water for his second row in the morning.

NZ team 20 April, 2012. 9.30 a.m. on Lake Karapiro. The 2012 New Zealand Olympic Team, Women’s Pair; (left to right) Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh, come in from a morning training.

NZ team 20 April, 2012. 9.31 a.m. on Lake Karapiro, New Zealand. The 2012 New Zealand Olympic Team, Lightweight Women’s Double; (left to right) Julia Edward, Lousie Ayling, come in from a morning training.

(Copyright © Ann Woolliams)

NYT On Doggett's

As it is such a rare thing, HTBS cannot help but to point out that the New York Times actually published an article on rowing the other day. No, no, you are wrong, dear HTBS reader, it was not a piece about Olympic rowing. Instead it was about the oldest rowing race in the world, which also might be the oldest sport event in the world (well, we rowers know it is!). Of course, I am writing about the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, which Tim Koch wrote so elegantly about on 21 July on HTBS.

The nice article in the New York Times was written by Campbell Robertson, who according to Tim, was sent by the paper to the “London Olympics ‘without portfolio’ to cover odd sports as needed but also to do some human interest stories, not necessarily connected with the Games,". You can read Robertson’s article on the Doggett’s here. Both Tim and rowing historian Chris Dodd (who unfortunately is named something else by NYT) gave Mr. Robertson some pointers to the Watermen's old race, which is organised by the Fishmongers' Company. Dodd is planning to published a book about the Watermen and the Doggett's in two years. Then it's exactly 300 years since the Doggett's first race.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Great Honour For Sir Steve

An uncountable amount of rowers – and non-rowers, who truly understand his incredible achievements – around the world were enormously pleased to see that it was Sir Steve who was chosen to carry the Flame into the Olympic Stadium at the Olympic opening yesterday evening. What a fantastic honour for him, but, also for the sport of rowing.

Of course, it was also very emotional for Sir Steve, he reveals in an article, but also a little disappointing (!). Read his blog post in the Daily Telegraph here.

It was touching that Sir Steve handed the Flame over to some young athletes in a gesture to inspire the next generation to carry on the Olympic idea. There is, however, another side to what it meant to not have an ‘old’ Olympic champion light the Olympic Flame, here.

Then, the opening ceremony in pictures.

London Is Ready

Gloriana passes under Kingston Bridge.

HTBS's Tim Koch reports from London:

It takes a great politician to unite a country and in the last couple of days Mitt Romney has achieved just that. Unfortunately, the country in question is Britain and he has united it against himself.  Romney questioned if the British people were truly behind the Games and went onto say ‘…. it’s hard to know just how well it will turn out’. When a right wing British tabloid  criticises a Republican, he should be worried. Further, someone on Twitter pointed out that it was a new experience for Mitt to be booed by rich white people.

In the wake of Gloriana.

The Brits like to complain (except in restaurants) and the run up to the Olympics has given them plenty of material. But the problems that give rise to often justified complaints are not unique to the London Games, they are inevitable in an event where 26 world championships have to be organised to take place at the same time by people who have never done it before in venues that usually have to be especially built. Rowing should have caused the organisers fewer problems than most sports. Dorney Lake was virtually ready the day it was announced that London was to host the 2012 Olympics. ‘Legacy’, the buzz word of the modern Games, is assured as the course is owned by, and built for, Eton College (who also allow other schools, colleges and clubs to train and race there).

Kingston Grammer School.

As the Olympics have got nearer the British national sport of complaining has decreased and another national pastime, that of uniting to celebrate a national event, has increased. The support for the 70 day Olympic Flame Relay has been tremendous with 13 million people lining the route, the  Flame passing within ten miles of everyone in the country. HTBS has already reported from the Henley stage and on Friday the 27 July, the final day of the relay, it was rowing that had the honour of carrying the flame to the end of its nationwide journey.

The Bobby and the bunting. There is a lot of both in London at present.

Starting at Hampton Court Palace, the Flame was transferred to a cauldron on the bow of the Gloriana. With a crew including Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Jonny Searle the rowbarge made its way to Tower Bridge in the centre of London, escorted by a flotilla of boats, mostly powered by oars. HTBS pictured the action at Kingston on Thames, a couple of hours into the final journey. The Flame was then taken to the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, where the Olympic Cauldron was lit and stayed alight until it extinguished on the final day of the Games.

The Flame. Gloriana’s engine was used for part of the journey.

The rowing runs from Friday 28 July to Saturday 4 August with the finals held on Wednesday 1 to Saturday 4. The timetable is here.

London is ready, Eton Dorney is ready, the Brits are ready and everyone is welcome to the party (even Mitt).

 The Floatilla

Tower Bridge Olympic Rings.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Slate" On Olympic Rowing

 The 1936 'Huskie' Olympic champions

Now when it’s time for the Olympic Games again, even those magazines which never otherwise publish articles on rowing – mainly because they do not know the difference between a paddle and an oar, stroke side from bow side – have decided that they really must show their diversity and publish something about boats. Maybe therefore, the internet magazine Slate published a rowing history article the other day, “Six Minutes in Berlin” about the ‘Huskie’ oarsmen who competed at the 1936 Berlin Games and took a gold medal, while “Hitler, Hermann Göring, and other Nazi officials, awaited another German victory”.

The author of the piece, Michael J. Socolow, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine, has done a good job, though I cannot agree that it’s “the story of the greatest Olympic race you’ve never heard of”. It is mentioned that this article is an excerpt from his upcoming book Six Minutes in Berlin.

If you have been reading HTBS for some time, you have heard and read about it on this site already. On 15 March, 2011, HTBS’s Tim Koch wrote about the young men and their amazing story when the news broke that a book and a film about the Huskie crew might be on the horizon. Read Tim’s piece here.

As a matter of fact this was not the only article about ‘rowboats’ that Slate published recently. After the British television film Going for Gold (Bert and Dickie in the U.K.), June Thomas wrote a review on the film. Read it here. For those of you who missed rowing historian Chris Dodd’s review, which was published already in May. Read Dodd’s review here (via link).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

1948 Olympics And The Thin Green Line, Part 2

The Irish crew practicing on the course at Henley-on-Thames.

Here continues Greg Denieffe’s article about the Irish teams competing at the 1948 Olympic Games:

Back in Henley, the Irish crew practiced on the course. Also there, were the FISA officials who held a meeting: thirty-two county (all-Ireland) affiliation was confirmed and the entry to participate in the Games was made. The decision cleared the way for the Irish crew to race as selected and established all-Ireland status for future FISA/IOC events. Boxing was the only other sport in 1948 to have representatives from both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State on the Irish Olympic team: Willie Barnes from Windsor, Belfast, fought in the fly-weight division.

At the request of the Organising Committee, the ARA undertook the general management of the Olympic Regatta. The ARA in turn appointed the Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta under the chairmanship of Harcourt Gold to run the Regatta on their behalf. The rules of FISA governed all matters to do with racing, including the introduction of the repechage system giving each defeated crew a second chance to progress. The regular Royal Regatta course was shortened to 1,929 metres and also widened to 36 metres to take three crews. The piles and booms were removed and replaced with marker buoys.

Eight-six crews, a new record, from twenty-seven countries competed at Henley-on-Thames for the seven Olympic titles on offer. Twelve entries were received for the eights and Ireland, although ill prepared, was proud to be among them. But what were they to be called? In the end the organizers of the regatta decided that ‘Ireland’ would be the designation and so that was how they appeared in the printed programmes.

The programme for day one of the 1948 Olympic Regatta.

Heat three of the eights with Ireland on the centre station. Strangely, the crews are numbered from stroke to bow.

The heats for all events were held on Thursday, 5 August, and the Irish crew made their Olympic debut in the penultimate race at 6.00 p.m. They finished third a long way behind Canada and Portugal. Only the heat winners progressed to the semi-finals and the other crews had to race the following day in one of three repechages. In that race, Norway (6:12.5) beat Ireland by exactly twenty seconds and the Olympic adventure was over for the men in green.

The Official Report of the Organizing Committee for the XIV Olympiad was published in 1951, and all references to ‘Ireland’ at the Olympic regatta were changed to ‘Eire’.

Results of heats three and four of the Eights at the Olympic Regatta as published in The Official Report.

The Irish team manager did have one moral victory over Lord Burghley. At a Buckingham Palace reception for the Olympic teams, the Irish were once again behind Egypt. As they approached the Throne Room, the King’s Equerry asked how they would like to be announced. “Ireland,” said Chisholm firmly. The King seemed fine with this, but later Burghley wrote to complain that under the Eire (Confirmation of Agreements) Act, 1938, the former Irish Free State was called Eire (in the Act and the Official Report, the omission of the fada or acute accent over the E was deliberate). The row continued until 1949 when the Republic of Ireland was declared.

It was not until 1952 that the International Olympic Committee conceded the right of Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland to compete for Ireland. At the same time the Irish Olympic Council changed its name to The Olympic Council of Ireland but the ‘battle of the names’ continued. Lord Killanin, president of the Irish Council, was admitted to the IOC and persuaded Avery Brundage, the IOC president, to accept ‘Ireland’ as the designation for the 1956 Melbourne Games and the IOC followed suit. The only objection came from Lord Burghley. Killanin was later forced to protest over the continued use of ‘Eire’ by the IAAF, (presided over by Burghley), the only association which did not accept the IOC’s decision. Lord Killanin gave outstanding service to the Olympic movement and served as president of the IOC from 1972 to 1980.

Interestingly, Christopher Barton was one of the eight men born in the Irish Free State who represented Great Britain at the 1948 Games. He was born in Celbridge, County Kildare, in 1927 and was educated at St. Columba’s College, Dublin and Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1948, he was a member of the victorious Cambridge crew in the Boat Race and represented Leander at Henley. He stroked the Great Britain crew to the silver medal in the eights.

He was not the first man born in Ireland to win an Olympic rowing medal for Great Britain. That honour belongs to Terence Sanders who was born on 2 June, 1901, in Charleville, County Cork. He went to Cambridge University and took a degree in engineering, and stroked the losing Cambridge crew in the 1923 University Boat Race. At the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, he stroked the British coxless four to the gold medal ahead of Canada and Switzerland. In 1929, he and G. C. Drinkwater co-wrote the book The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History 1829-1929.

The final word on the 1948 crew belongs to Michael Johnson: “They lost their two races, heat and repechage, but they held The Thin Green Line. And, they brought Ireland into the world of real international rowing for the first time.”

Here is a short video of the 1948 Olympic final of the eights:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1948 Olympics And The Thin Green Line, Part 1

The 1948 All-Ireland rowing crew, coaches and officials.

Rowing historian and fellow HTBS member Greg Denieffe writes about Ireland’s 1948 Olympic struggle:

The Olympic Creed:

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

This Olympic creed developed from a sermon given to the athletes at the 1908 London Games by Ethelbert Talbot, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania. At a service held in St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Bishop actually said: “The important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part”, but Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, chose to extend the Bishop’s words from just sport into everyday life.

This story is about one such struggle to take part.

In a few days, the Olympics will begin in London, being held there for the third time, and over what promises to be a very dramatic week, around 250,000 spectators will watch the competitors vie for the rowing medals in the fourteen Olympic boat classes. Men, women and lightweights will battle it out in Eton Dorney, for the right to be called Olympic champion. Things were very different sixty-four years ago; seven events, all for men, were contested over three lanes in Henley from 5 to 9 August. The weather will probably be a talking point this year, as it was in 1948, when spectators sheltered from heavy rain under their deckchairs on the third day of the regatta.

With the 1948 Olympics being held right on their doorstep, the Irish Amateur Rowing Union (IARU) supported the Irish Olympic Council’s wishes to have Ireland represented at the Games. The IARU was founded in 1899 as the national body for rowing in all of Ireland. That August, R. C. Lehmann, Honorary Secretary, on behalf of the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA), sent a hand written letter of congratulations to H. G. Cook, Hon. Sec. IARU, and offered any help that may be required by the new body. According to Michael Johnson in The Big Pot (M. Johnson), “the possibility of Olympic participation had first been raised in a special general meeting of the IARU in 1928, but nothing came of it. It was raised again at the 1936 annual general meeting by Trinity and UCD with a view to rowing in the Berlin Olympics.” 1948 would be different, but getting a crew there would prove difficult owing to the ongoing dispute between the Irish Olympic Council and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the ‘Political Boundary’ rule.

The 1934 International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) ruling on borders restricted the jurisdiction of the Irish Olympic Council to what was then the Irish Free State (26 counties). This had been created in 1922 when Ireland was split: the 6 north-eastern counties being renamed Northern Ireland and opting back into the United Kingdom on 7 December, 1922, the day after the creation of the new Irish Free State. The Irish Olympic Council, which was affiliated to the IOC on 3 June 1922, was adamant that they were the representative body for all of Ireland (32 counties), and as a result, the 1936 Games were boycotted.

To compound the matter, the Irish Olympic Council was in dispute with the British Olympic Council regarding how their team should be designated. The Irish Olympic Council had been informed by the IOC in 1939 that in light of the wording of the Irish Constitution, the official designation at future Olympics would be ‘Éire’ (despite the fact that the English form of the name ‘Ireland’ is also used in the same document). The Chairman of the British Olympic Council, Lord Burghley, was elected Chairman of the Organising Committee and he was determined that only athletes born in the Irish Free State would be allowed to represent the country and that the team would be called ‘Éire’.

“The IARU held a special general meeting on the 11 June 1948, and strongly endorsed an executive proposal that an all-Ireland entry for the Games should be made, and that affiliation to the International Rowing Federation, FISA, should be applied for on that basis.” (M. Johnson)

The 1948 Senior Eights Championship of Ireland which was held in Belfast (Northern Ireland) on 9 and 10 July was also used as the Olympic trial event. University College Dublin Boat Club retained the trophy and five of the winning crew would be selected in the crew put forward to represent Ireland. A squad of ten oarsmen and two coxswains was selected and went into training.

The crew was picked after five days of trials from 12 to 15 July and the men selected to fill the seats were: T. G. Dowdall (Bow), UCD; E. M. A. McElligott (2), UCD; J. Hanly (3), UCD; D. D. B. Taylor (4), Queen’s; B. McDonnell (5), UCD; P. D. R. Harold (6), Neptune; R. W. R. Tamplin (7), Trinity; P. O. Dooley (Stroke), UCD; and D. L. Surge (Cox), UCD.

There were two coaches, R. G. Hickey, UCD; and M. Horan, Trinity; two substitutes, H. R. Chantler, Trinity, and W. Stevens, Neptune; all managed by D. S. F. O’Leary, UCD.

They would have three weeks together before their first race, providing their entry was accepted. The USA, eventual winners of the gold medal, crewed together for two years.

Across all sports, Ireland selected seventy-two competitors and forty-four officials for the Games. The team arrived in London five days before the opening ceremony and immediately a row broke out when British officials noticed that some of the Irish entries had been born in Northern Ireland. J. F. Chisholm, the Irish manager pointed out that under Irish law, any citizen of Northern Ireland was entitled to citizenship of the Irish Free State, if they wanted.

This would prove to be a major sticking point for the rowing team as Danny Taylor from Queen’s University, Belfast, was in the crew, but even before that came to a head, the Opening Ceremony on Thursday 29 July would highlight the further problem of the name of the team. Only the Irish boxers, fencers and rowers were due to take part in the Ceremony. Chisholm insisted that the team was called ‘Ireland’, not ‘Éire’ and that they would march between Iraq and Italy. The Chief Marshall, Colonel Johnstone, said that the people of England knew the country as Éire and the Staff Officer stated that if Chisholm persisted, the team would not be allowed in the parade. Chisholm eventually backed down, but later wrote to the organizing committee: “I strongly protest. The name of the state is ÉIRE in Gaelic, or in the English language, IRELAND. Under the IOC rules, Spain is not called España.”

The Irish Olympic team marches into the Empire Stadium in London at the opening ceremony of the 1948 Games.

He did have a point as French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Movement. The only other language used at each Olympic Games is the language of the host country.

Janie Hampton, in her wonderful book, The Austerity Games (2008; paper back 2012), has this to say about the North/South issue:

“The tensions that had festered since the Irish team arrived now came to a head in the swimming events: the Irish were once again embroiled in a row over eligibility. Both Ernest McCartney and William Fitzell Jones had been refused permission to swim for Ireland, because they had been born in the North. They felt this to be grossly unfair because the Irish Olympic Council had not objected to the eight men born in the South who were competing for Britain”.

Both men held Irish passports but when challenged by Chisholm the reason for disallowing them changed from their place of birth to their voting eligibility. Chisholm was incensed and wrote a strongly worded letter pointing out that this was an entirely new rule, which if applied, would bar everyone under twenty-one years old from taking part in the Olympics. In the end, the IOC stepped in to resolve the matter, and found in favour of the British: breaking their own rules in the process.

Greg’s article The 1948 Olympics And The Thin Green Line continues tomorrow!

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!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Olympic Rowing Memorabilia Up For Auction!

Here is an interesting report from HTBS’s Greg Denieffe in England. Two auctions on Olympic Games memorabilia is coming up this week, Greg writes:

Two important auctions of Olympic Games memorabilia take place in London this week just days before the 2012 event gets underway. Posters, torches, medals, photographs, tickets and programmes from previous Olympiads will go under the hammer.

On Tuesday, 24 July, Graham Budd Auctions, which specialises in sporting memorabilia, will sell more than 600 lots with items from every Olympic Games since Athens, 1896, the first of the modern era. You can check out their catalogue here.

It is simply a wonderful treasure trove of sporting memorabilia. There are a few rowing related lots but for HTBS readers, lots 288 to 291 will be of special interest:

Lot 288. A 1936 Berlin Olympic Games gold medal winner’s diploma awarded to British rower Jack Beresford for victory in the double sculls with Dick Southwood. Estimate: £2,500 - £2,500.

Lot 289. An International Olympic Committee diploma awarded to the British rower Jack Beresford. Estimate: £1,500 - £2,500.

Lot 290. Jack Beresford’s C.B.E. honour diploma. Estimate: £200 - £300.

Lot 291. Jack Beresford’s blazer badges. Estimate: £400 - £600.

There are full details and photographs of all 4 lots and a search facility to identify the other rowing related lots.

At Bonhams on Wednesday, 15 July, many of the 215 lots date from 1948, the last time the Olympic Games was held in London. Britain was recovering from the Second World War and the so-called ‘Austerity Games’ took place at a time when food rationing was still in place. A record 59 countries sent teams, although Germany and Japan were not invited and the Soviet Union declined its invitation.

Of special interest is lot 36 which was covered in detail in the HTBS post on 28 June 2012, The Auction Of Pearce’s Rowing Memorabilia. With an estimate of £30,000 to £50,000 there won’t be many with deep enough pockets to take on the auctioneer.

Also of interest to collectors will be Lot 86 - A winner’s silver medal and official Olympic Games 1928 blazer badge won by British Olympian, Terrence ‘Terry’ O’Brien in the men’s coxless pairs. The circular medal, the obverse depicting a victorious athlete being carried by a crowd, the reverse depicting the Goddess Nike with “IX Olympiade Amsterdam 1928”, 55mm., two short spindles soldered to top and bottom, the blue cloth blazer badge embroidered with “Olympic Games 1928 Rowing” and a flying Union Jack flag; together with a framed and glazed portrait of Terry O’Brien. Estimate: £1,000 - 1,500.

Anglian Boat Club: The Anglo-Scandinavian Races

Chiswick Bridge

HTBS is happy to introduce a guest writer, Colin Cracknell,* who is the club historian at the Mortlake Anglian & Alpha Boat Club which rows out next to Chiswick Bridge in south west London. Colin writes about some club races in the early 1880s:

In 1927, at the annual dinner of the Anglian Boat Club, celebrating its 50th anniversary, Mr. Musgrave spoke of the early days of the Club. Amongst other things, he referred to the influx of Scandinavians in the early 1880s and the good they did for the Club. Somehow Swedes and Norwegians joined the Club in such numbers to enable them to boat eights at two consecutive Club Regattas in 1882 and 1883 to challenge the English members. At this time, Anglian was established in the Devonshire Boathouse, at Strand on the Green below Gunnersbury Railway Bridge, an establishment operated by Frank Maynard who built and hired boats as well as leasing rooms and racking to the Club.

The first Anglo-Scandinavian race was held at the Club’s annual regatta and the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News reported, in the rather florid manner of the time that:

“Special interest was manifested in the proceedings owing to one of the events being an oared race rowed between the English and Scandinavian members of the Association. The prizes for this event were given by Mr. T. Nordenfeldt [often spelt Nordenfelt], and the course was from the Club House to Barnes Bridge. There was a good struggle throughout, the home representatives ultimately proving the visitors by three quarters of a length.”

The Scandinavian crew was made up of Norwegians and Swedes who were mainly clerks in the timber and other trades. Thorsten Nordenfelt (on the right), also a Swede, was a manufacturer of machine guns for the Royal Navy and president of the Club. He lived in some style in Paddington with his family, their Irish butler, Swedish cook, and two servants.
The English crew comprised a more varied background, including John Musgrave, a music professor, John Hoole, a medical student, and James Evans, a shipping clerk who provided Anglian with its first ever victory in an open regatta, the Junior Sculls at Barnes & Mortlake in 1883. George Dewhirst later rowed at 5 in the eight which won the Juniors at the Metropolitan Regatta, Anglian’s first crew win. Dying, age 37, in 1891, Dewhirst was remembered by a trophy for coxless fours to be raced at Club regattas. In 1882, the English were lighter than the Scandinavians by half a stone, (3 kg), per man and similarly their cox was two stone lighter. The final record of the 1882 race is a letter from the Scandinavian Club in London, in December, asking for their flags back.

A second race was held at the Club Regatta in 1883 and Musgrave remembered that the Scandinavians were very strong and fancied themselves to the degree that they offered in advance a handsome dinner. Why they thought themselves so much stronger is unclear as they boated a crew more or less unchanged from the previous year. The race was again reported by the Illustrated Dramatic and Sporting News, which noted that “the weather was anything but propitious” and that the English again beat the Scandinavians, although they were confused about the distance which was either half or three quarters of a length. Perhaps too much hospitality had been enjoyed. Spectators could follow the races on the steamer Citizen C, and as was a tradition followed into the late years of the following century, it was almost dark when the regatta concluded. Prizes were again presented by “Mr. Nordenfeldt, the energetic and liberal president of the society.”

Soon after 1883, it would seem that the Scandinavian influence at the Club diminished. Thorsten Nordenfelt’s company merged with the Maxim Gun Company, but he was later declared bankrupt and moved to France, later to return to Sweden. Henrick Waern relocated to Paris and donated his sculling boat to one of the rowing clubs in Gothenburg, Sweden. However, he failed to specify who should pay the shipping costs leading to a long correspondence between the parties involved. Bergh, who rowed in both races for the Scandinavians, was also a member of the London Rowing Club for which he won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in 1883 and 1884. In 1884, Lyne, who rowed in the English crew in 1883, won Thames Challenge Cup at Henley for London as he did again in 1885 and 1886. Musgrave joined Thames Rowing Club and was a Wyfolds finalist in 1889. However, he coached the Anglian Thames Cup eight at Henley in 1895 and continued to compete at Club regattas until 1906 before finally appearing at the Club dinner in 1927 to give his invaluable reminiscences.

F.W. Pike D. Hummell
W.J. Leeman H. Waern
J.G. Evans F. Löwenadler
J. Hoole M.S. Sorensen
J. Kerr J.O. Nygren
G.S.K. Dewhirst S. Silfversparre
J.T. Musgrave H. Winther
R.G. Davey  W. Bergh
A.H. Davey  C. Evers

C.G. Poole Jensen
H.J. Dodd  D. Hummell
J.G. Evans F. Löwenadler
E. Earle H. Waern
W.R. Lyne  J.O. Nygren
G.S.K. Dewhirst S. Silfversparre
J.T. Musgrave H. Winther
F.W. Pike  W. Bergh
cox unknowncox unknown

*Colin Cracknell (on the left) joined Anglian Boat Club just before it merged with Mortlake Rowing Club in 1961. Cracknell rowed at club level in the 1960s and 1970s, and was captain of Mortlake Anglian in the late 1970s. After a spell, rowing as a veteran for Bewl Bridge Rowing Club, he returned to Mortlake Anglian & Alpha and hopes to be competing again in the near future. Cracknell has always been interested in the history of rowing clubs and the people involved. In particular, he has researched the early days of Anglian, the history of which had been largely lost over the years. In 2010, Cracknell graduated with a history degree from Sussex University where the subject of his dissertation was “Social Changes in Rowing Since the Second World War”.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Plying The Oars On The Mystic River

Trying out the new boat. Not a perfect stroke, but a happy rower with a boating 'belle' in the bow.

In my former job at Mystic Seaport – The Museum of America and the Sea, I moved around a lot, but since I was appointed editor of Mystic Seaport Magazine in January 2011, I have mostly been sitting still in front of my computer. The only exercise I get is hammering away at some articles and lifting the receiver of the phone trying to get a writer to understand that the dead-line date that I gave him or her was not at all just a suggested date to send in the article, it was actually the date when I needed the piece.

I still remember vividly my glory days as a person who frequently, almost daily, got good exercise using an old wooden single scull rowing around the canal in my home town of Malmö in the south of Sweden. The rowing club, Malmö Roddklubb, was a block away from my little flat, so I rowed in the mornings before I went to the publishing company where I worked as an editor. I would usually also scull for an hour or so after work. That was now 14 years and quite a few kilos ago. Frankly, it now shows around my waist that I am not getting my daily dose of exercise plying the sculls.

Yes, I have tried the erg, and a month ago I had a good run of exercise, but then the ergs at the YMCA, where I was rowing, all broke down, and the manager did not seem to be in a hurry fixing them as very few people were using the machines.

Enough is enough I said, what I need is a rowing boat! But then, when I gave it some serious thought, I realised that what I need was not really a racing shell, a single scull, but a wider rowing dinghy, something that was safe enough to take the children in without capsizing. I mean, after all, we have been living close to the Mystic River for twelve years now, it is high time that the children learn how to scull, especially as their father is claiming to be, never a former rowing star, but at least interested in rowing history.

Anders viewing Mystic Seaport from the river side.

It was the WoodenBoat Show at Mystic Seaport some weeks ago, and there I happened to meet my friend Bill, who is a rower, too. When he heard that I was looking for an old wooden boat, he said he had just the one for me in his backyard. Now, not only is Bill a nice person and a rower, but also a boat builder. He has built kayaks, sailboats, and rowing boats. Bill said he would happily have me take over the first boat he ever built, thirty years ago, a 10-foot pram designed by the famous American boat builder John Gardner. I immediately agreed to take a look and to try out the boat.

While I tried it out a week ago, certain things were not working out well. I misjudged the tide, it was low tide and the boat got stuck in the mud at the launching area, which gave me a hard, good work-out just to get the boat in the water. It was a hot, humid day with the sun blazing down on the river. A light breeze fouled me so I ended up with a really bad ‘farmer’s tan’ after a one and a half hours row. The oars that I had borrowed were too short and did not really give me the right stroke in the water.

A happy, young rower, starting early to pratise for her rowing scholarship to an elite school. Look at her perfect grip, both thumbs were they should be.

Yesterday, however, was a perfect day for an outing on the Mystic River with the family. It was not too hot, we launched the boat when it was high tide, and I had borrowed half a foot longer oars, which did the trick. We got a nice voyage on the river, although our son, Anders, after a while complained that he was bored. Just the other day, he had learned how to ride his bicycle without the ‘training wheels’, so he was more eager to ride his bike than being out on the river. Our daughter Ingrid was, however, more than willing to have a go at the oars. She did very well; I see a rowing scholarship at an Ivy League school coming her way…

I guess, there will be more stories to tell about plying the oars on the Mystic River in the near future.

 How do I look, dear? Am I too late out of the water?

Let's see, was it left over right, or the other way around? And where is the slide?

A happy man, he who has a boat!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tim Koch On The 2012 ‘Coat and Badge’

Merlin Dwan - winner of the 2012 Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race.

HTBS’s Tim Koch writes about this year’s Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race:

The strangest events and customs are given credibility simply by the fact that they have gone on for a long time. While this is true all over the world, Britain seems to specialise in celebrating the archaic and the eccentric. Possibly because there has been two hundred and ninety eight Doggett’s Coat and Badge Races, today’s past winners, all unpretentious, solid working men descended from generations of unpretentious, solid working men, are very happy to be seen in public wearing a costume that was first out of date two hundred years ago. Even the fact that it is bright scarlet and carries a silver arm badge the size of a dinner plate does not deter them. However, there is more to wearing the Coat and Badge than custom. Doggett’s is a celebration of the heritage of Watermen and Lightermen and their families and the scarlet costume is a physical manifestation of this. Some may not care to articulate such sentiments but they would hold the race in high esteem even if it did not involve wearing 19th-century clothing. Doggett’s winners are not usually the sort of blokes who wear knee breeches and white stockings but, as many come from families that have made their living from the Thames for as long as they can remember, they do so with pride. To quote my report on the 2011 race, the Doggett’s gives

“… a small glimpse into the remnants of a world that was once commonplace but that today has almost vanished. This is a world where ordinary families lived, worked and played together for generations.”

As we will see, the result of the 2012 race added even more to this rich heritage. After a withdrawal there were five contestants.

1 Light Blue: Ben McCann
2 Red: Merlin Dwan
3 Green: Stuart Coleman
4 Yellow: Nathaniel Brice
5 Orange: Dan Alloway

Brice passes HMS Belfast and Tower of London going to the start.

All but Brice had raced previously. The conditions were as reasonable as they can be on that part of the river which rarely produces totally calm water. Dwan was the favourite to win and he led from the start where he went off strongly. Most got off well except McCann who got himself in a bad position on the north shore from the beginning and never recovered. The final finish order of Dwan first followed by Alloway, Brice, Coleman and McCann stayed pretty much in place throughout the race.

Soutwalk Bridge 400m from start, Alloway, Brice and Dwan.

At one stage Alloway left the others and went over to the south shore but he did not seem to suffer too much because of it. At Vauxhall, he and Brice were having a good race for second place but then the latter went wide and lost contact. Dwan seemed well prepared and drew on his experience of competing in the 2011 Doggets. He rowed in the Wyfolds for London Rowing Club in this year’s Henley and was clearly very fit. His father, John, himself a Doggett’s winner, said that he avoided coaching his son as he felt that this would have added to any stress that his boy was under.

Blackfriars Bridge 1,400m from the start, Brice, Coleman and Dwan.

In the final stages of the race, the umpire had overtaken all four of the other competitors and Dwan was under no pressure as he crossed the finish. With his victory there are now five living members of the Dwan family who have won Doggett’s. Kenny won in 1971 and his sons Nick and Robert won in 2002 and 2004 respectively. Kenny's brother, John, won in 1979 and his son, Merlin, won yesterday. John said that he hoped that there were more family winners ‘in the pipeline...’

A Royal wave for the umpire.

Doggett’s is always umpired by the Bargemaster of the Fishmongers’ Company who must be a previous winner. The 2012 race was umpired by Bobby Prentice who I have written about before. There is a wonderful story written by a local newspaper here which tells of his family’s long involvement with the river. It is just another one of the many, many reasons that the Thames is sometimes described as ‘liquid history’.

Passing Parliament 3,500m from the start, Coleman, Brice, Alloway and Dwan.

The launch from the Watermen’s Company follows the race. The man in blue coat and badge is the new Watermen’s Bargemaster, Scott Neicho. St Paul’s Cathedral in the background.

Approaching Vauxhall Bridge 5,200m from the start, Coleman, Alloway and Dwan.

Gary Enniss (winner 1982) watches Brice approaching the former Battersea Power Station approx. 6,500m into the race.

Dwan’s last few strokes.

For Dwan it’s over.

Four of the five members of the Dwan Family who have won Doggett’s. L. to R. Robert (2004), Merlin (2012), Nick (2002) and John (1979). Not present Kenny (1971).

Bobby Prentice (1973) Fishmongers’ Bargemaster and race umpire.

(Text & Photographs copyright: Tim Koch)