The ‘Last Hurrah’

Regarding my entry on 17 March, the always alert Tim Koch in London has sent me an e-mail with some thoughts about Ernest Barry, Bert Barry, and the World Professional Sculling Championship. Tim writes,

“The wonderful photograph of Ernest Barry (1882-1968) arriving at Putney in July 1913 to race Harry Pearce of Australia for the Sculling Championship of the World tells us a lot about professional sculling at that time. Firstly, Barry needed a police escort through the crowds because the sport had such a popular following. Before 1914 the ‘Big Five’ sports in Britain were soccer, rugby, cricket, boxing and rowing. It must be admitted that much of the interest may have been due to the betting that took place. Sadly this race was almost the ‘last hurrah’ of professional sculling as it never fully recovered its former mass appeal following the 1914-1918 War.”

Tim continues, “Secondly, Barry is clearly very well dressed and a bit of a ‘swell’ as they would say at the time. The classic way for a working class lad to make big money quickly (and spend it on ‘bling’) was, and probably is, to do well in sport or show business. What does the £500 prize money translate as today? According to the Nation Archives website, its spending worth would be £21,530 ($33,046) now. MeasuringWorth.com takes a different comparison, that of average earnings, and says that earning £500 then is equal to receiving £189,000 ($290,000) now.”

The next race for Barry was against another Australian, Jim Paddon, also on the Championship course between Putney and Mortlake, on 7 September 1914. Barry won at 21 min. 28 sec. The next person to challenge Barry for the title was Alf Felton of Australia (seen on the right), on 27 October 1919. About this race, Tim notes down “There is nice film on British Pathé of Barry racing Felton at Putney in October 1919. At twenty seconds into the film we see the two walk out, Felton wrapped in a mackintosh but Barry in white shoes, flannels and ascot with cap and blazer. Clearly he is a bit of a showman. There is an interesting shot two minutes into the film which shows an eight following one of the scullers in the race, but the bowman is not rowing and is facing the wrong way. He is (quite legally) coaching and steering the competitor. Fenton won.”

WORLD’S SCULLING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Parts of the Felton – Barry rematch on the Parramatta River in Australia on 31 August 1920, which Barry won, can be viewed on the following newsreel:

BARRY WINS WORLD SCLLING CHAMPIONSHIP

Tim continues, “The £2,000 that Barry needed for travel and stake-money was raised very quickly by public subscription, such was the interest. Those interested in history always like the idea of continuity so it is pleasing to note that Ernest’s nephew, Bert, was World Champion 1927-1930 and that a Barry continues to be at the forefront of modern sculling. Ernest’s great-nephew, Bill, won Silver in the Coxless Four at the 1964 Olympics and won the Wingfield Sculls 1963-1966. Today he coaches British Olympic sculler, Alan Campbell.”

Great stuff, Tim. Thank you!

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