There exist very few doctor’s dissertations about rowing, and even fewer of them have been published outside the sphere of academia to be available to and reached by the common public who are interested in oarsmanship. While I enjoyed Susan Saint Sing’s thesis about the Navy crew that went to the 1920 Olympics to take a gold medal in the eights, much thanks to their coach Glendon, I was disappointed by her populist version that came out in 2008 with the title The Wonder Crew: The Untold Story of a Coach, Navy Rowing, and Olympic Immortality. Although the Navy eight was exceptionally good, I am having a hard time buying how wonderful, amazing, outstanding, unmatched this ‘underdog’ crew was, according to Sing. To me the outstanding crew, which I hope someone will eventually write a story about, was actually the British Leander eight that came in second in the Olympic eight final.
Last year, another dissertation on rowing, this time about professional sculling, was published, Sculling and Skulduggery: A History of Professional Sculling by Stuart Ripley, who completed his thesis on this subject in 2003. This book is mainly about professional sculling in Australia and the Australian scullers who were among the best of the international best for many years in this sport. It began with Edward Trickett becoming the first sculling world champion in 1876. Not only was Trickett Australia’s first world champion in rowing, his was his country’s first world champion, period! Other Australian sculling stars and world champions were William Beach, Peter Kemp, Henry Searle, Jack McLean, James Stanbury, George Towns, and in more ‘modern’ time, Alf Felton, James Paddon, Major Goodsell, Bobby Pearce, Evans Paddon, G. Cook, J. Saul, and E. Fischer- a very impressive list! And so is also Ripley’s book.
Sculling and Skulduggery is published by Walla Walla Press in Sydney. Richard Way’s Bookshop in Henley-on-Thames carries the book.