A Gentleman On The Towpath

Have a look at this wonderful photograph. A world champion has arrived on the towpath at Putney and is getting a grand escort by mounted police. The date is 21 July 1913, and the gentleman is none other than Ernest Barry, the reigning world professional sculling champion. The previous year, in October, Barry had defended his title on the Championship course, between Putney and Mortlake on the Thames, when E. Durnan of Toronto had challenged him for the title. This year, 1913, Harry Pearce of Australia is eager to have a go for the title, and for £500 aside. It is the second time Pearce is sculling for the world title. Almost exact two years earlier, on 29 July 1911, he had challenged Richard Arnst of New Zealand. They sculled on the Parramatta River, and Pearce did not have a chance against the stronger New Zealander.

There was a great interest among the Londoners in July 1913 to see if Barry could preserve the title, or if it would go abroad. The big sport paper of that day, The Sportsman, had a preview of the race that took up three whole columns. So how did it go? Well, Ernest Barry beat Harry Pearce on the Champion course, winning at 24 min. 9 sec.

Harry’s son, Bobby Pearce, would, twenty years later in 1933, take the Championship title from Ted Phelps. Bobby Pearce had begun his sculling career as an amateur, taking two Olympic gold medals in the single in 1928 and 1932, and the Diamonds at Henley in 1931.

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