‘Tunny’ – A Great Coach

I am not sure when this little pamphlet was published, but it states that it was ‘revised Michaelmas, 1956’. The pamphlet, Introductory Notes on the Art of Rowing, 12 pages, was written by signature ‘B.T.’, which stands for Brian Tunstall. I have by now read quite a lot of different books and pamphlets on how to row, and, being short and concise, I think this is an excellent little work on how to become a good oarsman or oarswoman. To give you an idea how Tunstall has done it in his booklet, here are the sub-titles: ‘The Idea of Rowing’, ‘The Idea of Racing’, ‘On Keeping Time’, ‘The Beginning’, ‘The Finish’, ‘The Recovery’, ‘Coming Forward’, ‘Light Hands’, and ‘Getting the Feel of it’. Tunstall gives easy instructions to follow, in an easy language for the novice to understand. Again, a wonderful little pamphlet, which now is hard to come by.

Who then was Tunstall? William Cuthbert Brian Tunstall (1900-1970) was one of the leading naval historians starting in the 1920s and to his death, and wrote ground-breaking works on naval tactics and other books on naval subjects. Before the war, Tunstall was a lecturer in History and English at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the Secretary of the Navy Record Society. During the war, he was the naval correspondent for the BBC European Services. Later, he lectured at the London School of Economics and at the Royal Military College of Canada. Rowing historian Bill Lanouette (seen on the left) in Washington DC, who has just handed in his book manuscript about the professional oarsmen, the Biglin Brothers, to his literary agent, has told me that when he was studying at the London School of Economics in 1964-1965, he had Tunstall – or “‘Tunny’ as we used to call him” – as rowing coach at the school’s boat club. “We rowed from the University of London boathouse at Chiswick, just upstream from the ‘Boat Race’ course,” Bill writes in an e-mail. He continues, “during breaks in his coaching [‘Tunny’] would regale us with stories about the signal flags used at the Battle of Trafalgar. A great coach, and a grand character.”

Many thanks to Bill Lanouette for the information about Brian Tunstall. Good luck with your book on the Biglins.


  1. Do you know if the manuscript about the Biglin Brothers was ever published? Bernard Biglin is an ancestor and we would love to know more about them.

    • I just spotted thiis comment and regret I hadn’t seen it sooner. The book about the Biglin brothers is “in press” as they say, as I’m just about to return my edits for the manuscript to Harvard University Press. If all goes well it will be out in the spring of 2017. Bill Lanouette wlanouette@gmail.com

  2. As of now, Bill's book about the Biglin Brothers has not been published. Last time I talked to Bill about his manuscript, it had been to a literary agent or publisher who had asked him to 'polish' it a little bit more. I take it that you are aware of Helen A. Cooper's book “Thomas Eakins: The Rowing Pictures” which is about the pictures of the Biglin Brothers? You will easily find copies at http://www.abebooks.com

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