The grand National Rowing Hall of Fame Inaugural Induction Ceremony on Saturday 20 March, was followed by a Rowing History Forum on Sunday 21 March with around 70 attendees. This, the 5th Rowing History Forum, was organised by Friends of Rowing History, National Rowing Foundation, Mystic Seaport Museum, and American Friends of the River & Rowing Museum. Just as previous Forums, participants came from near and far, from both the American east coast and the west coast, and everywhere in between.
The two who had travelled furthest to get to Mystic were Terry Morahan and his daughter, Rosa, from Belfast in Northern Ireland. With the help of Rosa’s technical skills, Terry Morahan, an oarsman at Belfast RC and a rowing historian, delivered an interesting talk called To the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave from the Land of the Saints and Scullers
about how the first Leander medal at the Grand at Henley ended up in a thrift-shop in Ireland. Mr. Morahan’s talk was actually the last of the day. First out in the morning was the famous rowing historian Tom Weil, who talked about the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, and thereafter it was special guest speaker Kent Mitchell’s (seen on the right) turn to give his very entertaining talk, which had the striking title Surviving Five Years as Conn Findlay’s Coxswain
After a short lunch break, renowned Chris Dodd, consulting rowing historian at the River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames (seen on the left), gave a talk called Twenty Years without the DDR
, which dealt with how the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 changed everything, not only for the East-German rowers and coaches, and FISA, but for world rowing. Allegations, especially from Americans (it also happened in the room after Dodd’s talk), have been raised that the East-German rowers, both men and women, took banned substances to achieve better results on the rowing course, but according to Dodd, no rowers from East-Germany were ever caught doing so. DDR’s representative in FISA, knew how utterly strict the federation was in this matter. I found Dodd’s presentation extremely interesting.
After Dodd, came Bill Miller, who is running the marvellous web site Friends of Rowing History (www.rowinghistory.net/
), and who is the coordinator of these history forums in the U.S. Miller’s talk was about one of his special interests, rowing patents. His talk, titled 19th Century Rowing Patents
, made many of us realize that nothing is new under the rowing sun. Already in the late 1800s, patents were filed for front-rowing, the sliding-rigger, syncopated rowing, and other inventions that we might think are new – not so, they might be innovations, not inventions. Of course, Miller also showed some laugh-out-load funny patents, like the ‘flying air-single’ and the ‘single on tracks’, with which you should be able to row around your large estate on land-based tracks. It was as Bill Miller said, “What were they thinking?”